“God created people because He loves stories.” Yiddish Proverb
What is a Therapeutic Story?
Long before written language became a formal means of transmitting information, oral stories were the vehicle used to transmit knowledge, information and tradition from generation to generation. Perhaps stories have always been such a part of human communication a number of neuroscientists believe, that stories are the basis of our consciousness because their construction mirrors the logical way events are sequenced in our memory.
Throughout history many stories have been used to calm, to heal and to inspire. A story can be therapeutic when it challenges the listener to understand in new and more healthy ways, thus stimulating a positive shift in their thinking, emotions and/or behavior and/or heals a psychic wound. Therapeutic stories can have many theoretical foundations and take a variety of forms. The stories in Therapeutic Stories to Heal Abused Children and Therapeutic Stories that Teach and Heal (1996) use metaphor and symbols to speak to the intuitive and wise side of the listener, traditional believed to be the unconscious; assuming that a listener possesses the wisdom and potential to heal themselves and to direct their lives in positive and productive ways. Therapeutic stories have many themes and messages directed to the wise and intuitive side of the listener; among these are messages created to increase the listener’s sense of personal power, self-acceptance and capacity to love and be loved. Stories may also challenge the listener to acknowledge and connect with their strengths and resources, find a positive purpose for their life, perceive both themselves and their world in a clear and undistorted way, establish healthy social relationships and/or to “let go” and heal the abuse and traumatic wounds of their past.
The therapeutic stories in this book and in Therapeutic Stories that Teach and Heal have been designed primarily for use by those working in the helping professions, such as therapists, chaplains, counselors and nurses. They have also being used extensively by teachers, parents as well as by individuals seeking to heal themselves.
If you are in the healing professions or a teacher, it is more than likely that you use anecdotes and stories in your work, with or without conscious realization of doing so. Because stories are such a part of the way we relate to others, incorporating therapeutic stories into your treatment or teaching may be relatively easy. Furthermore, you will find that you can become skilled at adapting therapeutic stories for a particular listener or group, as well as creating your own original therapeutic stories.
Because the healing message of a therapeutic story is directed primarily to the intuitive, unconscious or right hemisphere of the listener, therapeutic stories should not be interpreted. When a therapeutic story is interpreted, the logical, conscious or left hemisphere can create resistance to the message and/or become opposition to change and thus destroy the power and therapeutic value of the story. This resistance is particularly apparent when stories are used with angry, resistive and rigid individuals. Additionally, a listener is trusted to interpret a story directed at them in a way that is most appropriate for them; accepting someone else’s interpretation can thus interfere with the power of the story to create meaning and change that is most appropriate to the listener.