Story Therapy: The Art and Science of Healing
Can telling stories be therapeutic? Therapy is more than storytelling, otherwise, it will be enough to tell them or listen to tales of the old and new. In this blog post, I share how Story Therapy is an effective and flexible roadmap to uncovering YOUR STORY.
Many of us have been mesmerized by stories of those who came before us. These are indeed valuable stories and histories we can all benefit from. But, as remarkable as they can be, the problem is-it isn’t yours.
There is a growing movement towards the need to tell your story or that stories need to be great.
They either need to be.
Stories told can be incredibly healing and empowering. These stories must be told. Stories shared that leaves the storyteller stripped and raw or activated to tell more stories of cyclic emotional trigger without the sight of relief can be distressing.
In Story therapy, your story is heard in a safe place. It receives, you, the storyteller in your most vulnerable locus pivoting as rapid as you want or as slow as you need it to be to recover stories that belonged to you.
Stories that long for you.
That of you.
Patterns Create Stories
If you’ve watched the news and have been exposed to images that make you feel sick to your stomach then you understand that stories can both be a source of healing and unpleasurable feelings.
Stories have been the language we speak before we have learned to acquire the expertise to tell it. Children point to the ceiling or simply say the word “spider,” to mean that the sight of the spider startled them and that they don’t want to see it forever on the face of the earth...A Story.
Stories, metaphors and images have been used in far away lands and in dungeons and caves to evoke feelings of hope, of the moral of good and bad and even fear. Fairytales do not always come true, but the unconscious mind clings onto its happy ending story line, to the promise that bad things happen to bad people and that we can all live happily ever after.
In truth, the unconscious mind, that part of your mind that stores information you’ve gathered along the way to protect you from being hurt (again) is constantly scanning your environment.
It’s quite efficient, isn’t it?
Stories Create Expectations of Reality
If you were jogging your neighborhood and saw a moving bush, someone jumping in front of you and then a person punching you right smack on your face-what a shock!
Some people might totally get this out of their minds but for most normal people, certain movements and patterns associated with this attack might trigger an emotional and physiological response.
A moving bush at a park while you’re in a children’s party might suddenly cause you to startle. Jumping jacks, the replication of the thud-landing of the foot might make you go stiff. You might prefer burpees all day long over the jumping jacks. Why?
Because the mind responds in patterns and create stories to combat threat or to cling to good, safe feelings whether it's good for you or not.
In fairytales, we scan for the kiss of the prince, or the powerful love of a sister that can melt any stubborn ice (Anna & Elsa) to bring us back home to the same stories we want to tell ourselves.
In cases of trauma, bushes that move reminds us of stories we never want to be re-told.
Creating New Stories Create New Patterns
The Beautiful Troll, this an original story crafted by Roanne de Guia-Samuels,LMFT
There was once a beautiful girl who belonged to beautiful sets of parents who lived in a beautiful island. One day an ugly earthquake told hold of the island, tearing the island into smaller islands. The beautiful girl amidst the chaos drifted in a broken piece of raft to a far away ugly island where she was found by an ugly set of parents-troll parents.
The troll parents felt horrified seeing the girl and confused how her skin looked so stretch, her nose unblemished and her hair shiny and moved with the wind. They knew that her looks will be the butt of jokes in their island so they thought of a solution.
Everyday before the girl left for school, her troll parents painted her face with green dirt, glued raisins on her face and on her arms and placed a made-shift hat with straws that stick up like spikey troll hairs.
One day, the troll friends decided to take a splash in the river for the day was long & humid. As the girl kept splashing water in her face, the green dirt started melting away revealing her supple, smooth skin. The water in the river tenderized the hardened raisins on the girls face letting it slide down like raisin avalanche. The strong wind blew off her straw hat revealing her shiny hair that moved with the wind.
Her troll friends were flabbergasted,
“oh my gosh, what an ugly thing you are!”
What happened to your warts and the wrinkles on your skin?
And your hair, why does it fall like that on your shoulder, yuck!
The girl came home crying and with a broken heart. She felt ugly and unloved, so…
She decided that she would look for a frog to pee on her skin. She heard stories that frogs do these kinds of things. Everyday, she looked for frog pee and indeed she started growing warts all over her skin. She washed her hair with the eel’s slime and used rotten sap from an old tree to wash her hair. Soon she looked like the other trolls and the other trolls didn’t see her differently. BUT
The next day, an ugly earthquake split the troll island to many islands. The girl was washed away to another island. An old woman saw the girl on the shore and looked at her with pity and shock
“ oh my, what happened to you?”
The old woman took the girl into the village but everyone disliked the girl. They were disgusted with the way she looked, and her smell repelled even the animals in the islands.
The girl felt ugly and unloved.
The old woman knew that looking through the eyes of the girl that she was no troll at all.
So, she took the girl to a magical lake, bathe her, softly rubbing her skin to the one that belonged to her. The old women pour glistening lake water to the girls hair, and as the old woman had expected, her stringy, hardened strands turned into shiny locks again. Her skin revealed the skin that belonged to her. Everything belonged to her.
The girl finally felt at home.
The old woman tenderly embrace the girl and whispered, “ now you’re home.” There is no better place than your own home. To safer place than there, pointing at the girls heart.
I created this story for a client who felt unsafe in her own body due history of past sexual trauma.Telling this story in the state of deep relaxation as in hypnosis helps the unconscious to absorb new ways of seeing without changing the past. As we all know changing the past is a lost case. But, making sense of it from a different angle uncovers new story lines that create new realities.
If you want to learn more about Story Therapy, ask here.
Story Therapy: The Best of Both Worlds
The Story Therapy framework combines recalibrating both the conscious (what you explicitly know) and the unconscious (hidden parts of our memories/imprints) patterns of the mind.
We all know that to be healthy, eating a nutrient-dense food and exercising is key. This is an explicit information that is available to anyone. But the unconscious imprints, images and meanings of your emotional eating triggers may be hidden from your peripheral vision.
During a session, a woman who’s had trouble losing weight for years resulting to major health havoc reveals that her childhood were filled with empty promises. She remembered waiting for her father’s visit because he promised her that after his separation from her mother, he will come visit her on Sundays. She had waited many times in their front porch stairs pretending to play doll and be amused but many Sundays later he never came.
The woman’s life seemed to be filled with these patterns of broken promises and in further witnessing this heartbreak, expose the fear to be empty.
Food had been the source of filling up for this woman. Understanding her mind’s quest to make her feel safe during many point of feeling “empty” is what set her free.
In Story Therapy, I incorporate story-telling, hypnotherapy and many other expressive forms of healing (writing, movement, tapping...etc) to uncover the roots of the problem story.
Reliving your Uncovered Story helps wire the brain to new patterns of seeing things.
If food was a filler of empty promises. Finding other ways to fill-up such as filling-up with your:
- Favorite aroma to fill up your soul
- With your show-stopping moves
- Using paintbrushes and paint to dance on your paper
- Reading an article to fill up your curiosity to go places
- Gardening, touching the ground to fill up your need to touch and be touched and many more.
In Story Therapy, a combination of using suggestions through hypnotherapy, read -----(related post) and gently guiding you to your own awareness from problem story to preferred story (uncovered story) is the best of both worlds.
Therapy or coaching that heavily rely only on spoken language can miss many opportunities for pivoting old, outdated stories to uncover up-dated story that serve you.
Story Therapy understands that language is both spoken and unspoken and that the silent imprints of the mind shapes our meanings of the world.
Often, we are bombarded with what-to do lists whether its on loosing weight, career advancement, or being productive. As these may generate positive results, without pulling weeds from its roots, weeds find its way back to the surface.
Story Therapy is a framework that is tailored to every person’s unique need(s). It is not a program where you fit yourself to its modules rather it is framework that weaves into your unique story-writing personality.
If you’re interested to learn more about Story Therapy, shoot me a message here.
Roanne has been a Psychotherapist for more than 12 years. She has frequented at least 400 Filipino homes and counting. She is the author of the Ebook: 5 Pinoy Love Languages and the creator of the presentation entitled: Filipino Core Values & Considerations in Culturally Responsive Care.