Are you frustrated or are you fascinated?
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As a magician I’ve always been on the lookout for the greatest magic trick of all. When I was younger I thought it would have something to do with mastering sleight of hand or using smoke and mirrors, but what I eventually came to understand is that the greatest magic of all has nothing to do with tricks and instead has more to do with something much more valuable.
Before I share this idea I’ll give you some context for how I discovered this concept:
Think of the last time you were disrupted by something outside of your control. For example, it might be a colleague, spouse, or friend who did something unexpected. Or it might be a traffic jam or accident, or a rainstorm that ruined your parade or a sunny day that ruined your ice-skating trip. Whatever it is, think of this trigger that caused a disruption to your ordinary world.
How did you respond?
There are many things in this life that we can't control—we can't control nature, the weather, or our biology, and we can't control the emotions, thoughts, words, and actions of others—but what we can control is how we respond to these things. Do we choose to respond with fascination and build ourselves up? Do we choose to respond with frustration and give up?
The Experience of Frustration
A number of years ago my ordinary world was disrupted by a trigger outside of my control, and I didn’t react very well to it. A psychologist at the time explained that I was experiencing what was known as situational or temporary depression, yet my reaction to this situation over a period of nearly three years created what I would more appropriately call persistent depression. I was grieving not just the initial trigger but also the loss of who I once was, and this frustration eventually lead to the experience of hopeless despair.
Despite this, I still held onto an idea—an idea that I could choose to ignore or explore. Today I am passionate about sharing this transformational idea with those who are experiencing frustration, confusion, discouragement, negative affirmations, and despair, because it’s an idea that has not only changed my life but has also sincerely saved my life. This simple yet transformational idea is Fascination.
I believe that choosing fascination over frustration is the key to enjoying the highest levels of happiness in life, and to understand how fascination works in this way we’ll explore themes found in mythology.
The Hero’s Journey To Joy
The Hero’s Journey is a mythological concept that serves as a storytelling template to communicate the adventure, crisis, victory, and transformation of the main character or “hero.” The concept was first introduced by the anthropologist Edward Burnett in 1871, later expounded upon by many others, and then popularized by the mythologist Joseph Campbell.
We can see this pattern in storytelling, books, and movies, yet we can also view our own lives through this same mythological lens. By viewing life’s circumstances as reflections of the Hero’s Journey we naturally become engaged, active, and purposeful participants with life, rather than passive, disengaged, and uninspired spectators of life.
There are key words that serve as signposts for each phase of this journey, and these signposts form what I call, The 5 Levels of Happiness, which can be understood as a happiness spectrum. For clarity, I’ll explain each of the 5 Levels of Happiness in context with the Hero’s Journey:
THE ORDINARY WORLD
The beginning of every myth is the experience of stability in the ordinary world—an ordinary world that heroes accept as their normal natural state. In the context of the happiness spectrum, the ground floor of both happiness and unhappiness are made up of the same thing, and that is acceptance. For our purposes we will define acceptance as the acknowledgment of what can and cannot be controlled. From this foundational vantage we can move up or down the happiness spectrum.
When a trigger disrupts the ordinary world heroes can choose to respond with frustration and give up, or respond with fascination and maintain curiosity to build themselves up. By choosing fascination heroes set into motion positive momentum.
CALL TO ADVENTURE
Fascination with life’s disruptions becomes a call to adventure! This is where curiosity leads to inspiration, with the creation of empowering dreams and goals as solutions to the disruption. Conversely, choosing frustration chokes curiosity, prevents inspiration, and leads to confusion.
Encouraged by empowered dreams and goals heroes become motivated to begin a journey towards the achievement of their supreme efforts! Conversely, confusion leads to discouragement, holding heroes back from taking motivated action.
ORDEAL & REWARD
At some point during the journey heroes inevitably come face-to-face with their biggest challenges and receive their due reward. This success serves as positive affirmation to keep fighting the good fight! Conversely, discouragement can lead to the negative affirmation rewards of pity parties, victim-mentality-driven sympathy, and “misery loves company” attitudes.
The final stage of the Hero’s Journey is the transformation of the ordinary world to experience the highest level of happiness--Joy! This is where true enjoyment and excellence becomes possible due to the courage to take on the challenge of the transformational journey. Conversely, when heroes are content with the illusionary rewards of negative affirmation this can lead to the experience of hopeless despair.
After nearly three years of living in the dark night of the soul I embarked on a journey to crawl out of despair and back to the ground floor of acceptance. Once back on solid ground I resolved to make better choices moving forward, and the first choice was simple yet profound. Instead of being frustrated by the triggers that disrupt my world I chose instead to be fascinated by them. In so doing I became the hero of my own story, inspired and motivated to answer the call to adventure, allowing me the opportunity to grow and become more than I ever dreamed I could be and experience the highest levels of happiness.
If Your Life Were A Myth
Seeing your life as a myth is an exciting perspective. It’s like living a fascinating book or movie! It’s also fun to wonder who would play you in the movie version of your life. For me it would definitely be the versatile, prolific, and genius actor Eddie Murphy—because if anyone could pull it off it would be him. Of course it would also have to be directed by Quentin Tarantino.
If lately you’ve been frustrated, confused, or discouraged, then I encourage you to try Fascination on for size. As you do, you may find the following myth-related prompts helpful:
It’s been many years since I first worked through those prompts myself, and today I am stronger and happier than I’ve ever been. Even still, I can say with confidence that disappointments still hurt, and sad things still cause tears; but, I can also say with authority that what I learned in the process of digging myself out of despair has given me a perspective that makes the low points of life seem a little less low, and makes the dark days seem a little less dark. And that has proven to be a greater experience of magic than any sleight of hand or smoke and mirrors ever will be.
No one and no thing can make you enjoy your life, and no one and no thing can make you excel in life. Enjoyment and excellence are personal choices. You choose to enjoy life when you choose to be fascinated rather than frustrated—when instead of giving up you choose to build yourself up. And you choose to excel in life when you take what you know and you take what you’ve been given and you do something amazing with it.
As a lasting piece of encouragement, I leave you with the words of Joseph Campbell:
"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."
In other words, Stay Fascinated!
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.