Storytelling is almost the oldest art in the world, the first conscious form of literary communication. In many cultures it still survives, and it is not an uncommon thing to see a crowd at a street corner held by the simple narration of a story. There are signs of a growing interest in this ancient art, and we may yet live to see the renaissance of the storyteller and the troubadour. One of the surest signs of a belief in the educational and healing powers of the story is its introduction into the therapy methods available to mental health practitioners, social workers and educators. It is just at the time when the imagination is most keen, the mind being unhampered by accumulation of facts, that stories appeal most vividly and are retained for all time.
Long before pen was set to paper, fairy tales, legends and stories existed as a means to transfer knowledge from one generation to another. Spreading knowledge through stories was both entertaining and educational. Religious leaders throughout time have used many metaphors and parables to teach valuable lessons of morals and ethics.Some modern practitioners believed that such stories contained symbolic messages which spoke to the unconscious of the listener. These messages and symbols (anchors) appeared to come from the unconscious of the author, since there is little evidence that, with the possible exception of fables, the purpose of such stories was to talk to the unconscious.Others believed that one's unconscious does understand fairy tales on a symbolic level, picking a favorite fairy tale because it mirrors one's life script.
Therapeutic stories are particularly helpful for use with angry, uncommunicative children who are very resistant to therapy. When a child will not talk during the initial therapy sessions, the therapist should read the therapeutic stories aloud to the child without explanation. Even when the child makes an effort to consciously ignore the stories, metaphors carefully selected by the therapist will be heard and heeded by the child's unconscious.The conscious mind does not need to understand a therapeutic story for the unconscious mind to understand the healing message it holds It is so much better to be able tell a story to a new therapy client who is resistive than to sit in silence or turn your back on them until they decide to talk.It is felt that many children who could have been helped by therapy are lost during these first sessions because the therapist did not understand how to get around their resistance by talking to their unconscious.
As the child heals and changes, new stories should be added to deal with new problems that become evident. In many children, dramatic changes in body language, facial expression, choice of clothing and behavior at school will be evident several weeks after the stories have been used.Some parents will be unwilling to concede that the stories have been responsible for helping create the change, although they have no other explanation.
Adults also benefit from the stories read in the therapy session. The stories are particularly powerful when adults, as parents, read to their children tales which speak also to the unconscious of the adult. Many parents read the stories aloud to all of the children in the family, creating healing and more positive functioning in all who hear. Parents who are incest survivors themselves often consciously understand the messages contained in the stories. Other parents will not have conscious resistance to stories that they believe are only to heal their children. Stories that promote healing, self-love, and self-understanding, therefore, can be beneficial to all family members.
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