Bridging myth and consciousness.
By Steven Barnes
Step #5: Allies and Powers.
Beliefs: What do your role models believe about their
skills? What do they believe about themselves? What is their
hierarchy of values? What positive and negative emotional anchors
do they attach to various aspects of their discipline? How do
they believe their past actions have influenced their lives?
What is their definition of success and/or failure?
The fifth step of the "Hero's Journey,"
the core structure of myth and fiction and dream, is the search
for allies and the development of powers. In "Star Wars" this
is the period when Luke leaves the farm after burying his family.
He enters that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Mos Eisley,
and meets Han Solo and Chewbacca. Later, he meets the Princess
Leia. Along the way, he learns composure, the use of Light Sabres,
how to fire the laser cannon, guile, strategy, and how to deal
with loss. Most importantly for the subject of this month's
e-zine, meeting allies enabled him to increase his powers.
In the realms of business or personal relationships, we can
chart our progress in part by our associations. This is clear
in business (teachers, associates, customers: their affluence,
education, integrity and knowledge will have a direct impact
on our own success) but in the realm of personal interactions,
it can be more difficult to see the connection. Who hasn't heard
the refrain: "There aren't any good men out there" or "There
aren't any good women out there"? And yet people are meeting
and falling in love with wonderful men and women every day.
Truly, our intimate relationships are mirrors for our own inner
life. Heal yourself, and you create room for a healthy partner.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING ALONE, and investing in yourself.
Solitary life is thousand times preferable to inappropriate
or dysfunctional relationships.
On a more mundane level, almost everything we will ever learn
we will learn with the help of other human beings. Almost anything
you wish to do in your life has already been done, in one form
or another, by other human beings. Find the right role model,
and you can learn any skill you want. In other words, the acquisition
of powers demands the proper selection of allies.
In the science of neuro-linguistic programming, it is said
that if you want to learn to do anything, find a person who
has already accomplished it, and learn three things about them:
How they use their bodies, their minds, and their spirits. Or
to put it another way, their use of physiology, their mental
syntax, and their belief systems. Let's say that you want to
"model" your humble editor, regarding his writing skills. Physically,
I apply butt to chair for about 4 hours, or 1000 words a day.
I keep my energy level high by monitoring my blood sugar level,
oxygenating my blood with aerobic exercise, and keeping my muscles
relaxed and supple with yoga. Mentally, I understand pacing
and plotting like a science, and use the concept of the Hero's
Journey to act as a "plotting spine" to link my elements. There
are other important concepts as well which enter here: the chakras
and "time-line," for instance, which we will discuss in later
zines. And there are specific processes I use when stuck on
different aspects of story, each of which I will eventually
describe in detail. My belief systems include a deep and abiding
conviction that story-telling is a vital aspect of human experience,
that I have this ability, that I have the right to enjoy my
If you can find someone with a skill you covet--physical, mental,
or emotional--you can extract their "recipe" for success and
apply it to your own life, placing yourself way ahead of the
game. Move your body the way they move theirs, learn to think
as they think, and to feel as they feel, and you can do what
they do. You can save many years of sweat and frustration by
modeling people in this way, rather than trying to learn by
Even better, find several people who have accomplished the
desired result. Ask them (you'd be surprised how easy it is
to offer to buy someone a dinner, and quiz 'em all you want!)
how they did it, and then compare the answers: the overlap of
their answers will yield pure gold.
Mental Syntax: What are the important component elements
of their skill? In what sequence do they address a single task?
A day's work? Designing a week? A month? A year? How do they
Physiology: What is your role model's fitness level?
What do they eat? How do they use their bodies in their daily
life? What is their pattern of breathing while they perform
the selected task?
NOTE: Once again, if possible, find THREE different
people, all of whom have the skill you desire. Study them as
thoroughly as possible, then find the areas where their behaviors
and beliefs overlap. The rest of their behaviors may be eccentric,
and have nothing at all to do with the chosen task.
FILM: In "As Good As it Gets," Jack Nicholson and Helen
Hunt are perfectly matched. He is enormously successful financially,
and a wreck emotionally (spiritually). She is a well-balanced,
emotionally healthy woman who is a nightmare financially (mentally).
In other words, they are balanced with each other: each has
something to offer the other, each has something to learn, each
has a hole the other can fill. If Nicholson had been healthy
emotionally, he probably wouldn't have fallen for her. If she
had had two nickels to rub together, she would never have gotten
involved with him. There is nothing politically correct about
this view, but you can see it all the time in relationships.
Physical beauty, intelligence, emotional health and financial
success are all coin of the realm in love, and not to acknowledge
this is an invitation to disaster. In relationships, we don't
get what we want, we get who we are.
Note the beautiful way writer James L. Brooks balances the
relational elements in this film. Each character needs the others,
in different ways. He is an absolute master of the balanced
dysfunctional relationship. None of us is perfect, all of us
have wounds. Brooks simply mines them for rich human drama and
comedy (Terms of Endearment, Taxi, Broadcast News.)
- Look at each of the three major arenas of your life: career,
relationships, and physical health. Choose the one you are
least satisfied with. Who do you know who has gotten consistently
better results in this arena?
- How does this person operate differently from you? What
positive changes would you have to make to get better results?
- Who and when have you learned in the past?
- Who and when did you teach someone else in the past? How
did you convey the information?
- What does your character need to learn in the course of
- Who are your character's allies?
- What does your character's choice of relationship reveal?
- What character could you create who might seem to be an
enemy, but provide a vital life lesson? Seem to be an ally,
but actually drag your character down?