By bringing awareness to the stories you tell yourself, or those you have heard others tell about you, you can change your thoughts, your story and your potential - Kelly Surtees
Storytelling has traditionally been used to give comfort, guidance and warning. Hearing about a character who has faced challenges that are similar to those one is facing may give ideas about how to handle a situation. We use stories to enlighten others, form bonds over similar experiences, express our displeasure when we feel hurt, and even regulate our thoughts and emotions. In a confusing world, stories organise our ideas, assist us in discovering meaning and purpose, and help us define our identity. Therefore, it's necessary to be aware of the stories we tell ourselves and other people about our life.
The Science in Storytelling Therapy
At some point in our life we have all binged watched some TV shows or read a book in one go, that is the power of storytelling. The brain loves a good story because listening to stories stimulates the brain to release oxytocin (prosocial behaviour) and cortisol (stress response) hormones. When the main character in the story is under difficult circumstances the oxytocin hormone empathises with the character and cortisol stresses over the character's problem.
Also during storytelling the brain helps in organising the thoughts which fill gaps to give continuity forming a coherent reality in the real world of the person. This helps them to understand their lives and the world around them.
Process of Storytelling
The process of storytelling is gathering stories that are similar to aspects of the client's life story.
These stories could be called associative stories, and could include grandmother stories, stories of movies, historical stories and stories about things that happened to someone one knows.
The client may talk to and a the character in his/her personal experiences and/or associative stories.
Changing the stories. For example, adding characters and episodes: telling a personal-experiences story as if it had happened to an imaginary character: and transporting a story to other social settings (such as royalty, or animals)
Finding metaphors for aspects of his/her life story. These metaphors may first appear as sayings or proverbs.
Here is an example of V who agreed to share her experiences and reflections on using the storytelling process, as how it helped her gain clarity and organise thoughts. Click here to read V’s story.
“Rarely does one get an opportunity to narrate the story of their life. Even when it comes, the story is glossed over so much that no one gets to see the rough, not-so-pleasant side of that story. What is the point of telling a life story if it shows only the good parts to others? What would that story teach to others? Life is not like that. So why should its story be?
If somebody had told me to narrate my life story, I too would have skipped those difficult parts. And my excuse would have been more from the fear of getting judged or from the greater fear of bringing to light certain dark recesses of my mind which I had successfully repressed so far.
But by some good fortune I did not do that. The process of using metaphors, characters, and reflecting on and writing my own story, just as is was a kind, neutral and seemed like holding up a mirror to my mind, and navigating me gently towards the scars, scabs, moles and the places where I had honed it to a brilliant shine that had gone unacknowledged and uncredited so far.
Step by step the tale of Mama Bear taking the decision to make her journey only to culminate into an illuminating path for the children, reflects my subtle but strong need for making a difference in the lives of the people I love.
At the surface everything looks okay, but metaphorising Mama Bear gave me the nudge to scratch beneath the surface of ‘just okay’. Storytelling, like this, unraveled the beauty and brevity of my mind.
I was no longer hesitant to look it in the eye or deny it for what it is. I accepted it all - mole, warts et al - which gave me the ability to anticipate situations when it might flounder, stand up to those challenges it might flee from and applaud it when it encountered life head on. This is my story. I am its author. And it is beautiful!”
Thank you V, for coming forward to share a part of your therapeutic process. In gratitude for such friends of Thunai.
The Storytelling Therapy process may assist the client to compose a fantasy story inspired by real or unreal characters that encapsulates, in metaphorical form, enabling the client into breaking down feelings and thoughts, thus finding blockages and overcoming them in their journeys. This story may be healing and/or inspirational for the client. It may or may not represent some parts of the client’s life.
Storytelling can help a client get in touch with him/herself by- perhaps metaphorically - bringing up and working with personal and/or social issues that the client is experiencing. Fantasy can be an escape from reality, but it can also take one - on an imaginative level- to the heart of one’s existence.
Here’s a question, does one need to be artistic, creative and good with words to tell their story? The answer given by Dr Eric in the session was, “well it is your story, isn’t it… who else can tell it, but you.” To watch the full webinar video on Storytelling Therapy click here. To read about the feedback review please click here.
—Excerpts from Dr.Eric Miller storytelling article. To read the complete article please click here.
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