From: Eric Miller, World Storytelling Institute

Date: Sat 17 Oct 2020


________Notes on Using

____Storytelling for Healing


What is a Healing Story?  What are some ways that Healing Stories work?  In what ways could stories and storytelling assist, stimulate, and support healing (growing, and transforming) processes? 


Healing may be called for after traumatic events in life -- losses, or having been injured.


Healing in the physical sense refers to recovery after flesh is cut, crushed, or otherwise damaged.  The wound needs to be cleaned.  The external toxic situation needs to be resolved so there is no further damage.  Nutrition and other conditions conducive to healthy life need to be there.  Then what is usually called for are: rest, time, and love (support). 


How could this be applied to the emotional and psychological levels?


Part of a psychological healing process might involve remembering (in one's memory and imagination) a situation in which one experienced a trauma.  One might role-play -- speaking to and as characters in the situation.  One may benefit from expressing towards the characters (including oneself) emotions such as disappointment, anger, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, and love.  This is sometimes known as taking care of "unfinished business" -- this term is a metaphor for an interaction that one feels was not fair or satisfying.  This kind of role-playing may lead to experience and release of emotion, often called catharsis and abreaction.  Then perhaps one could let go of "old baggage".


One cannot heal someone else.  Only the client could heal the client.  Things a facilitator could do is stimulate, nourish, guide, and seek to raise awareness in the client.


The very process of using one's imagination (alone and/or with others); of exploring thoughts, feelings, images, and characters; and of developing an inner dialogue with various feelings and thoughts within oneself (which could be personified as "voices"), could increase healing and wellness in oneself.


The theme of healing includes growing, maturing, finding unexpected resources within oneself, developing one's imagination and creativity, resiliency, healthy coping mechanisms, "finding one's voice", "finding one's self", maturity, emotional intelligence, and social (inter-personal) intelligence.


This theme may involve recovering from traumas and building up one's ability to be resilient, as well as non-traumatic situations such as

1) Growing, like a seed may grow to become a tree, and

2) Creativity (including finding and creating solutions to challenges).


A story can be a model of the past and a model for the future.  But a Healing Story can be more than just a model to follow.  The right story could "do its work" on one. 


Poetically-speaking: a story may tap one on the shoulder, wanting to be told. 


A Healing Story could engage with a client's conscious and unconscious, and comfort, encourage, nourish, support, and stimulate the client.  Such a story could help the client to transform and grow.  Symbols of transformation can trigger actual transformative processes in a person.  The right story could help one to integrate various aspects of one's self and one's experience.  It could help one to "get oneself together", "straighten oneself out", "put the pieces together", and "connect the dots".


Feelings of wellness increase --


When one feels connected to one's unconscious, and to the collective unconscious.


When on feels one knows who one is, where one is coming from, and where one is going (on various levels). 


When one knows "what one is about". 


When one knows one's abilities and aptitudes (potentials).


A person may suffer a "broken heart", feeling crushed, lost, and devastated.  At such a point, a client may lose hope, and become de-motivated.  There may be "a dream that never will come true". 


However, what the client was dreaming of may still be able to come true in a different way.  This is where one could practice "Life-story Repair" -- re-chart one's course, taking the new circumstances into account.  One could still "live happily ever after" -- or do a reasonable facsimile of such (which is all anyone could do in the real world anyway).


Sometimes "one can't see the forest for the trees", because one's vision is being blocked by a large tree right in front of one.  One may lose perspective.  Get overwhelmed.  At such times, one needs to see things with a broader perspective.  One needs to reframe one's perception of the situation.


Framing and reframing concerns how one looks at one's situation.  A glass can be perceived as being half-empty (insufficient, falling short) or half-full (some has been done, and more could be done).  Reframing one's circumstances, how one sees one's circumstances, can get one "back on track".  One can regain hope and motivation.  Helplessness, seeing no way out of an unpleasant situation, leads to depression. 


Carl Jung's term for integration is individuation.  This is a process by which one becomes a mature individual --

1) the various aspects of oneself are connected, and

2) one is connected with the cosmos.


1) Become aware of, bring into play, and acknowledge the existence of, the various aspects of oneself.  One could personify -- and converse with -- various personality traits within oneself.  People we have known become aspects of our imagination, and finally aspects of ourselves.  We internalise that which we remember and hold near and dear.


2) Come to a clear understanding of one's place in society, culture, history, and the cosmos.  Is one a member of a social movement?  Is one a member of a religion which has a concept of how life began on earth and how it might end?


Fairytales may concern maturing, learning a lesson, and/or overcoming -- or coming to be at peace with -- a challenging situation.  In fairytales, characters may undergo difficult experiences.  The perseverance, resourcefulness, determination, resiliency of these characters could relate to healing.  Coming to a realisation about oneself or others could be healing.


It might be useful to keep this saying in mind:

"I hope to change that which I can change, to accept that which I cannot change, and to have the wisdom to know the difference".



Notes on a Method of

Storytelling Therapy (8 Steps)


Using Storytelling for Psychological Counselling, Psychotherapy, Facilitating Healing, Life Coaching, and Facilitating Personality Development (of self and others).


The 8 Steps

1) Tell your Life Story.

2) Listeners share similar experiences.

3) Identify turning points, outstanding motifs, and themes of the Life Story.

4) Gather Associative Stories.

5) Modify / Add to / Subtract from any of the above-mentioned stories.

6) Speak to and as characters in the stories.

7) Seek to bring to mind metaphors for aspects of the stories.

8) Compose a Healing Story (Inspiring / Encouraging / Guiding / Integrating / Transforming).




To read about using metaphors for healing, please see the "Metaphor Therapy" wiki page, and Susan Perrow's essay, "The Mystery and Magic of Metaphor".




An example of a Healing Story is the "Moon Rabbit Story".


Also, this article may be of interest:

"There's a New Therapist in Town: Storytelling Therapy", Indian Express, City Express section, page 5, 11th Sept 2019.




On World Mental Health Day 2020 (10th Oct), I spoke for 10 minutes about "Using Storytelling to Improve Mental Health".   The link to the recording is here.







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