Blog entry by Alan Chapman
Stories, power and change, explained
In August 2019 the extraordinarily multi-talented actor and musician Hugh Laurie said two very big things (reportedly when accepting his outstanding achievement award at Edinburgh TV Festival):
1. That his Presbyterian background had given him an aversion to self-belief. This self-doubt, often extending to self-loathing, and even ultimately to hopelessness and suicide, is very common, especially among sensitive people. There are many brilliant people who take their own lives, or attempt suicide, such is their self-hatred and feelings of worthlessness, and many throughout history. If they do not act on their self-loathing so violently, they feel it nevertheless. Leonardo da Vinci died believing himself to be a failure. This is a powerfully blended story in itself that we must share, to help break stigmas and taboos that so grossly distort the notion of what it is to be authentically human. Great humanity and genius is borne of sensitivity and vulnerability, not of money or apparent economic power.
2. More deeply and interestingly, Laurie went on to say (I paraphrase):
"...the fractured political world is threatening the impact of drama because opposing ideas of the truth [see bias and denialism] makes storytelling into a more difficult task. Storytelling requires a consensus of some kind. If you start feeling an audience fracturing, starting to think completely different things about the same piece of information, that makes storytelling very hard..."
This is very true, and part of a bigger more complex truth.
The quote is more than it seems - more deeply significant and complex than Hugh Laurie conveyed.
Our lives, and how we live, the choices and actions we make, and how we believe we should see ourselves and the world; how we must work, be educated, grow and learn and play and raise families, etc., (I refer to most people in the 'developed world', and increasingly people in the other parts of the world as it becomes more 'developed') are based mainly on the stories that we have been told, and the stories that are continually told and reinforced by governments and corporations and those who hold power financially, militarily, economically, etc. [Again see bias and denialism.]
And so while yes definitely we want changemakers and story/truth-tellers like Hugh Laurie to thrive and be seen/heard/watched, and for new story-tellers and artists to emerge everywhere, we must also challenge the bigger hidden stories that the world tells us through big technology, big media, big governments, and big societal attitudes, most of which are hidden (and crucially not yet widely questioned) unhelpful distortions of human authenticity.
"And crucially not yet widely questioned..." This means it's a huge opportunity. We can question and challenge anything that might be untrue, especially if it's from big technology, big corporations, big institutions, big governments, big society attitudes, and crucially 'stories' and beliefs that are not from our own authentic hearts and minds. We can help and teach and embolden others to do this too, whatever background and stories have made us doubt our own value and brains.
Stories become thoughts, become beliefs, become teachings/learnings, become reality, even though so much of today's 'reality' and how we are persuaded to live and be, is untrue.
So choose the true stories. Create your own stories of truth. The authentic truth of your own brilliant mind and heart and soul. And question everything.
Question everything, always, because we are always changing and so is the world and society around us, and there are some very clever storytellers who want us to believe that their stories are true when they are not.
The most powerful stories to question, are the ones that stop you being and telling your own.
Perhaps the best reference point for further reading and learning and cascading teaching about stories, and bias, and extraordinarily powerful work and resources for truly transforming our ideas and actions through storytelling and 'ancient wisdom', is Graham Williams' brilliance. Much of his work can be found for free at http://www.haloandnoose.com/
Stories are incredibly powerful. They can move millions when the equivalent dry technical words of theory fail to engage a single person. I have not yet found anyone besides Graham with such depth of understanding and capability in this field, extending to the globally significant implications and potential of this work, which in due course I hope you will find on this website too.