The therapeutic power of stories and storying

Posted: 15/01/2016

Narratives, metaphors and storytelling have become an important part of counselling and social work practice, and the term ‘restorying’ has entered the language of therapy. Restorying helps people think differently about themselves and the problems they are facing. It is about exploring alternative ways of looking at the same story or experience, and creating new and positive descriptions.

To put it simply, the stories we share can help us to build personal identity, reshape and bring new meaning to our lives. Stories touch us as no mere theory or explanation can, because they reach the very essence of who we are. By listening to the stories of others we come to realise that we’re not alone in what we are experiencing, but part of a wider cultural network.

Stories invite us to listen. Call it a meeting, a session, an interview, or a lecture and the connotations that come with such terms can make many of us run for the hills. But say, ‘I want to tell you a story,’ and we pull up our chairs to listen. Our personal stories can help us make sense of the world and our place within it. Stories can teach us how to live responsibly and how to understand others.

However, revisiting our personal stories and memories doesn’t have to be a therapeutic or life-changing exercise. Sometimes we just need to escape into ‘once upon a time…’.

The values of every human society are captured in its stories. We are defined by these stories and by the stories we choose to tell our children. We collect them from all sorts of places; from our families, through formal education, our religious traditions, on television, in movies and books and magazines—and of course our own life experiences. The genealogical dates and places are only the skeleton of our personal histories. It’s the stories that give our lives their special character.

Preserving these stories means honouring individual lives, our experiences and our relationships. It means celebrating the joys and treasured memories as well as passing down the learnings and struggles. Sharing family stories is a powerful tradition that strengthens and builds community— a tradition that many believe is being lost in the twenty-first century.

Stories can light our way, stir our spirits and warm our hearts.

Shared in person or in print, stories form verbal bridges between people. They cross gulfs of human ignorance, isolation, diversity, and conflict. Such bridges can also span the generations; a precious gift to the future—our unique yet universal legacies.

From ‘Storycatching’ Card set and Booklet

Author John Holton


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