The power of storytelling

The power of storytelling

Take a few moments to think back to your childhood. Do you remember those wonderful occasions at home or school when someone read you a story? As children we would listen so carefully, becoming engrossed in the fictitious world of the imagination. The characters, their actions and feelings would provoke images in our minds as we lived through their experiences as if they were our own. 

Sometimes we felt inspired to copy the actions of our favourite character and make our own adventures. Sometimes we had a light bulb moment when, through a character's reactions, we gained an insight into our own feelings and behaviour.

Stories have the power to change attitudes and actions.

They can offer a valuable tool for learning without being authoritarian. Let us face it, few people like being told what to do. However, stories can offer an interesting, indirect way to help us re evaluate our attitudes without feeling bullied into doing so.

Solution focused hypnotherapy understands the power of story in allowing the mind to consider new ways of looking at the world. This indirect approach chimes perfectly with what neuroscience teaches us. The subconscious mind works most effectively when presented with a story that needs to be examined to find its particular relevance. The practice of using stories as part of the trance work done with a client uses this aspect of our subconscious to great effect. It helps people to start entertaining a different attitude to their situation. From this the possibility of change becomes real to the client who becomes empowered to find their own solutions.

The triumphant frog

One of the stories I use frequently is about a group of tiny frogs who hold a running competition. When the spectators see how tiny the frogs are, they don't believe the frogs will be able to reach their goal. The frogs hear only discouraging comments and gradually lose heart and drop out. One frog however continues, despite the negative comments, and successfully reaches the end. It turns out that this triumphant frog is deaf.

On the surface this is a simple story about animals. However the power of the story is that when we understand that the winning frog didn't hear those disheartening words we begin to make comparisons. Our subconscious mind starts to wonder whether there is value in sometimes being deaf to criticism. Perhaps ignoring unhelpful comments made by others or perhaps our own negative thoughts might enable us to succeed at something important to us? In this indirect way a story can provoke a chain of thinking that allows our subconscious to view our situation in a new way. A change of attitude is the most important first step towards a change in behaviour.

When all is said and done, who doesn't like hearing a story anyway?

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