Carefully crafted stories can help stave off anxiety due to uncertainty about the future by inspiring individual narratives of ways forward.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Reasons for being anxious
Anxious? It’s hard not to be. Just turn on the radio or the television or browse the Internet, the news is an unending tale of woe. And if all that wasn’t enough, many things are changing in society at a pace that has us scrambling to keep up. If head-in-the-sand refusal act is not to come hard on the heels of anxiety, we need to trace out avenues forward.
The present doesn’t always dictate the future
The future as seen by politicians, industry leaders and experts is often based on mathematical models. As an extrapolation of the present, it is based on statistics, current trends, vested interests, calculated guesses and pre-conceived ideas. However, although the future springs from the past and present, it is not necessarily dictated by them. The advent of the worldwide web is typical of an unexpected rupture in the direction of society.
Marshalling resources to control the narrative
How we see the future and our paths towards it are crucial. Those who manage to dictate the narrative gain a substantial advantage in the struggle to shape the future. As pointed out by Naomi Klein, this fact has been understood by well-organised right-wing groups. They have been busy elaborating a future vision favorable to their interests, marshalling resources and influencing legislation to make sure it comes about. The Green New Deal is an attempt at a more progressive scenario , although it is not driven with the same resources or ruthlessness.
Fiction as a tool for developing personal future narratives
Overarching visions are all very well. But, with the failure of elected officials to act in time, the action of citizens has become important. Although people are influenced by the overall narrative, it is their own narrative that drives them. As a result, individual visions count. Shifts in those personal narratives can bring about key changes. By hinting at possible narratives, fiction can be a powerful tool for change. The individual can explore alternative visions emotionally and intellectually and discover creative ways forward in a relatively safe space.
In a separate article, A possible framework for writing that sparks future narratives, I explore a framework for such stories.