Dr Eric Miller, Chennai

98403 94282


Speaking Notes for talk/workshop on the "Story-making Process of the Human Mind", Tues 4 Sept, 2012.  9-11am.



International Conference on

Enriching the Connection between Literature and Life


Literature is related to Story, Fantasy, Imagination, Daydream, Self-Awareness, Expression, Articulation, and Thought ("Might I do it this way, or that way?" -- internal discussion one has with oneself, the author, and the characters).


The mechanics of connection between self and Story involve Projection, Identification, Empathy, Imitation, and Imagination.  These are key processes when it comes to people and story.  People project themselves into story characters.  They tend to identify, and feel empathy, with the characters.  This occurs through the use of people's powers of imagination.  People may then imitate the characters of their favourite stories.


Why enrich, nurture, broaden the connection?  Many people think of the Imagination as an escape, a waste of time.  But those of us who love the life of the imagination know that imaginative thought and play can lead to changes in reality.  One way this can happen is, one can learn lessons in imaginary play that one can then apply to one's "real" life -- relating to making plans to change both self and society.  Stories can be models of the past, and models for the future.



The Story-making Process of the Human Mind

(Ways One Processes Experience into Story)


Activity no 1 (Talking in groups of two)

Tell the person sitting next to you about something that happened in the past 24 hours.


Shift from 1st person to 3rd person.

Create metaphors/symbols/representations for experience (it felt like such-and-such) -- doing this can relate one's self to society and nature.




Activity no 2 (Writing)

Write about,

Ask yourself, "When I daydream, what do I daydream about?"  (Write for 10 minutes.) 

Of what you have written, what stands out as interesting?  (Write for 3 minutes.)




Activity no 3 (Writing)

Write about,

What is a Social or Environmental Problem/Issue that often comes up in your mind?  Has this Problem/Issue affected your life, or the life of anyone you know?  If things might continue going badly, where might they be headed?  Follow the lines of thought to their logical conclusions.  Can you imagine any ways by which the situation could possibly be improved?




Ways to make a Life Story out of one's life


One constructs, composes, one's Life Story.




Guiding factors of one's Life Story may include:

1) unique Interests and Skills; and 2) Turning Points (Past and Future).


Activity no 4 (Writing)

Write about,

When did you become aware of unique talents, skills, and interests of yours?  How have you developed these abilities through education, and applied them at work?


This would be something you really enjoy, and immediatey were very good at.  Something that agrees with you.  You feel you were put on this earth to do it.  When you find something you are passionate about, you do not need to have self-discipline, because you love doing it so much.


Activity no 5 (Writing)

Write about,

What are one or more of the major decisions, or other turning points, that have occurred in your life?  Think about such events that may be coming up in the future.


If one's life goes very differently from how one imagined it was going to go, and this difference is painful, one may need to practice Life Story Repair.  This is because one's Life Story makes sense out of experience.  Where is one coming from?  Where is one going?  Especially in terms of relationships and work.  If one's Life Story makes sense, then hopefully one's life will follow suit, and work out accordingly, so one can 'live happily ever after'


In one's real life, there may be many loose ends.  A lot may be up in the air.  With one's Life Story, one makes sense out of all that.




We imagine like we breathe (it is very difficult to stop doing it).  We put two and two together.  We make sense out of things.  We are always trying to figure out, what is going on?  What is going to happen next?  What should I do to handle the situation in the best way possible?


We may seek to pour our experience into molds.  We may perceive and thus shape our experience into certain formulas.


The principle of Linguistic Relativity (popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis) holds that the particulars of a language -- its grammar, vocabulary, and so on -- affect the ways in which its speakers perceive the world.  The way we perceive and describe things depends on our linguistic and conceptual vocabulary.  If it does not fit into our worldview, it just does not register in our minds, so it goes right by us unnoticed.


Thus, the act of perception is an act of creativity.  We have the illusiion that we are objective, that we seee things as they really are, but this is an illusion.  We are not objective. We impose our worldview onto reality, and we see reality through the filter of our world view.  Each language is, on one level a prison, enabling us to see and express certain things, but being oblivious to other things.  This is one reason why language diversity is so valuable -- the presence of multiple languages facilitates the presence of multiple worldviews, and this multiplicity is very useful for problem-solving, creativity, the proverbial 'thinking outside of the box'.




Culture is the formulaic use of units of thought, speech, and behaviour.


Taken-for-granted thought processes, ways of handling situations.


Formula.  Habit (a creature of habit, a prisoner of habit).  Customary.  Conventional.  Familiar.  Ordinary.  Common.  Common practices.  Best practices.  Competent.  Standard. Typical.

S/he knows how to do things.  S/he knows how to get things done.


Is there a Periyar University way of thinking, speaking, and behaving?

Is there such a thing as speaking the Periyar University way?




I would recite six popular story formulas.  Please tell me if any of them relate to your life:


Story Formulas include --

1) Family Togetherness -- Together, apart, together again.

2) Heroic -- He/she suffers oppression, escapes, returns triumphantly.

3) Conflict-centric -- Competition and confrontation between ideas, individuals, or groups.

4) Mission-centric -- He/she is on a mission; wants something.

5) Rise and Fall (Catharsis) -- He/she rises, but due to a fatal flaw (pride), falls.


Life Story Formulas include--

1) Forced Loss (Lament) -- My fate has been determined by losing being separated from someone or something.  One thinks about what could have been.  One really suffers over what one lost, or never got.  Hopefully, this state of mind leads to making a plan and recovering what has been lost.

2) Voluntary Loss -- Sacrificing oneself for others, for the sake of family obligations (a women may have married, had children, interrupted their educational, intellectual, and professional development; a man may have worked to support his wife and children).

3) Youth was a time of freedom and play.  Adulthood is a time of duty, responsibilities, stress, and even possibly "selling one's soul" to support self and family.

4) Work hard, and achieve success.


Tribal Story Formulas include --

1) In ancient days we were free to interact with the forest.  Now we are kept away from the forest by Govt regulations and conditions.












Activity no 6 (Game)

Connect pieces into a story:  Word Association (4 words).


Activity no 7 (Game)

Connect pieces into a story:  Character.  Place.  Action.  Object.