The Bachelor, The Dumpee, and The Rest of the Story

Last week “The Bachelor,” a long-running television reality show where bachelors and bachelorettes alike meet eager singles in the hope of finding lasting romance, broke its psychological contract with its millions of viewers. The story line is that over several weeks the bachelor will winnow down the field of 25 eager young women, each week handing out roses to those he wishes to keep on board for glamorous dates in exotic locales, to one lucky “contestant” who will receive a marriage proposal. The show is an ego-enhancing exercise for the bachelor-in-season and a challenging competition for the ladies in waiting. On the last show, it came down to two women, only one of whom would receive “the final rose.” Yet the marriage proposal by Jason to Melissa was just the beginning of the off-television romance where the bloom wore off. As Paul Harvey, the beloved radio personality who passed last weekend, consistently reminded us, “Now, for the rest of the story.”

Are you shocked that I watch The Bachelor? Hey, I appreciate a good story as much as the next person, plus the first bachelor years ago claimed to be a successful, rich motivational speaker who lived on the beach in California. I’d never heard of him, and it later turned out it was important for the show to check out the candidates much more thoroughly when photos of this supposed millionaire’s actual ramshackle beach house were revealed. This season’s single, sensitive dad from Seattle was a new breed who broke down and cried as he watched Molly the runner-up presumably leave his life in a chauffeured limousine, in New Zealand no less. I couldn’t help but wonder how this machination of manipulated emotions would play out. And this week, six weeks after the proposal, Jason broke the engagement on national television. Of course, we saw it in the television hour directly following the proposal, with hardly a moment to bask in the love story we hoped would prove true. Within a few hours, Jason appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live with folks who were horrified that he didn’t have the grace to break the engagement privately, although I doubt that Melissa was caught off guard. I imagine all the participants in the drama signed off their privacy rights early on after agreeing to a very public romance.

Here’s what grabs me about the whole thing (in addition to the courage it takes to be vulnerable on live television, especially for the women). The “rest of the story” was Melissa’s old story, the one she told herself and the cameras countless times as the show unfolded. “I have always been the dumpee . . . if Jason chooses Molly, this will be the fourth time I have been the dumpee.” As she approached Jason to receive the news, I questioned whether her story about always being dumped could change to “happily ever after.”

How does a failed romance tie into public speaking, other than the fact that “real speaking” was required in every romantic and tragic communication on the Bachelor? And it was definitely quite public!

My book Transformational Speaking: If You Want to Change the World, Tell a Better Story outlines six principles of Transformational Speaking. The third is “The world we experience, both personal and planetary, is a reflection and expression of who we are individually and collectively.” The fourth, in part, states, “You can’t figure it all out, you can’t make anything happen, and you can’t make anybody do anything.” How true that is in romance, where the heart reigns. And how true that is in speaking, where, unless the heart is touched, nothing is likely to change.

So for Melissa I hope she finds the place within her where the old story resides. She is beautiful, fun, and open, and I want her to live the fulfilled life that can happen with changing her story. Seeing herself as the one who is always dumped is not working, and that old pattern must be cleared to open the door to the love she deserves. Yet less obvious stories were in play as well. Molly trusted Jason would propose to her, was shocked that he didn’t, and believed he would regret it. Her story also came true. And Jason’s angst about the pressure of choosing between two women he loved didn’t stop with the proposal. It continued because he didn’t buy himself needed time. Would the producers of The Bachelor have allowed him to change their story line? They wanted happily-ever-after, not the messy emotions that have caused much of America to feel betrayed when the fairy tale romance was upset by “the other woman” and annouced on t.v.

On the national and international level as well, our old stories about the way we are entitled to live are crashing along with the stock market. We can only start with ourselves to change the collective sense of betrayal. What old story is no longer serving?

Lately I’ve been telling a new story, one that has inspired many of my clients and e-letter readers to call or write. So I repeat it here:

This time of destructing of our economy and revelation of greed and deception at the highest levels is the caldron of change that will lead to transformation of that which does not serve the greater good. Those who have been following their callings with integrity and vision will be heard. The work of our lifetimes will converge to place us in the right place at the right time. The language of the heart will be spoken and listened to with respect. We will give voice to the unnamed longing within people for which they have been unable to find words. We will tell the stories that show us a new way. We’ll confirm that we are the ones we have been waiting for.

And as my friend Lynnaea Lumbard said at her 60th birthday celebration this month, “These are the times we’ve been waiting for.” What new story do you claim as we move into uncharted territory? Rather than be the dumpee in a layoff, what has your heart called you to all along that you were so occupied you didn’t hear? There’s a reason college applications and enrollments are up. What have you believed was necessary to your quality of life that you’re recognizing isn’t in the higher good? Mark Finser of TBL Capital reminds us, “Whenever we buy something we don’t really need or like, we’re signaling the production lines to start up again.” And who really believes that a sustainable economic recovery can be predicated on principles that ravage the planet? I challenge you to find – and tell – the new story than will change our collective experience and lead us into the enormous potential of the times ahead.

© Gail Larsen 2009

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