What is Self Awarenss? Where does it come
from? And how does it work? Many attempts have been made to answer these questions by a
variety of means ranging from philosophic conjectures and religious perspectives to
medical investigations and neural network computer programs. Mental Relativity seeks to
answer them through a mathematic model of the mind.
This model originated in the development of a new
theory of story called Dramatica. A central concept of the Dramatica theory states
that "every complete story represents a model of a single human mind trying to deal
with an inequity." That is a rather bold statement and merits some supporting
According to Dramatica, stories exist to allow us
an external, more objective view of our own mental processes so that we might better
understand how to make beneficial decisions in particular life situations. They do this by
creating a Story Mind that may have different attitudes than our own, but
functionally operates in the same manner.
This Story Mind, then, is not the mind of the
author, audience, or any of the characters, but exists in an intangible manner as the
relationship among dramatic Appreciations. Appreciations are simply the
foundational building blocks of a story with the specifics stripped away such as the
story's goal, or the Main Character's motivation. Even before an author
determines what the goal is or what drives the Main Character, the conceptual notion
exists that there must be some kind of goal and that the Main Character will indeed be
driven by something.
The Appreciations then represent fundamental
conceptual or experiential qualities that all human beings are inherantly capable of
embracing. The underlying deep structure of stories represents a model of how these
essential human Appreciations relate, thereby creating a model of the mind itself. The
progression of acts and scenes (which we shall later see is not linear at all, but follows
a helical pattern) describes the mechanism by which the mind progresses from one
structural mind set to the next, or in a sense, from one experience to another.
How would such a thing as a Story Mind come in to
being? Surely the earliest storytellers didn't consciously set out to create a model of
the mind! True. But subconsciously that is exactly what they did. The simplest form of
storytelling deals with the tale. A tale is just a series of events that arrives at
a conclusion. As long as the chain is unbroken and makes sense both logically and
emotionally, an audience will stay with it. The conclusion puts it all in perspective and
determines whether that particular series of events was a good one or a bad one to follow.
A tale, therefore, constitutes a statement.
In contrast, a story is an argument. Rather
than seeking to prove something is simply good or bad in and of itself, a story is out to
prove that a particular approach is better or worse than all other
appropriate responses which might be tried. A story is therefore a much more powerful
communicative tool, for rather than convincing an audience to act in a particular way in a
specific situation, it seeks to cause them to act in a particular way in all such
If that argument is incomplete, it will not be
accepted. The author must prove that his or her approach is better or worse by
comparing to all other appropriate approaches before the story is done. Now, when
stories were first developing as a a means of communication, they were a verbal medium.
When the story was done, the author was right there to fill in any holes the audience
might bring up - What about THIS alternative? Oh, well in that case, such and such,
which is why the Main Character still couldn't have done anything else.
As stories were retold, an author (and others who
retold the story) would naturally include these additional arguments as part of the story
in order to make a stronger case and avoid criticism. Over time, all holes would be
plugged, and the story's very structure would account for all the different ways anyone
might look at that particular issue. In effect, then, the structure of the story formed a
model of all of the perspectives anyone might reasonably and emotionally take in trying to
come to terms with an inequity. And, quite simply, a model of the mind's problem solving
processes was created without anyone ever intentionally setting out to do so.
By making a list of all the dramataic Appreciations
which recur in all complete stories regardless of genre, we arrive at something of a
Periodic Table of Mental Elements that has been cut apart and jumbled up in a sack. Until
we can reassemble them into a pattern based on their relationships, we have little hope of
understanding the way they work together to create more complex "chemical
compounds" in the mind. Once this framework has been created, however, a simple,
symetrical, and elegant model of the mind emerges that is not only descriptive of
self-awareness, but predictive of psychology.
There are two ways to approach describing the
structural part of this structrual/dynamic model. We might start at the top with the
largest family relationships and then sub-divide our way down until we arrive at the
Elements themselves. Another approach would be to begin by studying the underlying
principals which form the families in the first place, then set about reconstructing the
framework in which the Elements are held. The dilemma is that each approach requires a
separate argument, yet the case for the accuracy of the model cannot be fully stated until
both arguments are made.
The first approach is like learning about the
families of elements in a chemistry class. The second approach is more like studying
quantum mechanics. For the past six years, the Dramatica theory has thouroughly explored
the first approach, documenting the Periodic Table of Mental Elements and describing how
authors might use it to create the chemistry of story. Precious little has been published,
however, regarding the underlying principles by which the Table operates, or even how it
came to be constructed. These considerations are the realm of Mental Relativity, and are
our purpose here.