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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 03-Jun-18


Sunday 03-June-18

The Truman Show, The Matrix, Stage Theory and Transitions

In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey discovers he is living in a stage-managed reality show where he is the only person who does not know this. All his supposed friends and family are actors, playing roles rather than being the roles. This triggers an existential crisis where his sense of identity crumbles and he desperately tries to escape this unreality. In The Matrix, Keanu Reeves faces a similar dilemma, although this time everybody in the unreality is duped, apart from a few guardians who are tasked with sustaining the illusion.

The common factor that grips the viewer is the traumatic realization that everything you held as true is false, and that our heroes must find a way through this terrible disappointment to establish a new, trusted reality. For trust is a critical issue here. Realities that we inhabit must be based on wholly accepted truth, even while much is based more on assumption than experience.

Stage theories describe something similar. The basic idea is that we go through life via a set of stable belief and consequent thinking systems, painfully transitioning from one stage to the next as the current cognitive framework increasingly fails. Classic examples are the transitions from infancy to childhood and from childhood to adulthood.

Transitions happen in many other situations, from changing jobs to spiritual awakening. They can range in experience from traumatically negative to positively uplifting. They are often confusing and can lead to deep learning. They may themselves be constituted of sub-stages, such as the classic Kubler-Ross cycle. And they may well be facilitated by rituals of some kind. The Truman Show and The Matrix both are transition stories as their heroes struggle with the realization that their realities are false. Much of life is like this.

Transitions can also be micro-events, such as when we pass through any doorway from one environment to another. These too may require a brief period of adjustment and may involve simple rituals, such as welcoming or removing shoes.

In changing minds, it is useful to pay attention to transitions. You can create them as blocks or delays. You can facilitate passing through them. And you can build them into stories that normalize, disseminate and teach the process of transition.

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