(From my Master thesis in Theater Pedagogy “Towards Personal Growth“)
Humans seem to have an inbuilt awareness, of what inspires them and makes them feel alive – and that they have an urge to strive for that, by inner motivation. Something in the individual is able to intuit where it is motivated to go and not – what situation, what activity, which place, relationship or opportunity, that is the right direction to put attention into, at any given time. This might be explained as automatic behavior based on so called crude instincts and drives in our personalities, such as those of hunger, thirst, reproduction, survival. But are they so crude? They are part, of what it means to be human. All that we are, we are.
And what we are – we discuss and explore, imagine and abhor, through books, movies, plays and facebook profiles, the clothes we wear, the words we use, the very lives we live. We have so, for millennia, stories evolving through changing mediums. The activity, is the same. Shakespeare wrote, that ”All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts”
Life seen like that, is easy to apprehend as a story, or a bundle of stories, in itself. Life as narrative. Identity as narrative. This concept explains the human tendency to shape lives, and navigate through them, by the use of stories.Stories of what is right or wrong, (or stories where right and wrong is not) of why a certain thing behaves as it does, of where it all is supposed to go, of why it ́s not always easy, of why it sometimes is very easy – why it – it – Life – appears as it does – which is different in every story, and yet the stories all describe parts of the same topic – of all that we are and all that happens.
Yes, we are full of hunger and thirst, for food and drink, for each other, for touch, for shelter, for material wealth, to satisfy our greedy hunger and thirst, that we are so full of. But I observe, that we are full of more than that. I see, that in the deep of all this, which in itself is life, we exist, also, as individuals with an urge to be.
We can begin by stating that an individual has daydreams, phantasies, perhaps wild visions about what she wants in life. These have their source somewhere within her. Let us call that source her being. Even if the dreams of the individual has not taken shape in her mind as defined goals, she still has an intuitive sense for what she wants to invest her attention into, and what not, at any given time. I am not speaking of a rational sense of what could be ”practical” or ”smart”, to put attention into. Nor am I speaking of what could be ”satisfying” or ”relieving”, in a so called crude sense. I am rather speaking of what might be perceived as ”inspiring”, or to use an even more defining term; ”heartfelt”. Often enough, circumstances demand of the individual, that she puts focus on what is ”smart”, and perhaps even more often, she will go for the crude ”satisfaction”.
There is nothing wrong with this, and there ́s certainly not anything unnatural about it. But if the individual wants to grow as a person, instead of only surviving and enjoying, she must focus on the heartfelt choice. This is what I see. The being inside of the individual beckons to her from the depths, to be expressed in the world, to touch the world for the sake of it ́s own experience, the knowledge, the growth, to be found in that experience. Even when the individual can ́t consciously hear the beckoning, it is there in her subconscious, not letting itself to be forgotten, searching for opportunities to expand, back into the conscious mind again, and out into the world of action.
What I observe is, that when the individual invests her attention and her activity in that heartfelt direction, something starts to emerge from within her. She finds, that she becomes more in tune with her being. Her actions, be it speaking, moving, shaping or addressing, begin to happen with expanded spontaneity and ease. She is aware of, that this is ”right” somehow. By going with this urge, she gradually becomes more aware of her own being. As she finds this phenomenon happening to her again and again in different life-situations, she becomes more familiar with this heartfelt state of being and doing. By exploring this state, the individual becomes more refined in answering questions such as ”What is the meaning of life?”, ”What is my thing?” and ”Who am I?” to herself. Not as an intellectual conceptualization as much as an intuitive sensation of actual self- awareness. As her self-awareness grows in this manner, she finds it easier to make decisions big or small, that affects the ongoing development of her life. This process is central to my Researtch.
An important digression to make here, would be, that some sociologists maintain, that there is no such thing as a personal identity – that these narratives, through which we weave and define our kaleidoscopic realities, are the only – highly fluent – identities, that we have. I take no definite stand regarding that debate. It can be argued, that the practical tools employed in my method, to some extent are based not only on the use of a ”personal narrative” – that is, a personal continuous identity, but also on the assumption of a being, which could be argued to signify a ”true self”. That is however not a conclusion, that I am willing to draw at this point. The concepts of ”Being” and ”Human Urge” are not necessarily bound to any concept of a definite personal identity as such – the notion of having an identity, which to me seems inbuilt in our conscious awareness, illusion-though-it-may-be, is enough for practical work at this point.
Another digression is, that the method is not designed as a way to play with and indulge in self- aggrandizing games with the individuals various images of herself – her Ego. There are already so many tools for pursuing that activity, within the field of theatre and performance as well as everywhere else. Methods for that can be used as part of the work, though, for empowerment, for fun or warm-up. It is not a question of ethics, but of what works, and why.
No, connecting with one ́s being is an act of strong resolve to authenticity. ”Who am I?” The concept is analogous with C.O Scharmers ”Presensing”, a method by which an individual goes beyond her own habitual patterns of ”downloading” and ”processing” information about the world, finally managing to ”let go” and open herself to a conscious state of awareness, where she not only sees herself and her entire situation as it truly appears at that time, but also becomes aware of her potential, future self and future situation, based of what she can be, perceived by intuition in such a way, as to make the individual ”receive” insight and motivation emerging from her own potential future.Scharmer writes of it as an encounter between a persons self with her true self – of a connection to the essence of her utmost potential.
”The important point is that in exploring this future potential, you are not exploring a future someone else has written for you. It ́s more intimately connected with your evolving, authentic Self – who you really are. It ́s much more fluid, more open, more in dialogue with you. And yet, at it ́s core, it ́s connected to the alien part within ourselves […] I ́ve experienced this element – the evolving future field – as a being that is actually looking at me. In the moment you feel that gaze, you feel the world stopping. After that you ́re no longer the same.”(Scharmer, 2006)
As life goes on, the individual is shaped by her experiences. Under beneficial circumstances such as here described, she would transform more into someone, who finds life increasingly to agree with her being. When circumstances send her ”off track”, she still has an experience, of how it is supposed to feel, which makes it easier for her to find the heartfelt sensation again in a new, perhaps unexpected, activity. Gradually, the individual refines her ability to manifest her being, in her way of life as well as in her spontaneous action – her expression – in the moment.
And all this time, she is exploring and abhorring and imagining herself as a story of stories.
But circumstances are not always beneficial. We often have an immediate need to pursue the ”smart” activity, to avoid perhaps dire practical consequences – not to mention our need for immediate relief in different ways, again and again. Lives are spent with these pursuits. Furthermore, western society today – which is the main backdrop to my research into something in itself universal – pays little interest to making circumstances beneficial to heartfelt pursuits, preferring to put priority on what ́s practical and satisfying. Yet does our beings resonate with heartfelt sentiment, when interest in fact has been invested into the making of a 90 minute long cinematic product, telling the story of someone who actually went for his dreams.
The classical figure of the youthful, who endeavor out into adventure by their human urge to follow the beckoning of their innermost being, is familiar in cinema, but exists in everyday life too. Adventure travelers and activists alike, ride their tickets every season, encountering the wild. Some of them find ways to live with and grow with the wild, in various guises, manifesting and expressing and realizing their beings. These individuals, I have nothing to teach, that they won ́t apprehend in their own way. Except perhaps a systematic way to reflect upon their own mysteries, through a theater pedagogical perspective.
But what about the individuals, who live in the western contemporary world, with it ́s various circumstances given – and who are not prone to embark into the wild, perhaps with good reason? For them especially, would I like to offer a version of theater pedagogy, that is concerned with the human urge to be. A strength with theater pedagogy, is it ́s potential for creating temporal circumstances, by means of enlivened imagination. Circumstances, that when rightly arranged and enforced, perhaps can make way for the human urge, to find ways for the human being to manifest itself heartfully in the world.
With the right means, by producing the right circumstances, by offering the right stimulants in the form of suggestions and exercises, the urge seems to be possible to reach, to contact and awake. Just as an individual can be made aware of the moon in the sky by pointing it out to her, can it be possible to make her aware of her urge in a similar way. It is then possible to cultivate it ́s presence in the actions of her everyday life, in ways similar to those used, when cultivating a fictional character for acting on stage.
The ”heartfelt activity”, that I am speaking of, has been described in similar terms by the internationally acclaimed leader in creativity, innovation and human capacity Ken Robinson, when he writes about what he calls ”The Element” –
”The Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion. What you ́ll find in common […] is that they are doing the thing they love, and in doing it they feel like their most authentic selves. They find that time passes differently and that they are more alive, more centered, and more vibrant than at any other times. Being in their Element takes them beyond the ordinary experience of enjoyment or happiness. We ́re not simply talking about laughter, good times, sunsets, and parties. When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose and well-being. Being there provides a sense of self-revelation, of defining who they really are and what they ́re really meant to be doing with their lives.” (Robinson & Aronica, 2009,)
”The Element” and ”The Being”. These terms are not quite synonymous, but point at the same thing. Heartfulness in the action pursued. ”The Element”, can be many different things to one person, not necessarily just one activity. Another term, that is relevant here, is Flow, as defined by Professor and explorer of psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
This state of human consciousness emerges, when an individual is focusing her entire apprehension on one single task, with the conviction, that she can see it through, if she but puts her entire capacity to use for the effort in question. Her mind, usually distracted in an ongoing bombardment of information – entropy – finds relief in the negentropy of concentrating on one single task. Forgetting about everything else, the individual is working in the absolute moment, with no sense of time, gradually registering signs of successful development of the process, that she pursues. When these factors as have been described are fulfilled, her consciousness slips into the state of flow.
Ken Robinson describes it as ”being in the deep heart of the Element”
”To be in the zone is to be in the deep heart of the Element. Doing what we love can involve all sorts of activities that are essential to the Element but are not the essence of it – things like studying, organizing, arranging, limbering up, etc. And even when we ́re doing the thing we love, there can be frustrations, disappointments, and times when it simply doesn ́t work or come together. But when it does, it transforms our experience of the Element. We become focused and intent. We live in the moment. We become lost in the experience and perform at our peak. Our breathing changes, our minds merge with our bodies, and we feel ourselves drawn effortlessly into the heart of the Element.” (Robinson & Aronica, 2009)
Ken Robinsons ”Element” is not identical with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyis ”Flow”, which can be reached in any activity, as long as the individual pursuing it fulfills the factors required regarding full focus, registering of gradual positive results, and so on. If they were identical, it would imply, that any activity at all could be the Element to anyone, and this is not Robinsons point. It does however strike a cord to my concept of being and urge, since the human urge, as I perceive it, seeks ways to answer the beckoning of the being constantly – through the activities within present reach, in an ongoing, organic pursuit of what Robinson would call the Element, as described above.
I offer teaching by my own theatre pedagogical method, designed through study, trial and error, in experience of many other methods, models and traditions, to find ways to make it possible for an individual, to connect consciously with her being, become better equipped to follow her urge to manifest it through action, and furthermore, to establish that connection in an ongoing process of personal transformation and growth.
To consciously pursue work through such manifesting actions, can in terms of flow-theory be described as to establish a ”negentropy” – a frame of attention on certain information which thereby becomes structured in the mind – all regarding the pursuit of manifesting the being in the world. Once the negentropy itself is established, all other factors required to reach flow are within reach, provided that the working tools are adequately designed and used.My experience of this is, that the individual can reach a state of flow in the overall activity of ”manifesting her being”, through all sorts of actions, all united in that single heartfelt purpose. Since ”the world is a stage”, when seen in the sense, that our lives are full of self-exploration through narratives, that it is possible to apply theater pedagogical methods, in specific settings of the right circumstances, for manifesting being through action. The setting can, as the connection with the urge increases, be opened up gradually, until the individual is equipped to continue the work – her chosen negentropy, her intention – in the events and circumstances of her everyday life, on her own. It is furthermore possible, to use tools of theatre pedagogy to teach an individual acting skills, in order to make her more aware of the signs, that she uses in her self-expression. These acting skills, or rather her possessing of them, are then in itself a setting in the potential of the persona, for the human urge to be released through.
A process such as this, being successful, can elevate the individual into a state of discovery, liberation and growth, which is self-generating. It is a state closely related to the various terms listed above. The individual, immersed in the activity of expressing herself; of manifesting her being through the heartfelt action of ”manifesting her being” intently by various means, (of which not all have to be directly ”heartful”, required that they are part of a heartful whole to the individual) can enter a state of flow in that activity. When in flow, the individual increases her ability to pursue the action in question, and thereby grows further. If the action pursued is ”personal transformation and growth”, then the reaching of a new level is possible, where the process regenerates itself, in theory perpetually.
The term Autopoiesis, introduced into sociology (from biology) by Niklas Luhmann, applies well here. An Autopoietic system is one that continuously produces the components that specify it, while at the same time realizing itself to be a concrete unity in space and time. The ”concrete unity in space and time” is then the process of personal growth itself, rather than the individual, that pursues the process. These two can however be seen as inseparable.