"Amanda, I don't want to!"
"I know. It sucks. But trust me, you'll be so glad you did."
After nearly a decade of helping aspiring messengers become brave storytellers, I articulated a
pattern in the process that I had been noticing from the beginning of my work.
When new messengers found me, they were excited to finally have someone who could help
them sift through and bring some order to the lessons and stories they wanted to put in their
book. They shifted uncomfortably in their seats while we began excavating their past during the
retreat, and many of their voices trembled through tears as they shared stories they had never
shared with anyone else.
Inevitably, we would reach the end of the excavation and organization process, and they would
marvel at how magically the outline had come together—how it alchemized the stories,
lessons, tools, and other parts of their message into a structure that they could follow and a
vision for the journey they hoped every reader would take.
Then came the writing… and the moment when they wondered if they had made a giant
mistake when they hired me.
Because in order for them to earn the trust of their readers and audiences, they couldn’t just tell the story. They had to show it.
Readers don’t “buy what we’re selling,” finish our books, or experience the type of life-changing AHA we want them to have UNTIL we prove to them that we know exactly where they are now—that we understand the level of doubt, fear, terror, pain, anxiety, grief, excitement, determination, commitment, or __________ that compelled them to search for our book.
And, in order to demonstrate our credibility, empathy, and trustworthiness, we have to go back into those tough stories and “be the character.” We have to reconnect with the settings in which we were wounded, spend time with the characters who hurt us, articulate the internal dialogue that tortured us, and worst of all, feel the emotions and physical impact of those moments. Otherwise, the readers won’t believe us.
It's excruciating work. No one wants to go back. But everyone feels relieved after they do. After years of witnessing this, I learned enough about neurobiology and quantum physics to realize that the relief they were experiencing on the other side was the result of witnessing and healing old st*ries. The writing actually allowed them to discharge pain out of their bodies and then observe details of the story they had buried—details that still unconsciously held them hostage.
When they were done with a scene, I’d ask them to come “out of character” and take the wider “narrator” perspective of their story, so we could connect the scenes to one another.
While “character” often elicited a focus on the pain, “narrator” always revealed the grace in their stories as they saw how certain characters, books, and opportunities seemed to be supernaturally placed in their storyline at just the right time to help them chip away at the lies, build strength and resilience, and stay the course until they became the hero of their story.
Back and forth, they would go, between “character” and “narrator” until one day—usually just past the half-way point—something incredible happened.
“Amanda, while I was writing today, I realized why I’m still having trouble with (relationship, business, etc.). It’s because—have you noticed?—every time someone says/does ______________, I respond the same exact way and say/do ______________________. It’s
true that people have been doing this to me my entire life, but I think I just figured out the moment when I become an accomplice to the crime.”
It's in that moment that my clients become “co-authors.”
Through the process of building their “character” and “narrator” muscles, they learned how to hold both perspectives at once. And with practice, they were able to hold these two perspectives in their present story and see more than they ever had been able to see before.
They were able to see the moments when they were giving away their pen—authorship of their feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and STORY—and respond fully as a Character (sadness, rage, etc.) and Narrator. Finally, they were now able to claim ownership of the pen to write new scripts and behaviors and break the story loops that were still spinning them out (and making them, at least unconsciously, feel like a fraud for even considering sharing their story).
And here's the really important part.
Most of my clients are NOT new to the healing and transformation rodeo. They’ve been through lots of programs, become certified in many healing modalities, and are known for their mastery.
And yet, there were still these residual st*ries that they hadn’t been able to uncover or witness until they began the process of writing.
Why is that?
When there is still pain, we avoid Character and
live, teach, preach, and help from Narrator.
Many of us have done so much personal development work that we live from our Narrator by
default. Even if there were tears early on, we focused on developing the skills of “getting above
the story” and “eliminating the charge of painful emotion” because well, no one told us that it’s
important to finish crying the tears of grief, pounding the pillows with rage, and shaking our
fists at the sky until it’s all out of our system.
As soon as we escape the pain of the Character, we find ways to never go back. We don’t want to feel the pain ever again, plus we’ve recognized some very powerful truths.
Our thoughts and emotions create our reality, so isn’t it better to just change those and be done with them? Isn’t it better to choose the higher road, practice compassion for the other characters, and shift the storyline than be pummeled by our emotions, be angry at people who we now realize were wounded too, and be caught in the same story loop forever?
Well, no—not if it is at the expense of our Character.
In stories, Narrators witness and have all the information BUT Characters are the only ones who can actually change the direction of the story.
Did you catch that?
Simply changing our perspective doesn’t change our stories.
Pain, trauma, and emotions are the Character’s domain; and if we ignore the Character to live from the Narrator, all we do is escape the problem of feeling… until we can’t anymore.
In order to change our story—for good—we need our Character to have its needs met. We need to give it what it didn’t have when we were little: safety, love, time. We need to let it feel all the feelings without judgment or fear… until it all moves through. And then we need to build the bridge of communication between Character and Narrator so that they can work together to identify the moments where we are continually giving away our pen, our power, and authorship of our everyday stories and then write better ones.
Living from Character only is a nightmare of limited perspective and lots of pain.
Living from Narrator only is easier, but only until the buried Character’s pain is too much.
Living from both the Character and Narrator allow us to be the Co-author of our stories.
Let’s take back the pens together and write truer individual and collective stories!