And if you can do that – take the ingredients of conflict apart and look at them at a basic, human level – you can also start to see how they can be reconstructed in a way that transforms the conflict to bring about a positive result. As the old adage says, ‘Scripts aren’t written, they’re rewritten.’
In short, I realised that there are profound lessons from scriptwriting and storytelling that can be applied to conflict transformation – everything from the three-act structure, through cause and effect, to character development. And when applied, they can bring about significant shifts in how those involved in conflict think and act, to bring about a beneficial outcome.
Write your biopic
For example, I sometimes encourage people mired in conflict to think of themselves as the lead character in the film of their life - their own personal biopic. They've reached an apparent dead end - but in a great story this would be a turning-point, a moment when the hero or heroine has to dig deep to find some dormant quality in their life that can be uncovered and tapped to drive their story to a positive ending. And this simple act of reframing can be enough for those who are stuck to start thinking anew about their situation and how it might be transformed.
I’ll explore these lessons further in future blogs.
For now, all I’ll say is that learning how to put conflict in – ‘It needs more conflict’ – can be turned through 180⁰ to take conflict out or to transform its negative aspects. It might make for a less dramatic story in real life but boy, can it save a huge amount of suffering.
Which is why, after a couple of decades inventing fictional conflict, I decided to focus instead on transforming the real stuff. Because the world definitely needs more conflict right now – of the positive, productive kind.