From long before our ancestors began to paint on the walls of caves, chisel symbols into stone, or print words on paper, elders have passed stories on to younger people. Perhaps some of the oldest living tales can be found in the legends of the Australian Aboriginals. One that provides an explanation ofnatural phenomena such as fire, stars, and crows, and has a strong moral message, begins with seven women who control fire, and Wakala, a man who manipulatively steals the control for himself. Now powerless, the women flee into the sky, becoming the constellation ofthe Seven Sisters, while Wakala selfishly refuses to share his fire with anyone, mocking them by calling out, "Wah, wah," whenever they ask. In a fit of temper he throws coals at some men who ask, starting a wildfire in which he himself is incinerated. As the men watch, his corpse is transformed into the blackened body of a crow, flies into a tree, and sits there calling "Wah, wah."
Through such seemingly simple tales, elders communicated to the younger generation messages about not stealing, being selfish, or losing your temper. Through stories they shaped the ideas, beliefs, morality, and behavior of a whole culture, generation upon generation. Telling children stories is as ancient and entrenched as the history of communication itself.
San Diego-based psychologist Michael Yapko, in writing about effective methods of communication with hypnosis, claims that "Stories as teaching tools have been the principal means of educating and socializing people throughout human history" (Yapko, 2003, p. 433; italics added). Over time and across all cultures they have been used as a form of effective communication and education, passing on from generation to generation the attitudes, values, and behaviors necessary for survival and success in life. Stories like the biblical account of creation, the Australian Aboriginal dreamtime legends, or the myths of ancient Greece explain how our world came into being, how human beings were created, and where animals came from. We, as a species, have used stories to explain our world and its origins. These stories help us to define and understand much of what otherwise might be unexplained. In so doing, they also enable us to create our world. If our stories of the world are based on creationist theology, we may live our lives with fear of damnation to hell and desires of reaching heaven. If our stories of the world are about the interconnectedness of all livings beings with the planet, we may tread gently and with respect for both the earth and its creatures. If we are brought up on stories about animosity and hostility between religions and cultures, we may be more prone to conflict with our neighbors and, thus, destined to a life of hatred. As our stories define the world for us, so we are likely to see it ... and create it.
Just as stories explain, so they can teach about values, standards, and acceptable patterns of behavior. They educate us in how to cope with the situations we are likely to experience in life and how we can best manage the challenges that lie ahead. Imagine, ifyou wish, ancient hunters coming home from a day chasing and capturing a wild beast. As they sit around the fire at night, roasting their freshly caught meat, they communicate the tales of their activities, describing the successful strategies they used, detailing the events that caused one of their members to be gored or injured. In this way they are sharing their experiences with the young people of the tribe who sit there listening to the tales, learning the things to avoid and the things to ensure a successful hunt. These stories short-circuit our learning processes. The wide-eyed children listening to the hunter's tales do not need to have trapped wild animals themselves to learn about those processes that work and those that do not.
The power of stories to communicate effectively has meant that they are, and have been, the preferred medium of some of the world's most renowned teachers. Jesus and Buddha did not lecture; instead, they used parables. Sufis and Zen Buddhists are renowned for their profound teaching tales. Although the Bible provides us with some very direct and prescriptive instructions, such as the Ten Commandments, its main form of communication is in the relating of stories. Indeed, storytelling has been the universally preferred style of teaching through which to pass on life's important lessons from generation to generation.
Whether for learning or entertainment (and perhaps there is no clear distinction), we crave stories. We buy books, visit libraries, and read tales of fiction or fact. We go to plays, the ballet, and the opera to relive familiar classics that have survived the centuries. How many times have we heard the story of Romeo and Juliet, yet still find the ending tragic each time we experience it? As much as we are entranced by the old, so we seem to crave the new story line as well. Teenagers watch the stories of pop songs acted out in video clips. Children, adolescents, and adults are entranced by movies that visually and audibly spin a story of suspense, romance, or humor, turning actors—our modern-day storytellers—into folk heroes and role models.
Stories are an integral part of life. Through the ages, they have been an inseparable part of human culture, learning, and values. Regardless of our language, religion, race, sex, or age, stories have been, and will remain, a crucial element in our lives. It is because of stories that our language, religion, science, and culture exist. Stories may fulfill our dreams; and, indeed, our dreams themselves are stories. They accompany us throughout our existence, from cradle to cremation. As one of Salman Rushdie's characters said in The Moor's Last Sigh, "When we die all that remains are the stories." If life and stories are so mutually embracing, then their adaptation into counseling and therapy is both a logical and practical extension of an established and effective medium of communication.
Was this article helpful?
Learning About Hypnotherapy Health Can Have Amazing Benefits For Your Life And Success. How To Use Audio Hypnotherapy To Improve Your Life And Make Money. Now, a lot more people practice self hypnosis in the comfort of their own homes. While this may be done, it's best to do it one has knowledge or background on the practice.