We are so deeply steeped in story it’s hard to tell which layer of fiction we were last swimming in when it comes time to come up for breath. It’s like we’re deep sea divers that don’t keep track of how many fathoms we’ve descended. Come up too fast and we maybe get the bends.

When I was training to practice therapeutic interventions, one tool was the “As If” frame. I was encouraged to guide a client to access difficult-to-integrate personal resources that could be leveraged to achieve a specific change goal. The idea was to offer a client a novel story. Framed as a story, this alternative point of view was one the client could choose to resist less. Basically, we were making sales pitches, except the therapist was speaking both to the client’s conscious mind and an unconscious that had been engaged in a particular way of doing things for particular reasons. The “As If” frame allows someone that feels like they have limited choices to have additional ways of looking at the world.

Many things did not come easy to me during training. Creating stories was not a problem. Years of relying upon comic books as a safe place to withdraw from a frightening world not only made my mind moist to fantastical interpretations but introduced me to the “As If” frame at an early age. In comic books, story lines often veered off into alternative worlds, dreams, make-believe futures, time changes, hit-on-the-head hallucinations and fever reveries that allowed the heroes to engage in actions that their personas would not allow. I can’t tell you the number of times Superman married Lois, and then the comic ended and he didn’t really marry Lois.

Stories Within Stories Within Stories.

When Gore lost in 2000, I was more than just shocked and disappointed. I felt scared. It felt to me like a story was being created by our American communal mind that required far more drama than I had been considering we’d be willing to endure. It seemed to me that a tragedy was about to engage. It was as if electing someone with good intentions was not enough to motivate the most powerful nation on the planet to face the tidal wave of problems on the way. We had decided to make a story so stark in its lessons that there could be no question of which path it was appropriate to follow. We had decided to elect an idiot as president, a representative of the corporations, and see what happens.

We decided to exaggerate all the warped thinking that created barriers to change, making it obvious where the walls were so we could tear them down. We decided to take the stories that we’d been living by since we started using language, distill them to their essence, and then watch and listen to them over and over and over again.

We were told ghost stories where the purpose of the stories was to feel frightened. We were told cornucopia fantasies that declared that giving the government no money would make the government far wealthier in the end. We were told morality tales that said that corporations and the wealthy, policing themselves, would behave not in their best interests, but in ours. We were told stories of murderers, women who would abort becoming murderers that should not be punished for the taking of a life. We were told the Muslim radicals hate us for our freedoms, that jealousy motivated our enemies and that our own behaviors could never cause someone else to hate us.

We were told the air was not dirtier, the poor were not poorer and that global warming was not a threat. Then, we were told that even though global warming was a threat, Americans did not need to change their behavior to effect a change. We were told we were not responsible.

An ocean of stories many fathoms deep. Stories nested within stories within stories. The outside thread of this ball of yarns was the story that Americans did not have to respond. Our government would fight the war, not Americans. Corporations would regulate themselves; the government would not regulate corporations. The government, corporations and Americans did not need to respond to environmental threats. Individual Americans did not need to respond to anything. The story: Americans don’t need to be responsible.

Gore lost. The repercussion of the loss is now evident in the story pushed by our idiot as King. We now see what happens when we choose to believe the story that we are not responsible.

Not just during this Administration have we been telling ourselves these tales. We’ve been believing these stories as a species since we started using language and thinking in narrative threads instead of associational fabrics. It is our telling stories that we need to stop doing on occasion, at least so we can tell when we’re telling stories.

We’re approaching the surface after deep sea diving inside of stories since the origin of language. Fresh air will at first feel foreign. Being able to have the choice to give up our stories, the air will be clean, not too globally warmed and the ocean will grow no deeper than it’s been.


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