Stories, Storytelling and the Healing Process

Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, once called stories “love gifts.” The power of stories combined by love provides the foundation for healing on many different levels. There are many in today’s societies (worldwide) who have suffered many traumas and therefore need to hear the stories told with loving care. The storyteller, with every telling of healing stories, gives a precious gift. The stories told by the storyteller provide a means for people to strengthen themselves and begin to heal.Sadly, there are many today that would dismiss storytelling as a mere entertainment. The argument that the stories can not possibly be true and that they are a waste of time in today’s world of science and technology is commonly cited. Can the stark, clinical environment be a true place of healing? Is there place in the modern world for faery tales, legends and other stories?Storytelling is almost the oldest art in the world, the first conscious form of literary communication. In many cultures it still survives, and it is not an uncommon thing to see a crowd held by the simple telling of a story. There are signs of a growing interest in this ancient art, and we may yet live to see the renaissance of the storyteller and the troubadour. One of the surest signs of a belief in the educational and healing powers of stories and storytelling is its introduction into the therapy methods available to doctors, educators and clergy. It is just at the time when the imagination is most keen, the mind being unhampered by the collection of facts, that stories appeal most vividly and are retained for all time.Long before pen was set to paper, fairy tales, legends and stories existed as a means to transfer knowledge from one generation to another. Spreading knowledge through stories was both entertaining and educational. Religious leaders throughout time have used many metaphors and parables to teach valuable lessons of morals and ethics. Some 20th century doctors believed that such stories contained symbolic messages which spoke to the unconscious of the listener. Storytelling creates a bridge between teller and listener across which authentic communication can take place. And it is within this intimacy that the ‘healing’ or ‘therapeutic’ aspects of a story lie. Since the beginning of time, stories have helped us discover the meaning in our experiences, offered possible explanations for what we struggle to understand. Stories invite our imaginations and hearts to stretch over the void to reach out to one another.Stories and storytelling are appropriate for use at any stage of the healing process. Certain processes are common throughout all therapies; notably diagnosis, establishing empathic rapport, and carrying out a treatment plan. The use of stories and storytelling appear to be particularly effective because they are non-threatening, engaging to both the conscious and unconscious, foster independence, bypass natural resistance to change, model flexibility, make the presented ideas more memorable, and mobilize the problem-solving and healing resources of the unconscious (Dr. Milton Erickson, 1976). Stories and storytelling speak to the normal and healthy core of the individual and can be an instrument of long-lasting and permanent changes.Storytelling is a sharing experience. When a storyteller shares a story, they show a willingness to be vulnerable, to share ideas and feelings. That kind of sensitivity invites people to listen with open minds and hearts. Enjoying a story together creates a common experience. Storytelling, properly done creates a relaxed, restful feeling. It establishes an environment for the listener to feel comfortable and begin the healing process.The most powerful and effective way of presenting stories is to tell from the heart and to engage the listener. In this way the stories and the storytelling become an integral part of the healing process.

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