We are all familiar with the teasing notion that there may be only seven (or six or five or two) stories in the world. It is tantalizing.
I found my attention focusing on the 1001 great stories I have ever read or seen. They included stories in literature like a Shakespeare play Macbeth and Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, stories in the movies like The Deerhunter, The Godfather, Thelma and Louise, myths like the one of Icarus, legends like Faust. On the face of it, these stories might not seem to have much in common. But what intrigued me was the way, that at a deeper leve, they all seemed to unfold rond the same general story we – as humans – tell ourselves.
Each begins with a hero, or heroes, in some way unfulfilled. The mood at the beginning of the story is one of anticipation, as the hero seems to be standing on the edge of some great adventure or experience. In each case he finds a focus for his ambitions or desires, and for a time seems to enjoy almost dream-like success. Macbeth becomes king, Humbert embarks on his affair with the bewitching Lolita, Icarus discovers that he can fly; Faust is given access by the devil to all sorts of magical experiences. But gradually the mood of the story darkens.
The hero experiences an increasing sense of frustration. There is something about the course he has chosen which makes it appear doomed, unable to resolve happily. More and more he runs into difficulty; everything goes wrong until that original dream has turned into a nightmare. Finally, seemingly inexorably, the story works up to a climax of violent self-destruction. The dream ends in death.
So consistent was the pattern underlying each of these stories that it was possible to track it in a series of five identifiable stages from the initial mood of anticipation. Through a ‘dream stage’ when all seems to be going unbelievably well, to the ‘frustration’ stage when things begin to go mysteriously wrong, to the ‘nightmare stage’ where everything goes horrendously wrong, ending in that final moment of death and destruction.
Think about a good many dramatic tragedies such as Romeo and Julia or Carmen, the story of Don Juan, the dreams turned to nightmare of those two unhappy heroines, Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina, both ending in suicide. Or Bonny and Clyde, describing the two young lovers who lightheartedly embark on a career as bank robbers and end up riddled with a hail of bullets.
Again and again through the history of storytelling it was possible to see this same theme, of a hero or heroine being drawn into a course of action which leads initially to some kind of hectic gratification and dream-like success, but which then darkens inexorably to a climax of nightmare and destruction. And at this point two questions began to intrude.
First, why was this so? Why has the imagination of storytellers in the history of mankind seem to form so readily and regularly round the same theme? Why do we recognize it as such a satisfactory shape to a story. Secondly, were there other patterns like this underlying stories, shaping them in quite different ways? What about all those stories which have ‘happy endings’? Were there any similar basic patterns underlying these too?
As soon as I began to look at stories in this light, a number of basic themes in the great stories began to suggest themselves. There were, for instance, all those stories about ‘overcoming of a monster’ like Jaws or Beowulf, in which our interest centers on the threat posed by some monstrous figure of evil, who is then challenged by the hero and finally, after a climactic battle, killed.
There is the theme of ‘enormous personal growth’ like The Ugly Duckling or Cinderella, where our main interest lies in seeing some initially humble and disregarded little hero or heroine being raised up to a position of immense success and splendor. There were stories based on the theme of a great quest, like the Odyssey or The Lord of the Rings, where our interest centers on the hero’s long, difficult journey towards some distant, enormously important goal.
I embarked on a quest, looking and reading through hundreds of stories of every type of story imaginable: from the myths of ancient Mesopotamia and Greece to James Bond and Star Wars; from ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Proust; from the Marx Brothers to the Marquis de Sade and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre; from the biblical story of Job to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty -Four; from the tragedies of the Roman myths to Sherlock Holmes; from the operas of Wagner to The Sound of Music; from Dante’s Divine Comedy to Amelie. And it was not long before I began to make a startling discovery. Not only did it indeed seem to be true that there were a number of basic themes or plots which continually recurred in the storytelling of mankind, shaping tales of very different types and from almost every age and culture. Even more surprising was the degree of detail to which these ‘basis story plots’ seemed to shape the stories they had inspired; so that one might find, for instance, a well – known nineteenth-century novel constrected in almost exactly the same way as a Middle Eastern folk tale dating from 1200 years before; or a popular modern children’s story revealing remarkable hidden parallels with the structure of an epic poem composed in ancient Greece.
The stories seemed to be completely diverse: several were classic children’s stories, like Peter Rabbit, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland; there were a long list of novels, from Robinson Crusoe to Brideshead Revisited; there were science fiction stories, like H.G. Well’s The Time Machine; there were films ranging from The Third Man and the Wizard of Oz to Gone with the Wind. The further my journey proceeded, the more clearly two things emerged. The first was that there are indeed a small number of story plots which are so fundamental to the way we tell stories that it is virtually impossible for any storyteller ever entirely to break away from them. The second was that, the more familiar we become with the nature of these shaping forms and forces lying beneath the surface of stories, pushing them into patterns and directions which are beyond the storyteller’s conscious control, the more we find that we are entering a realm to which recognition of the plots themselves proves only to have been the gateway. We are in fact uncovering nothing less than a kind of hidden, universal story language; a nucleus of situations and figures which are the very stuff from which stories are made.
And once we become acquainted with this symbolic story language, and begin to catch something of its extraordinary significance, there is literally no story in the world which cannot be seen in a new light: because we have come to the heart of what stories are about and why we tell them.
Read on for a detailed breakdown of “The Seven Stories of Your Life”
What Can I Expect?
Here’s an outline of “The Seven Stories of Your Life itinerary.
PART I THE SEVEN GREAT STORIES OF YOUR LIFE
- Why Do We Need Stories?
- The Basic Stories
- Once Upon A Time
- Overcoming the Monster
- The Essence of the Monster
- The Purpose of the Monster
- Not Completely Human
- The Thrilling Escape from Death
- Rags to Riches
- The Dark Figures
- The Central Crisis
- The Dark Version
- Rags to Riches: Summing Up
- The Quest
- The Call to Adventure
- The Hero’s Companions
- The Journey
- The Trials
- Visit to the Underworld
- The Helpers
- Voyage and Return
The Dark Power: From Shadow into Light
PART II THE COMPLETE HAPPY ENDING
- The Twelve Dark Characters
- In the Zone
- The Perfect Balance
- The Unrealised Value
- The Drama
- The Twelve Light Charactres
- Reaching the Goal
- The Fatal Flaw
PART III MISSING THE MARK
- The Ego Takes Over
- Losing Your Plot
- Going Nowhere
- Why Sex and Violence?
- Rebellion Against ‘The One’
- The Mystery
PART IV WHY WE TELL STORIES
- Telling Us Who We Are: Ego versus Instinct
- Into the Real World: What Legend are You Living?
- Of Gods and Men: Finding Your Authentic Story
- The Age of Loki: The Dismantling of the Self
Epilogue: What is Your Story?
About Peter de Kuster
Peter de Kuster is the founder of The Heroine’ s Journey & The Hero’s Journey
Peter is founder of the Heroine’s Journey and Hero’s Journey project where worldwide thousands of professionals shared their story of making money doing what you love. He wrote 50+ books. Peter has an MBA in Marketing, MBA in Financial Economics and graduated at university in Sociology and Communication Sciences.
IS THE HERO’S JOURNEY FOR YOU?
- You are a creative professional who is interested in developing yourself and your creative business.
- You are aware that there are no quick fixes. Learning is a journey that works when you are fully committed to it. A guide like Peter de Kuster can bring awareness and help you navigate, but in the end it’s you who is in charge of your growth.
- You want to learn more about how to tell yourself a more powerful story, learn about blind spots, and get feedback.
- You are curious and want to engage in an interactive learning journey with Peter de Kuster.
- You are motivated to work in-between journeys on yourself (e.g. working on questions that will help you develop new storytelling, mindsets, skills, and behaviors).
WHAT’S YOUR QUEST-ION?
The Hero’s Journey is all about your development. To make the most out of your journey with Peter, we ask you to prepare topics to work on with him. These topics can serve as a starting point for further in-depth exploration.
One Hour Virtual Coaching for Euro 150 (excluding VAT)
One Day Journey for EUR 1,200 (excl. VAT)
Two Day Journey for EUR 2,150 (excl. VAT)
Three Day Journey for EUR 2,950 (excl. VAT)
BOOK THE HERO’S JOURNEY
Who can sign up for The Hero’s Journey?
Creative professionals who wish to improve their storytelling, mindset(s) and develop their leadership skills.
What language do we speak in the journey?
Can I bring my own topics?
Yes, you get to choose your own topic.
Are journeys confidential?
Yes. Peter will not share anything that is discussed in the journey.
Where will the journeys take place?
Sessions will take place travelling with Peter a world city like Paris, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, Antwerp, Venice, New York, Berlin, Madrid.
How do I sign up?
Send Peter an email to email@example.com
How do I pay?
After you booked The Hero’s Journey by sending an email to Peter you will receive an email with info how to pay.
How do I book and reschedule a journey?
Once we’ve received your payment, our Program Coordinator will book your journey. She will also support you with rescheduling journeys if needed.
What is your cancellation policy?
Individual journeys can be postponed up to one week before the journey.