The Zen of Narrative

By Melanie Anne Phillips

Think of Dramatica as the Zen of narrative. Every new aspect of it that you learn provides a new angle on the issues you face and opens up new avenues of exploration through which to seek a resolution to your inequities. So, each new step is going to be a zen-like lesson the illuminate another side of how personal narratives can be controlled and altered.

To begin, consider that stories (in general) are about a single narrative growing from a single inequity. They are closed systems in which only those elements that pertain to that exploration of that particular issue are included. But this differs from real life. In our own lives, we weave scores of narratives and participate as minor characters in many others created not by ourselves.

For example, we may have a narrative about our career, a narrative about our self image, a narrative as a member of our family, a narrative in our department at work and another regarding the entire company at the corporate level. We may participate in a narrative in our church, in a club, with our in-laws or in a class we are taking. In fact, whenever we gather in a group, a narrative will form and we will play a role in it.

And so, when dealing with our issues in the real world, there is not one single silver bullet that will solve everything. Rather, we need to identify each of the principal narratives in which we have dissonance so we can then analyze each one to better understand the dynamics at play, and through them discover the kinds of pressure we must bring to bear to eventually resolve the underlying inequity.

The best way to identify these different narratives in our lives is to see them in terms of our independent areas of relationship. For example, the relationship we have with our boss is not directly connected to the relationship we have with our spouse, though each can affect the other in indirect ways. For example, our spouse may egg us on to ask for a raise we don’t feel comfortable in seeking. But the spouse and boss never are never directly involved with each other, just through us as the hinge, lynch pin, or intermediary.

In the end, we are each the main character in the narratives of our life.

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