The use of storytelling in hypnotherapy
May is National Share a Story Month
Through the mists of time, stretching back into the most ancient of pasts, long before reading or writing, mankind would pass on knowledge and learning in an oral tradition – in other words, stories would be shared. This has been our main way of communicating with each other for thousands of years.
Around flickering camp fires in the semi-darkness people would listen as wordsmiths wove tales about mystery and love, betrayal and conquest. And through these very ancient traditions each generation would learn about the world they lived in.
Stories are an important part of our development. In our childhood, storybook characters appeared like friends and we were able to share the adventures of daring heroes or desperate villains and be transported into magical landscapes full of creativity, drama and intrigue.
Many of us may also have had experience of children who ask for the same bedtime story to be read over and over again and we, as adults, will wonder how they are not bored of it yet; but when this happens you can know that there is an underlying message conveyed in that story that the child needs to hear.
Fast forward to the present time and everyone still loves a good story. In fact, stories are everywhere – in the news, on television, in books and magazines but also we hear stories through gossip and chatting with others in our social circles.
Researchers now know that when a group of people listen to a story together their brains begin to synchronise in a process that is known as “neural coupling”. This synchronisation means that the teller of a story can convey thoughts, ideas and feelings at a very meaningful level. When we become involved in stories our brains also release neurotransmitters like oxytocin, known as the “love chemical”, and this gives us feelings of empathy for the characters of the story. A stressful story might encourage our brains to produce cortisol – the stress hormone that can make us feel anxious and tense. This is one good reason why not to watch films that frighten us too often.
It’s also much easier to remember creative, texture-rich stories than dry facts and figures. Power Point presentations and spreadsheets are dull and lifeless, only actually activating two parts of the brain, but during storytelling at least six neural pathways activate and this in itself makes memory recall much easier.
When we experience hypnotherapy it is often the case that, at some point during the session, the therapist will tell a particular type of story, known as a metaphor. Embedded in such stories are meaningful truths that the subconscious mind will understand and process in a different way to the conscious mind. Scientists now know that the same part of our brain lights up when we listen to a story as when we actually experience something in reality. Therefore our minds really do not distinguish between what is real or imaginary. This aspect of our minds can be used for good or bad – it’s why worrying too much about things that haven’t happened yet can affect us in a very physical way – affecting our sleep, our stress levels and our anxiety.
If you would like to experience the power of metaphor to help you on a deep subconscious level then hypnotherapy may be the answer. The power of metaphor, hypnotic language, guided visualisation and imagery, combined with positive suggestions, all work on a deep level which makes it easier than ever to make the changes that you want in your life.
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About Vicky Tunaley
Vicky works with a wide variety of conditions. She is registered with the CNHC and the AfSFH and holds an enhanced DBS certificate. The solution-focused approach combines positive psychology with hypnosis to create a strong environment for change and is particularly successful with people who want to feel happier and get rid of anxiety and fears.