Thursday, July 28, 2005

WHY WE TELL STORIES

A fool speaks because he must say something and a wise man speaks because he has something to say. – Old Saying

I believe there is one primary reason human beings tell stories: To teach.
Consider this: There is no culture on the globe that does not have stories. We all have music and we all have stories. They are part of us. I have read about aboriginal tribes in Australia who use songs and stories in case they get lost. These songs contain information like a map. So if you know the words to a particular song, you can, for instance, find water in an unfamiliar area because you know the song for that area. Our brains seem to retain information this way. Besides saving lives, stories can also tell us how we should live.
In Bruno Bettelheim’s book, The Uses of Enchantment, he tells of the traditional Hindi medical practice of giving the patient a story to contemplate. Through this story the patient would learn from the hero’s failures and victories how to deal with and resolve his/her own problem.
This may sound like a foreign concept, but we use this even today in Western culture in the form of Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs where people share their stories in order to help themselves and others. This simple act of sharing stories helps the healing process. People learn that they are not alone in their struggle and that others have been through these addictions and survived. They may also learn things to watch out for in their own behavior to avoid falling back into old destructive patterns. Stories teach us how to live. Your story should teach me how to live.

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