Your story

This is your story

As you read this your brain is telling a story for you. Namely your story about you. If your brain is a healthy one you are the protagonist in this story. Your own personal hero. What if you can help your hero on the way? Let’s find out how you can help your hero along and use storytelling power to change the world.

Exit light, Enter night, Take my hand, We’re off to never never land

Many believe the brain separates fiction from reality. In “reality” the brains stores everything as stories. Humans are creatures of Neverland. We live in Neverland because we can’t not live in Neverland.

It’s best put into a story by Terry Pratchett in thees words by DEATH when he talks to his granddaughter in the novel Hogfather or as dramatized below:

YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN’T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME? — DEATH

Storytelling is the heart and the soul of human nature. I have recently been reading “The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human” by Jonathan Gottschall. And it has been a 10 year long wait to read anything inspirational about storytelling since I read “The Science of Discworld II: The Globe“. To say the least, it’s a must read! Or listen to in this excellent audio book 🙂

Why does we like storytelling so much? It’s because our brain runs on stories. Our brain is basically a pattern recognition machine. It likes patterns. And stories are just very big complex meta patterns that our brain can identify and relate to. Our universe does not contain any Narrativium like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld but we humans acts as if it does all the time. That everything that happens happens for a reason and everything has a purpose and a destiny. This is what makes us humans so special and this is something we should treasure.

It is always the present

The Past like the future does not really exist. They are both fantasies created in our minds. The Future is a probabilistic simulation we run in our minds in order to help shape the world we want to live in.
The Past unlike The Future has actually happened. The Past, as represented in our mind, is a mental simulation too. Our memories are not precise records of what actually happened. They are reconstructions of what happened — Jonathan Gottschall from The Storytelling Animal

Most of us believe our memory is filled with reliable info we can access at will. Not so. But memory isn’t an outright fiction. It is merely a fictionalization of what took place. Memory is an unreliable self-serving historian. It’s there to help us make decisions that help us along for the bumpy ride that reality is.

Perceptions

Here is favorite quote from Emily Thorne in the Revenge tv-show. From the episode “Perceptions” of season 1:

“Years ago, I met a boy who introduced me to a book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In it, William Blake writes, ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as infinite.’ But in reality our perception is often clouded by expectations. By experiences. As of late I find my perception is blinded by only one thing. — Revenge”

“Truth is a battle of perceptions. People only see what they’re prepared to confront. It’s not what you look at that matters but what you see. And when different perceptions battle against one another, the truth has a way of getting lost. And the monsters find a way of getting out.”

This captures in a great way how our brain works and how we live our life inside our own little Matrix. Experiences and expectations are all part of our perception of the past and the future. Our place in the story we are telling about our self.

Pan Narrans

Storytelling has been around for as long as we have been humans. And it’s the storytelling itself that first made us into the storytelling chimpanzee we are today. You must embrace fiction. It will make you more empathetic and more able to navigate life’s problems and dilemmas.

Fiction pulls us together and unites us with common values. It’s the core that makes us into a groupish vehicle for our genes to pass down to our offspring as I discussed in my previous blog Why are we so groupish?. We use them to set a shared Moral Matrix for the group.

Epilogue

As result of how successful stories have made us, we are also slaves under them. And they can easily be used to manipulate and mold us. If you want to burrow a message into a human mind. Work it into a story. But if we use the power of story for good, we can use it to change the world to the better.

But you must also use caution when confronted with stories and the “Truth” that many will want to tell you. As you know by now, the truth can never be told but a mere “Truthy Tale” of what happened in the past. Many will believe that their opinions are facts, when they are just that: Opinions.

This also means that we should be tolerant of the myths of all the cultures in the worlds as the bearers of these myths, are most certainly under the spell. Be vary of conspiracy theories as they are often the fiction of a storytelling mind who find patterns all to easily.

The truth is depressing: We are going to die. We are tiny insignificant dots on a tiny planet in a tiny galaxy. We need self deception to keep depression at bay.
We are Figments of our own imagination. Until the day we die we are living the story of our lives. This story is constantly changing and evolving. It’s being edited and rewritten by an unreliable narrator and this story are more truthy than true.

Enjoy it while it last and make it a good one!

The power of Storytelling

“With great power comes great responsibility” — Stan Lee

Now that you know more of the power of storytelling, will you stop loving stories so much? No, on the contrary, you will be able see life for what it is and enjoy good storytelling even more.

Day dream often! You and I are going to tell a greater story together how life on planet Earth will be in the Future!

/Michael Sillion
Follow me on Twitter: @LordSillion

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Why are we so groupish?

Can we work together?

We are all stuck here for a while. So let’s try to work it out

I have been listening to The Groupish Gene: Hive psychology and the origins of morality and religion from The RSA with Jonathan Haidt and reading his 2 books ‘The Happiness Hypothesis‘ and ‘The Righteous Mind‘. He tells us why we do things in groups and why we are born to co-operate.

Thanks to a single mutation in our jaw muscle, around 2.4 million years ago, The human species where capable of growing a much larger skull and thus leaving place for a larger brain. With this brain we where able start evolving complex social structures and more advanced groupish behavior.

We became the Tribal and Story Telling Chimp.

Pan Narrans – The Story Telling Chimp

We are not a bee hive and we are not The Borg. Whoever we are a groupish species that are 90% chimp and 10% hive-mind. We are Pan narrans, the storytelling ape. It’s a term by Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart they coined in the book Science of Discworld II. Our brains is a storytelling and pattern recognition system that acts like everything is part of a story. I talk more about Storytelling in this blog Your Story 🙂

We are all Groupish vehicles for human genes. We became able to use a set of shared intentionality that later developed into a shared Moral Matrix for the group.

This Moral Matrices then enable each group to elect something sacred for the group that we could circle around and the defend in a very irrational way. This sacralization bound us together and made us blind to rational evidence.

The Hive Switch

We humans have the ability (under special circumstances) to transcend self-interest and lose ourselves (temporarily and ecstatically) in something larger than ourselves. Haidt calls this ability The Hive Switch. This leads to a sense of shared fate. This is present in the PERMA model of what makes us flourish by Martin Seligman.

We think that this Hive-Switch is made out of Oxytocin (witch I talk about before) and Mirror Neurons. It can be triggered in many ways but some of the easiest is experience Awe of Nature together or becoming in a state of Trance when dancing together to Trance music.

The Elephant and The Rider

The best mental model and metaphor for our brain is that of a very large elephant that makes up most parts of our brain that are in a constant debate of what decisions make. Then we have the small rider that is our conscious thought and reasoning.

The Elephant stands for our intuition that makes constant and instantaneous decisions. The Rider then works like Press secretary that makes up a story that correlates and justifies with the decision made by The Elephant. With the help of this Press secretary, we are able to lie and cheat often, and then cover it up so effectively that we convince even ourselves. Dan Ariely talks of why we are so good at lying in his new book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves

The Elephant itself consist of many small parts of the brain that is in constant “conflict” with each others on what decisions to make. David Eagleman explains this great in his book Incognito.

The Rider is there to guide the Elephant where to go and what decisions to make but the Elephant and it’s many parts are in charge.

Intuition comes first and Strategic Reasoning second

Reasoning has evolved to help us engage in arguments, persuasion and manipulation in the context of discussion with other people. It helps us look good in the social context of the group and help further our reputation and agenda withing the group. But it also help us defend our group and it’s moral beliefs. All this has been a key to our survival and success here on earth.

“We are obsessively concerned about what others think of us, although much of the concern is unconscious and invisible to us”

We as individuals are very good at finding evidence that supports the view and standpoint we are already holding, mostly for intuitive reasons. That’s why it’s so hard to look to the other side and find evidence against your own point of view. Other people do us this favor so much better for us, as we do for them. This is why we should always be vary for individuals ability to reason. It is much better done in a group. But not just any arbitrary group.

It’s important that any group whose goal is to find any truth or make any important decisions to have an intellectual and ideological diversity.

If you want to change another group or individual the easiest way is to change the path the Elephant is traveling on not the Elephant itself. This is discussed in the book Switch in more detail. Many of advice found in the book How to Win Friends and Influence People from 1936 are still very good advice into how to change another group or person:

1. Become genuinely interested in other people
2. Smile or even better Hug!
3. Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

Building a better world together

What steps can we take make use of this knowledge and build a better world together?

1. Understand Sacralization
If you want to understand another group follow their sacredness. Recognize that they have something sacred that you don’t really understand and that they will defend with blind faith.

2. Talk to the Elephant
If you want to change someones mind talk to the Elephant first. Start by bringing up some points of commonality and establish some way of trust. Then when you bring up matters of your different Moral Matrices. Begin by giving praise or give a sincere expression of interest. Then build on from there to a more common ground.

3. Moralize Demonization
Stop demonizing another group for their believes and sacred values. We are all prone to fall victim to the myth of Pure Evil. Where we self feel “Victim” to some form of injustice. So when you see or hear someone demonizing something, politely remind them that they are demonizing and that doesn’t lead anywhere.

4. Groupishness must be Managed
It’s easy for our groupish behavior to get out of control. Therefore we must help each other to monitoring our behavior so that it applies to a Moral Matrix we all can agree on.

All groups that seeks out some form of truth or affects other groups in any way must have both intellectual and ideological diversity.

5. The Earth Tribe?
Is there a way to unite all humanity on earth as to create a global human tribe? The only way we see this happening is by us being under attack from a common enemy like a global virus outbreak or some other global catastrophe.

In the meantime all we can hope for is a new emergent network society with many small groups pulling in the same direction. Here Social Media comes out a as great tool for bringing all those groups together 🙂

Moral Matrix of the Mind

We are deeply intuitive creature whose gut feeling drives our strategic reasoning. This makes it difficult – but not impossible – to connect with those who live in another Moral Matrix of the Mind. This is exactly like in the movie The Matrix. We live in different worlds in our minds.

/Michael Sillion
Follow me on Twitter: @LordSillion

We are all stuck here for a while. So let’s try to work it out


Jonathan Haidt from TED 2012