There is a technique, invented by Richard Bandler, to put people into deep trance instantly. The therapist reaches out to shake the client’s hand. The client, as we all would, automatically reaches out to shake the therapist’s hand and then, in the split second before the hands touch…

Robert McKee, the story consultant with scores of awards to his name, shares with his students the secret of all the best writing, the best films, the best plays. It is, he says, the one single way to guarantee a hit. This is what he tells them ,…

There is a very bold presentation tack which takes quite a lot of chutzpah to use. It involves beginning the presentation with the start of a story and just as the audience is hooked in, the speaker then….

Closure. It’s what this story-telling mind of ours is wired for. The mind is held in a limbo of anticipation by any book, story, film or play worth its salt. Expectations are set up and then we wait in the trance of anticipation. We remain in the cinema only for the satisfaction of the ending. If the start hasn’t been powerful enough to create the trance, we lose interest, walk out. We crave the trance. It’s what we paid for.

There is even a ‘Gestalt law of closure’ which states that the mind will attempt to fill in missing information to make a recognisable pattern. We see it in the mind’s creation of shapes and images that are not really there. This is the trance of the mind, continually occupied with trying to make sense, restless until things fit with what we know.

But what about when we can’t get closure? When the mind is frozen in time or space, unable to move forward, held in this no man’s land of interrupt?

In Dr Edith Eger’s outstanding book ‘The Choice’ she describes returning to Auschwitz decades after her imprisonment there. She lists the figures: 1.1 million deaths of which, 960,000 Jews, 74,000 ethnic Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and up to 15,000 other Europeans. And, she states, not one single grave, not one single funeral.

For some of us, as for Dr Eger’s, the absence of any form of closure is made in unimaginable tragedy and cruelty, in people being ripped from us, in the impossibility of grieving, or knowing.

For many of us, it is the loss of a loved one through death or separation before we could allow them to go, before what should have been said was said, with what was unknowingly the last meeting being incomplete or unresolved.

It is in the desire for continuation, the resistance to the ending, exes moving on long before we are ready for them to, a struggle to come to terms with a redundancy or job loss, sudden change that sweeps away everything we were used to, leaving us reeling.

And there is the more everyday but which may equally be experienced as impossible to move through: a pet still lost despite hundreds of fliers nailed to lamp-posts, the interview we never heard back from, the date that we thought went well but then nothing, a treasured possession misplaced, a friendship over and we don’t know why.

It can come down to the tiniest detail. There was even a thread on social media by a man who had been preoccupied all day by this absence of expected reciprocity.  On his way to work, in his car, he had thanked another driver for giving way to him. The other driver had not acknowledged the thanks…

The human mind is wired for completeness. The mind is wired to want to know the ending. It is why we adore stories so much. It is why our society is organised around openings and closings.

So, no wonder the question at the heart of our suffering is often ‘how do I get closure?’. We ask how can we come to terms with this? How can we move on? We have to ask because it looks like that is where our peace, our freedom will be found.

But the answer is, we can’t move on. We can’t find peace or freedom here. Because there will always be another story beginning. And then another. Then another. This is the nature of the mind. It seeks out the story.

This is a story that began with the very first idea of ourselves. We are the main character. The character looks for peace and freedom but it cannot find it within the story of itself.

This is the trance of our lives. The opening lines ‘I am…’ set us off and then the rest of our lives is spent in the limbo of anticipation, in the search for closure, for peace. As Dr Eger says, “How easily the life we didn’t live becomes the only life we prize. How easily we are seduced by the fantasy that we are in control, that we were ever in control, that the things we could or should have done or said have the power, if only we had done or said them, to cure pain, to erase suffering, to vanish loss.”

Peace and freedom can only be found when the trance is broken. When it is seen for what it is. Closure might be deeply, momentarily satisfying to the mind but it doesn’t end anything, it doesn’t bring peace. It just continues the search.

The trance breaks when the trance is understood. The futile attempt to know fades in the excitement of greeting the unknown. The search for closure gives way to continued openness to whatever is.

….the therapist pulls their arm away and starts talking about something else altogether, no reference to the interrupted hand shake. The client’s subconscious and conscious mind is held, locked into a movement that can’t be completed, in the limbo of thwarted expectation, the confusion of waiting for something that will never happen. The skilled therapist then uses this trance of incompletion and confusion to send the client deep into relaxation.

….”I’ll tell you a secret. The last act makes the film. Wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit”. McKee goes on to say, “Find an ending, but don’t cheat, and don’t you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you’ll be fine”.

….moves on to the next story. The speaker should do this with the start of three stories in a row. The audience will be confused, not knowing what is going on, expecting the ending, listening to what the speaker is saying, trying to work it out. And then, once the full presentation has been given, the audience gets the final reward: the completion of the three stories.


Satisfying.  Yes indeed.

But peace…? That is something else altogether.



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  1. William Hutcherson

    Clare, you writings convey the magic for me… a sense of connecting to those deep quiet places in the “me” that is searching for closure. Thanks for being such a pilgrim of truth.

    • Faye

      Loved this piece thank you.

  2. John Bennett

    Wonderful, Clare. How is it you knew precisely what was on my mind this morning?