Who is Dr Clive Williams
I’m a psychologist with a focus (some would say obsession) with how change really happens.
Psychology is the study of change, whether that change is in an organisation, a school, a family or a person. For over 140 years, psychologists have studied hows change occurs, whether that’s how people think or relate, learn or improve.
My own fascination with change began with exploring how to live my life. The life I had was the one I thought I should have. It was the life other people too thought I should be living. Yet it wasn’t providing much joy, excitement or achievement.
So I began examining what is it that makes a worthwhile life? I started with exploring ‘happiness’ but came to the realisation that happiness is only one aspect of a worthwhile life. Much more important is having a sense of purpose, achievement and of course, the experience of being connected to others. It turns out that these aspects of a worthwhile life nearly always involve a sense of challenge, confusion, failure, loss, joy, relief and at times, happiness.
Any life is lived on two entwined but distinct levels: the things that we are required to do in the real world, whilst managing the thoughts, feelings and symptoms of our own private, internal life. Life in the real world may involve the minutiae of brushing our teeth to giving a presentation at work or setting boundaries with a child. Our internal private life involves dealing with the diverse range emotions that accompany all these real world, everyday events.
We may not have any difficult emotion whilst brushing our teeth but we most probably have lots of emotions giving a work presentation or setting boundaries for a challenging child.
These two levels of living require connected but distinct skills. We may have been taught how to create the media presentation for our colleagues on the laptop but did anyone teach us how to identify and manage the diverse array of emotions we experience on any day?
What did you learn about emotions? Keep them to yourself? Ignore them? They’re only a burden if you share them with others?
Navigating change, whether you are seeking change or had it forced upon you, always involves a lot of unpleasant emotions; e.g., anxiety, sadness, confusion. We teach children many of the real world, external skills needed to live a life but do we teach how to navigate the diverse range of emotions associated with daily living?
For the past 40 years, I’ve worked in my own personal ‘laboratory’ sitting with individuals, couples and families who are struggling in some way. When they come with their problems, I ask one key question. Do they have the real world AND internal private psychological skills to navigate this change and resolve their problem?
Dr Clive Williams speaks about his mudmap for change
In the early 1990s I became aware of the idea of the monomyth: Joseph Campbell’s idea that throughout time, cultures across the globe had been telling the same storyline in a million different ways.
At first astonished that this could even be true, on confirming its truth, I became focused on the question of why this story? What is it about this one particular storyline that appears to be an essential part of all human cultures? What is the storyline really about? What is its purpose?
As I read widely, watched movies and attended plays extensively, I continued to puzzle this question. It was a book by Christopher Vogler, a successful movie script editor that provided the answer. Vogler was using Campbell’s idea of the monomyth which Campbell called the Hero’s Journey, as his work as a script editor for major film studios in Hollywood. Vogler had identified that the various stages of the monomyth, from the beginning of the story to the end, were essentially the story of problem solving. Audience members are introduced at the beginning of the film to a character who is about to undergo an incredible change. The story is simply the series of events which the character must engage in to resolve the problems brought about by the incredible change. Vogler however knowing that writers needed to provide audiences with an emotional connection to the main character, also outlined what he called the ‘character arc’ of the main character from ‘limited awareness of the problem’ at the beginning of the film to ‘final mastery of the problem’ by it’s ending. When I first saw Vogler’s articulation of this, I thought is this the purpose of the storyline being retold in countless ways? The story is really about the various stages of how we engage in change?
I began by putting my idea to the test. Could the stages and requirements of the Hero’s Journey help me to navigate and problem solve my own life? Could the stages and requirements of the Hero’s Journey help me to help my clients to navigate and problem solve their lives?
For the past 30 years, I have explored the application of the Hero’s Journey as a roadmap for change, applying it to clients’ diverse issues and unique circumstances: those with a life-changing diagnosis; those experiencing a redundancy or job loss, first time parents experiencing the joy and stress of their firstborn, those with a life changing injury or the death of a dear one. These are just a few of the many varied but unique presentations where a client experiences significant life change, sometimes wanted, often enforced. With such clients, almost instantly, there is a reduction in anxiety as the roadmap begins to provide some clarity where there was only confusion, direction when they were overwhelmingly lost.
This roadmap in conjunction with a range of evidenced-based strategies, provides a path through the real world problems to be faced whilst helping to manage the range of internal emotions triggered. The stages and requirements of the Hero’s Journey as a mudmap for living are articulated in my book A Mudmap for Living. Here you’ll find many case examples of people like yourself dealing with significant life change, using the stages of the Hero’s Journey to navigate their way to restoring balance to their lives.
Dr Clive Williams has presented his ideas at the Hero Roundtables in Geelong Victoria (2015) and Michigan (2016) and Yarram Victoria (2018). Clive has also presented at Bond University Wellness Forum (2016) and both the first and second Heroism Science Conferences at Murdoch University Perth and Richmond University Virginia USA. He has been an invited guest on podcasts the Hero Forge, Bloke Psychology, Mr Perfect, Accidental Fatherhood and Blokepedia.
“If we want our lives to change, the biggest challenge is looking at how we contribute to the problem. Most of us will spend a lifetime telling the story that we are good guy, the innocent victim and everyone else is the problem and it’s them who should change. Well, you might be successful and do this for your entire life but more likely you’ll have distant relationships and few real friendships. You’ll cut people off or avoid them just so you can remain ‘right’. It’s the recipe for a lonely and argumentative life.” ~ Clive Williams
To find out more about the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey and which stage you might be at, click here.