‘I recently finished a very interesting book, Healing the Mind Though the Power of Story: The Promise of Narrative Psychiatry, by Dr Lewis Mehl-Madrona. In his book, Lewis emphasises the importance of story and I’m going to describe some of his reflections here:
Stories help us develop empathy. They allow us understand another person’s world from their perspective. Stories give us unique access to the inner lives and motivations of others. They contain so much more information than we can convey in the statement of facts.
Stories give cognitive and emotional significance to experience. “Stories are amusing, memorable, and absorbing; they are also instructive, informative and orienting… We construct and negotiate our social identity through the stories we tell other people (and through the stories that then get repeated about us). Stories assist us in developing a moral sense, as they give moral weight and existential significance to actions and events.”
Stories enhance our creativity and help us think beyond the here and now. Stories give us new vantage points from which to contemplate the possible and then create it. They stimulate our imagination and allow us to see alternatives.
Stories keep us connected in social networks, which build and shape our brain. Our brain maps our social world as we explore and interpret it. These social maps, which consist of stories that we have constructed about our experiences, guide our actions in the world.
Stories unlock the mysteries of psychophysical suffering that declarative facts cannot reveal. Social life is the performance of stories. Physiological life is the consequence of the performance of those stories.’