I’ve always loved stories (factual as well as fictional) – reading them, listening to them and watching them. Humans from across the world and throughout history have understood the power of a well-crafted tale, using them to illustrate ideas, concepts and even to communicate news. We enjoy them from as soon as we can understand language until the day we die. It is a very deep-seated need.
As a hypnotherapist, I see the power of stories, allegories and metaphors to communicate perspectives at a deeper level than we are aware of. In hypnotherapy, they can be used to enable a client to make the changes they want to without problems of resistance. Stories often get messages across to our subconscious much more effectively than direct communication. We see this in everyday life too – the fables and fairy stories of our youth are timeless. The tales of Aesop, believed to have been written between 620-560 BC, are as relevant today as they were back then. They still carry powerful messages about human nature and can influence a person’s behaviour and their level of self-awareness.
So, I was fascinated this week to read that it is now believed that many of our best-known fairy tales date back as much as 4,000 years. The Grimm brothers believed that the tales they retold were truly ancient, but, until recently, scholars disagreed - believing them to be as recent as the 18th century. However, it now looks as though the brothers were right – there is evidence that at least one (a version of Jack and the Beanstalk) originated in the Bronze Age 5,000 years ago. Beauty and the Beast, along with Rumpelstiltskin, come from around 4,000 years ago. These stories were around even before modern European languages evolved.
Now that’s staying power - and it’s unlikely that anything which didn’t speak deeply to us would last so long. Such stories allow us to explore ideas and concepts safely, once-removed from reality. Stories can be used to help us think about right and wrong, whilst enabling us to see all the grey areas in-between. They let us “try out” scenarios – seeing new possibilities and new ways of doing things. They show us other perspectives. They can allow our imaginations to expand and to become more creative.
Of course, stories can be used to have negative influences too – to depress, to anger and to create division. They can be effective tools of propaganda.
It’s likely that all stories influence us at that deeper level, which is why it’s worth considering the stories we watch, read and listen to. A constant stream of depressing and negative narratives, of people failing and being dependent could well be passing a powerful and unhelpful message to you that change and success are impossible goals.
Within hypnotherapy, metaphors and stories have long been recognised as having the power to enable a person to bring about the positive changes they want to make. It’s a technique I love using with many of my clients. I think we would be wise to recognise that this power exists in our everyday lives, in every story we encounter. Maybe then we would choose with more care the stories we encounter for our entertainment.
What stories carry meaning for you? Do you have a childhood favourite, or a film which holds real meaning for you? Maybe it’s a ballad or a poem you love or an autobiography that has inspired you.