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A Blimp from the Blue: Using The Kishōtenketsu Story Structure as an Antidote to the Hero’s Journey | Courtyard

Virtual Event Virtual Event

July 16 @ 7:00 pm BST 8:30 pm BST

2pm EST (check your local time zone here)

Stories have sat at the heart of human cultures throughout history. We use them as sources of entertainment, information, and education. They help us develop, stay safe, and understand ourselves and our world.

Culture influences the stories we tell, and the way we tell stories shapes culture. But it’s not just the content of these stories that matters. Their structure impacts how we relate to ourselves and other people, our worldviews, and our personal values.

So what happens when a culture’s prevailing approach to telling stories is infused with toxic features? How does that negatively impact people’s perceptions of themselves and their lives? How can we tell our stories in ways that heal rather than harm?

These questions gave rise to this Courtyard Workshop with Kendra Patterson.

Kishōtenketsu: An Antidote To The Toxicity of The Hero’s Journey

Kendra is an author, social scientist, and presenter of Stepping Off Now, a podcast about doing creativity your own way. She recently shared a fascinating episode about the calming effects of Kishōtenketsu, a Japanese narrative structure distinct from the three-act structure typical of Western storytelling.

I was listening in my car, broken down on the side of a busy road at the time. The episode helped me in that moment. It was comforting, inspiring, and a catalyst for a deep surge of creative energy. In fact, it put words to something that’s been on my mind for many years: why so many of our stories (or our readings/interpretations of them) revolve around big conflict, division, destinies, and the elevation of individual heroes (and villains).

Kishōtenketsu integrates reality and explores meaningful paths within the ordinary quietness and mundane happenings of everyday life. By contrast, the hero’s journey requires conflict with reality and uses the external world (successfully slaying goals, acquiring objects, overcoming obstacles) as the source of life’s meaning.

Our Common Cultural Story Structures Impact:

  • How we decide what to do and why
  • Our capacity for integrating unexpected events, situations, and invitations
  • Collective values, assumptions, and judgements about human worth

When Kendra and I chatted about this topic, it occurred to us that we might not be alone in our desire for an alternative to the toxicity of the hero’s journey. So, we are creating space to explore it with others. We would love you to join us for this 90-minute workshop, in which we will consider how to use the Kishotenketsu story structure to develop a healthier and more balanced relationship with life’s twists and turns. The workshop will include short talks, reflective exercises, and opportunities to share and respond to the group. 

Workshop Structure

Part 1 – Introducing Kishōtenketsu

  • Kendra will introduce the structure of Kishōtenketsu and familiar examples of it in storytelling
  • Exercise (A Blimp from The Blue)

Part 2 – The Toxic Impact of The Hero’s Journey 

  • Andy will introduce the hero’s journey and explore its influence on our judgements, feelings, and aspirations 
  • Exercise (Absorbing The Hero’s Journey)

Time to Reflect and Share

Part 3 – Inviting a New Lens (A Conversation)

  • We will deconstruct core elements of the hero’s journey and consider what a Kishōtenketsu paradigm shift could look like in the stories we live and tell
  • Exercise – Integrating the Blimp from The Blue into a Kishōtenketsu structure

Time to Reflect and Share

We are open to this being the first of a series of sessions on this topic as there are a lot of potential avenues to explore if there is an appetite for it.

The session will be recorded for anyone who can’t make it live. It will be available for 7 days after the event for those who register.