The Healing Power of Stories

Our lives are a series of stories, and we define ourselves with the stories we tell ourselves.

Even our sense of time is a story. In this regard, our stories about time make other stories possible. Also, if we think about the past in a more helpful way, we might find that the healing power of stories can actually improve our lives. We often think of stories as something found in a book. But instead, they are an essential layer in our lives and concept of reality.

Stories play a role in determining where we are, and where we are going. We can’t expect to get anywhere without a good story.

Stories As Explanations For What We Do

Often we do things for reasons that we can’t explain. At times, we may not even understand why we did them at all. Other times, we can not be sure about what happened.

It is also easy to construct a story that dismisses our errors.

When we acknowledge something was our fault, we must also admit we were wrong. But even then we may tell a story that will absolve our responsibility.

But often or explanations only come after someone asks “Why did you do that?” This point is when we construct a story for ourselves, otherwise we merely except them.

Usually, we call others explanations excuses. This accusation is especially true if someone doesn’t come out and say “Yes, it was me!” We want to accept people for their mistakes, at the same time, we don’t want to know the reason for them.

Part of the problem is that, inside our heads, there is always an explanation. You closed the door because it was cold. You turned down the radio because it was loud.

But sometimes, things are hiding in our stories, things we don’t want to acknowledge.

You closed the door because you didn’t want the bother. You turned off the radio because the song reminded you of your ex.

We need stories to connect what happens with what we did. A good narrative unites events together. A great story makes sense of things that made no sense before.

At times our stories are not beneficial to someone else when they are only looking for a sorry. But at its core, our stories serve as an explanation for what we have done, even if they aren’t true.

Stories To Excuse Other People

The same way we explain ourselves, we also use stories to describe other people.

We tell stories as excuses for what other people have done. In this sense, we see the things, that we assume happened before, being the cause of what happened later. But there is a choice about what events or points we add to our stories.

Again, we use a story to connect events in a linear order. The need for this stems from the way our minds work. We need explanations, and we need them now. The more straightforward a story is, the better.

The story we tell can go in both directions. We can use a story to explain why someone is evil and should be punished. Or we can use a story to describe why it wasn’t their fault and they aren’t guilty.

Sometimes the same narrative can do both.

Either way, we use stories to justify our views of people and the things they have done.

You could argue that we are justifying our opinions and not the things that happened. But, we need our stories to connect the things that happen with the way we feel.

We Use Stories To Explain Who We Are

Often, we have an explanation or an excuse for who we are and why we did the things that we did.

To an outsider, our stories might be random or missing critical facts. A family member could see the events in a different light. They may value one thing over another. Our parents may have grand stories that explain everything about us.

We all have stories, and our stories interact with the stories of the people in our lives.

As we grow old, we forget some stories, while emphasizing others. We may not have much say, over which stories matter to us, our brains decide for us.

In time we have stories that we hold dear and accept that they explain who we are. These grand narratives determine which pieces are essential and those that are not.

At the same time, our stories may not be meaningful to anyone else. They don’t even have to be accurate.

Our stories are often only for ourselves, and they play a critical role in explaining who we are and where we are.

At times a story can also change the way we think about events, change a story can help us heal.

Stories Explain Who We Want To Be

In another sense, we use stories to explain where we are going. These stories at their core are meaningful to us, they guide our decision making and tell us what we need to do next.

As an example, consider the story of becoming a doctor. From that, you believe studying is essential and that you can study hard enough to succeed. You also think that studying will get you into the school you want. From there you need to believe that your hard work will pay off.

These beliefs come from stories. You know doctors and assume they studied hard, graduated and passed their tests.

We use stories to tell ourselves where we want to go and who we want to be.

Then we use other peoples stories to tell us how to get there or justify them. At its core, there is a story behind every person and choice. We use narrative to explain and justify what we do.

Better Stories Make The Healing Power of Stories More True

If we use stories to explain what we do, then we must assume that people who are successful, have better stories. If a story is excellent, then it gets spectacular results.

It is also true that people from wealthy families are more likely to be affluent themselves. The explanation for this may come down to the stories they have about what has happened.

Take the example of someone who grows up without a positive role model. They will not have stories that explain how they can get to where they want to go.

If you’ve never seen success, how can you replicate it? It is difficult to see the connection between actions and results without a positive example.

Someone whose parents create a business will hear stories that explain the success. In particular, what they did right and how someone could replicate the results.

In this sense, it’s obvious what a differences a story can make. If you know someone who did something, you have an account and are more likely to believe. If you have never heard a compelling story, you will not think something is possible.

Put another way, traumatic events in life can have lasting effects. But at the same time, the way we look at the event, or the story we tell ourselves about it can change the story itself. In a way, changing our stories can have healing power over us.

We Need To Write Better Stories

If the story I have told so far is acceptable, then you can see the importance of stories in your life.

You can also see the difference a good story makes. Thinking something is possible, makes it so. From this perspective, the healing power of stories is that you can rewrite events from your life that help you live a more happy life today.

The first thing you must do is accept that stories matter. In this sense, writing in a journal is an excellent way to get your stories out.

You should write about the events that were important to you, those that explain who you are and why.

From these stories you get a better sense of who you are because you have them written down. Having them written down lets you be more reasonable about them.

The next step is to read them and see what could have been different or what you had no control over.

From these understandings, you can gain insights into how to do things better next time. You may obtain the perspective that something wasn’t your fault. You can’t blame yourself for things outside of your control.

Finally, once you understand who and why you are, you also have an appreciation for the effects those stories had on you.

Later you can write a story about the future you want. If you’ve learnt from the past, then you know what is possible. Then you can write a compelling story that will guide you to where you need to go.

Once you’ve written a better story, you have an idea of what you need to do to get there.

Think of the story as a blueprint, it tells you what to do, but not all the details.

From here you can write better stories about how to get what you want. Sometimes you may need to write stories about what will happen if you don’t take action. A lousy potential story at times can be enough to motivate you to live a better life.

If you believe stories matter, then you must work on writing personal stories that help you heal.

Do you fell like your life has been a story? What do you do in your daily life that enables you to take advantage of the power of stories?

Live a Meaningful Life; Here is How

I've put together a 42 item guide on how to live a meaningful life by appreciating what we are already doing. Get your copy by entering your email address below.

Robert Carr

Over the years, I've learnt to see things in a different light. This website is my place to share those insights and give my unique perspective on living a meaningful life.

Recent Posts