Can healing stories be a tool to your healing?
Carefully crafted healing stories are not your ordinary story. Fairy tales are laden with the moral story of good and bad. Legends & Myths offer explanations to the aching curiosity human beings have.
Healing stories speak to the part of the brain, we call the unconscious mind where imprints of the past, current & past trauma are safely tucked into oblivion. Interestingly, It’s impact on our daily behaviors are as easily traceable to the very thing we worked so hard to hide-our pains, grief & unmended heartaches.
The Power of Stories and Metaphors
It was not until the 20th century that Milton Erickson, a therapist & hypnotist deliberately used anecdotes, metaphors & symbolic languages in story telling as a way to access the unconscious mind. Erickson believed that even individuals with most unfortunate circumstances in life (such as physical abuse of a child) contain within their unconscious mind a gift to heal themselves.
Dr.. Erickson believed that –
Change is accomplished effectively & permanently when then the therapist focuses on influencing her patient’s unconscious patterns (Rosen, 1982).
It is said that our left brain is responsible for logic & reasoning while the right for processing symbolism, images, body languages and other non-concrete & language driven stimulus.
According to Philip Barker in his book, using Metaphors in Psychotherapy, he asserts the neurological basis why healing stories tap into the unconscious mind. As mentioned, The right brain the seat of emotions can readily absorb healing stories’ symbolism & when combined with logic & language have the capacity to speak with both parts of the brain simultaneously.
A Story of Healing
Once I met a 6 year old client who had been removed from his home due to severe physical & as you can imagine, psychological torture. He came into my clinic, wearing sunglasses in his eyes & sleeves that covered his wrists.
To many, this was a protective gear from the glaring & harmful rays of the sun.
For this little one, it was a protection against connection. For the connection that should’ve provided him safety & love, didn’t & instead violated these universal norms of reciprocity between a parent & this child.
I knew this child had numerous burnt marks in his body from repeated parental physical abuse. It was difficult for him to connect with anyone because in his mind, it was the safest thing to do.
I understood him deeply & in our sessions, allowed him the distance that made him feel safe. I was patient but worked hard to gain his confidence through my story-telling.
Every session, I’ll tell this child a story. A story I carefully crafted but left open-ended, in case, this child wanted to partake of this process. Usually, he pretended he wasn’t listening but I just kept on.
From having worked with many children & adults with trauma history, I had come to understand that talk-therapy is a dragging process & unless a therapist has the tools to drew out the deeper recesses of the mind-the unconscious mind, it’s like pulling weeds from the garden.
Stories of heartbreak soon rots the deeper levels of the soil, conjuring up more weeds to tame.
Therapy Is More Than Story-Telling
Therapy is more than telling stories. Healing stories are different because they are filled with symbolism, the mind can easily consume.
If you’ve ever watched a marathon Korean soap or a sequel on Netflix, you understand that even though math problems may appear like alien writings to you, stories speak right at you.
Continuing on to my 6 year old client…
One day, he surprised me as I was narrating another story to him. Suddenly, he spoke, continuing this story with eloquence in elaborate details & providing an ending with mastery.
He didn’t minced in his words rather, it almost seemed like the ending had been playing in his mind for a quite a while. Our connection, didn’t just deepened in one or two session. This beautiful child slowly opened up to me, an act that only meant trusting humanity again.
Long after he had to stop therapy with me & we only had few sessions before we bid goodbye, this beautiful child removed his sunglasses & lifted his shirt that painfully showcased the scars of his trauma.
I have seen & heard many stories such as these in my practice and I allow the building of tears when appropriate in my sessions. But one special talent I have is to keep these tears from spilling beyond the rims of my eyes. I have been schooled to not burden any client with tending to my own emotional responses.
That day though was no ordinary day, this hidden talent of mine showed up & I allowed tears of love & hope to flow openly from my eyes.
This child of 6 had been touched by the stories we’ve shared together. From it, he unlearned years of miserable abuse & learned the capacity to trust again, to believe that one can be loved and be capable of exchanging love. Of course, his journey does not end here & so for all of us.
Every time I remember this story, I become incredibly humbled to be a witness to people’s deepest pain & the beginning of a healed life.
If you find this article interesting, check out: Finding Your Story: Healing Inter-generational Trauma.
How To Use Healing Stories
Stories have the ability to connect the past with the present, integrating it to our current world. When we are able to do this, we are able to re-script our future.
Neuroscience and research report that when we are able to relate to the characters of the story, it triggers the release of Oxytocin, which is known to some as the love drug.
Filipinos enjoy telling stories through the use of humor, find this article: Filipinos & Their Contagious Laughter: The Power of Humor to Heal.
As mentioned, Healing stories are not just typical stories you hear in the news, or in your social media feed. It is beautifully & intentionally crafted to speak to your unconscious brain. Easing up on your worries, providing a nurturing rationale for what the conscious mind cannot usually rationalize.
What’s compelling about healing stories is that it benefits to whom the stories are told and the one telling it.
If you’re telling this to children, drilling the child on-
- The good & bad moral of the story is counter-intuitive. Healing stories are not meant to be moralistic. They simply offer an explanation, a closure, a way out when the conscious mind is not able to sort this out.
- Using it to convey a “ I told you so,” narrative defeats its purpose.
- Tell them often.
- You can change the description of the character to match your audience. But, keeping the symbolisms of the story intact.
- Make them fun, make them your story.
- Share them to both children & adults & tell them with ease & confidence
This a you tube video on an original story I created during the Corona Virus pandemic. You can use it anytime to help ease a worry or a suffering from a natural calamity, feeling out-of-control due to external circumstances, offering an explanation to a temporary rigid way of conducting business at work & at your home.
If you find this helpful and all my other heart-crafted writings, may I ask you to please watch this you tube video & DON’T FORGET TO SUBSCRIBE. It will greatly help to grow our channel & it will be easier for other Filipino families to find our content.