How to Get Out of Narrative Ruts

People, individuals and collectives are often slaves to habit. Learn one line, trick, idea, or habit, and progress stifles until the individual or collective implodes. 
How does that slow spiral begin?

It is simple: people get into a Narrative Rut.

They like the story they think works and looks good on them. The original story often begins in *truth* and the reality of the *present* time and place.

A child is ostracized because of poverty. That child knows for a fact that he is marginalized and held back. He grows up and fights for acceptance, and gets it as an adult.

The question can he recognize the new reality and alter the narrative to fit both truth and reality?

Chances are, the answer is no, and he loses every tai he fought for in the bargain.

He will be so used to telling the same narrative, he will get in a dangerous rut. He will forever see others as ostracizing him, while he ignores when he does the same to others, or when he ignores that he is sabotaging himself. He is the perpetual victim in his own story and his filters blind him to the shifting and evolving reality.

He will ignore his blessings as he angers those who do not have them, as he wallows in self-pity because the narrative that once got him motivated and it persuaded others gets in the way.

It is the same as a person who grows up in wealth and privilege suddenly has a change in fortunes, but because the narrative never changes, he always sees himself as superior and is owed something. He doesn’t see he is just like everyone else and has to earn his keep.

Or, when a profession comes under fire, many people will ignore the signs or get on the offensive by using ridiculous arguments such as, “My child/spouse/parent is a member of that profession; therefore there is no problem with it.”

Yes, sometimes that bad guy is your child/spouse/parent. You don’t always have nice neighbours or trustworthy friends and they don’t get a pass because you know them and you don’t get a pass because it is inconvenient for you to have to stand up to someone.

Solutions and problems can never be seen because of the lens a certain narrative presents to us. When I worked as a journalist, different narratives determined what information ultimately went into a story because it is impossible to put in all you have gathered in a single article.

Especially as most storytelling structures are Patriarchal in style: it is just one narrative with a single point of view. There are blinders, and the focus is one of a hunter.

When you are aware of the Patriarchal nature of a story, you can seek other narratives knowing that the narrative is the filter that shows one piece of reality and truth.

But it is often easy to lapse with a passive approach: you rely on the narrative and a particular one that seems to suit your purpose. We find a script that we mistake as a fortress and hide behind it. We are always the hero or victim. We are always the rebel or the outsider. We never have to question our shortcomings because they do not fit in our own narrative bible.

Sometimes the singular focus works…until it doesn’t. Narratives do come with an expiration date. We don’t understand when fortunes start to fall because what once worked for us explodes in our face. The scriptures of the Patriarchal Storytelling paradigm no longer fit with the facts. The truth and reality condemn us to being liars and deluded hypocrites.

When we get in a Narrative Rut, it is a sign we are insensitive to the shifting reality, and the act of willful ignorance alone no longer makes us heroes or even victims, but villains. Maybe once upon a time you were a maverick, but now you are just a self-centred nuisance who hogs a spotlight all to yourself whether or not you are qualified for the job.

With the Patriarchal, it is difficult to shift and grow. In its most childish form, it is as if we called it first and that’s that, no erasies.

Cue in Matriarchal Storytelling.

Here, there is no scripture, but adlibture. Your role and narrative shifts and grows. You reach a goal, and then a new phase — and mandate — begins. You are a hero in one story, but a supporting player in another. Or, you are a certain kind of hero in one chapter in your life until you have accomplished your goal and now the reward is being a different kind of hero, from matriarch to mentor.

When I began A Dangerous Woman, I understood the confines of the Patriarchal’s over-reliance on scripts. I wanted my characters to grow and serve different roles over time.

For example, The Miss Alena Love stories are about the formation of the city-state of Queen’s Heights. Once upon a time it was just a forest where five young women declared it their town. Their initial phase was all about establishing it before having to defend it, meaning they begin as visionaries and innovators until they become targets for destruction. They are the underdogs and oppressed people — until they turn the tables on their tormentors and get their way.

In the Patriarchal style, they would always have to oppressed; however, in the Matriarchal style, once they receive their status of city-state, they may have detractors, but their mission is no longer about being the underdog. They got their wish because they took their destinies in their own hands, and now they have to build a new world entirely on their own without expecting others to do it for them. The filters change because their circumstances change over time.

The same can be said for my flagship character Magnus Lyme, aka The World’s Most Dangerous Woman. Her story is told in *waves*: the period where she is a global consultant may be the first the reader is introduced to, but as the upcoming novel Chaser reveals, she was in a very different period of her life two years prior, though other eras of her life will be slowly rolled out over time. She is never stuck in a rut precisely because the Matriarchal style acknowledges that people change over time depending on a myriad of factors.

With the Matriarchal, we can begin to ask the hard questions that get us the truth as we grasp the nature of reality. No, you are not always the hero. Yes, sometimes you are at fault, and even the lone villain. No, you are not flawless or blameless. Sometimes you are wrong. Sometimes your relative is wrong. Nothing will get better until those shackles are removed as well as the blinders ingrained thanks to the dominance of the Patriarchal style of storytelling.

But once the shackles and blinders are no longer used as our security blankets, multiple and exciting new worlds and storytelling styles open to us: ones that allow flexibility to gives us nuanced and more powerful characters who are allowed to blossom naturally.