the ultimate happy ending

The Ultimate Happy Ending: Finding Serenity in the Face of Catastrophic Setbacks

I use the power of story to help me through my darkest hours. Maybe it can help you too.

Many years ago I learned how to write screenplays for Hollywood. Once I knew the beats, turning points, and every little script structure I was never able to see movies in the same way.

I won’t ruin movies for you by telling you all the details but I will draw your attention to one very significant structural point in the story and once you know about it, you will see it in almost every movie that comes out of Hollywood.

It is called the final turning point. It is the point toward the end of the story when the hero looks like they are about to win. Then something happens and they have an apparently catastrophic setback and all hope seems lost.

In, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Indiana Jones and his friends get out of lots of scrapes only to run headlong into the final turning point when they are captured by the Nazis, tied to a pole, and made to watch the apparent victory of their enemies.

In nearly all the “Rocky,” movies there is a point where Rocky is on the ropes or the mat as the final turning point hits him, usually in the face, and it really looks like he is going to lose the fight.

In, “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy and her pals overcome many obstacles in their journey to reach the Emerald City only to hit the final turning point when they are refused by the great and powerful Oz. All hope is lost. 

Here is the interesting thing, the most enjoyable part of the movie for me is, from the hero’s perspective, the point where all hope seems lost.

If the screenwriting is good, when the final turning point arrives and I realise I haven’t a clue how the hero is going to get out of trouble, where I feel like the writer has written themselves into a corner and I can’t see how they are going to get to the happy ending, that is the most enjoyable part of the movie for me, even though it is usually the point of highest jeopardy for the hero.

My Life the Movie

In my life when I encounter a setback, big or small, but particularly big, I take the perspective of observing my life, just like I would if I was watching a movie. Rather than topple into despair and overthinking, I enjoy the not knowing in the same way I would if I were watching the final tuning point in a movie. (It always feels like the final turning point)

Make no mistake this is very difficult to do but I have found it to be very helpful. It hinges on the knowledge that the movie will have a happy ending.

Happy Ending

In order to ease my mind and gently steer it away from a complete freak out I settle into what the happy ending could be. My mind and emotions approach everything as if they are going to live forever, so from their perspective death is the worst possible outcome.

I gently remind them that death is a mystery but even at its worst, death could be like deep dreamless sleep where there is no me, no personality, no memories, no nothing –  a state I enter very willingly every night – and that wherever I go to in deep dreamless sleep, when I return from there I feel refreshed, so it must be a good place and that good place is the ultimate happy ending. 
What happens between here and there are just the plot points in the beautiful movie of my life.

Gently pulling back from my life to get a broader perspective on the whole story arc of my life helps me enjoy the plot points and twists in the same way I would if I was watching a movie that was very well written.

So regardless of what happens, when I am facing the abyss and I have no clue how something is going to work out, I pull back to the part of me that is watching the movie of my life and enjoying it, all of it, not knowing how the current turning point is going to resolve but knowing that it will, and I will have a happy ending.

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Photo by Spencer Bergen on Unsplash


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