Power of Story


In this Spring 2012 series:





Please be sure not to miss the links to the following pages listed at the end of this post:


April 12, 2009

I was extremely fortunate in being able to attend the International Storytellers’ week long conference held in Albuquerque, NM during my first fall in art therapy graduate school in 1989.  What a wonderful group of people, and I was instantly comfortable with all of them.  I had never realized that professional storytellers even still existed.

One main phrase that I heard during that week that has remained close in my mind was this one:  “All stories are true and some of them actually happened.”  This way of thinking fit nicely with the theoretical foundation of the art therapy program I was attending which was solidly based on psyche and was rooted in what our department referred to as post-Jungian archetypal imaginal therapy.  In other words, a therapy of the imagination.

From this point of view story does not belong like an object might to the person who holds the story – not even the story of our lives.  Stories have a life of their own and can be passed from one person to the next as intactly as possible, and intact is a key concept here.

According to the storytellers each story has a body and a structure and is made up of particularly important qualities and pieces.  The story is alive, however, only when somebody is telling it.  This is per-form-ance art.  The person is forming the living body of the story hopefully before an audience, and believe it or not, the story is grateful for each opportunity it is given to live again.  A good performer will pass the form of the story on to the listeners, and in this way even the listeners become a part of the story because the act of watching and listening to a story means that the meaning and wholeness of the story lives as part of the audience as well as a part of the teller.

The underpinnings of stories lie, according to Carl Jung (http://www.cgjungpage.org/)  in the human collective unconscious.  This means that none of us are disconnected from this ‘groundwater’ of experience.  We all are limited to deriving our experience from the wellspring of human possibility, potential and experience.

Living in the American culture where ‘being an individual’ carries such a weighty flag, many of us are somehow reluctant to admit that we are all far more alike than we are different.  While we may all have different versions of brain capacity and operation (on a continuum from malevolent to benevolent formation – see sections on ‘Brain Development’


and ‘Healing Wounds’

https://stopthestorm.wordpress.com/healing-wounds/), we are all still connected as a part of our species, and so, therefore, are our stories.

I will have much to say in other writings about memory, especially as memory changes are related to posttraumatic stress disorder and other anxiety spectrum problems.  At this point it is not our concern whether or not any story is TRUE.  The concern here is with the miraculous ability humans have to express and transmit stories.

I learned during my week with the International Storytellers (http://www.storytellingcenter.net/) that there is a bias in using the term ‘preliterate.’  Nonliterate is more accurate.  Being nonliterate, in my opinion, means that the old ways have been preserved in the act of storytelling without the added layering that being literate brings to how we process information between one another.  Telling and listening to stories from this nonliterate perspective means that the BODY of teller and listener are still integrated with the entire experience.

This is not a common occurrence in our culture, and many of us have so lost the connection between our body and our actual experience of our lives that we might not even be able to imagine what the difference between preliterate and nonliterate might be.  We have even developed a classification that, in my thinking, carries a negative connotation for those we apply it to – being illiterate.

All life has the ability to send and receive signals within and between cells.  Humans are at the apex of complexity in this signaling process, with literacy being one of our many ‘added advantages’ along with our ability to use words themselves.  Yet I wonder how damaging it has been to us to make such massive use of our more advanced abilities while perhaps losing our connection to the older abilities that allowed us to survive and endure for millions of years before the very recent acquisition of verbal language (140,000 years ago).


Losing touch with the information available to us in our bodies means to me that we are creating for ourselves the high risk situation of missing the most important information of all – what our bodies, and therefore our selves, have to tell us.  Part of what makes a true storyteller effective is that they tell a storm in the form of a performance so that the person that they are is completely involved with the telling of the stories.

Perhaps the examples that might bring this fact more clearly into focus involves human expression through drama, dance and song, all being accomplished through the active involvement of the body and being tied not only to our most ancient forms of expression and communication, but also to prime reproductive fitness indicators of our species.


SEE reproductive fitness indicators :  http://www.google.com/search?q=reproductive+fitness+indicators&sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1B3RNFA_enUS270US307

and this fascinating Israeli research on the connection between dance and genetics:



Use of the spoken word is efficient, true, as is use of the ability to read words.  But these abilities are very, very recent occurrences and will never take the place of intimate expressions that involve the use of the BODY.


I will provide more detail in subpages later concerning some experts’ suggestions about why and how verbal language abilities appeared within our species.

(SEE:  Language and Its Development)

At this moment I will point out that a consideration of story is extremely important when thinking about the nature of unresolved traumas and the consequences of this internal status for ourselves and people around us.





and this research on ‘hotspots’ and PTSD:



Experts suggest that one of the byproducts of traumatic experience that leads to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is that the worst of trauma experiences can be left within an individual WITHOUT the words needed to talk about their experience – either the outer facts of the trauma or their inner experience of it.  I believe those people, including myself, have sections of our lives and therefore of ourselves that are disconnected and ‘dissociated’ from us as if they are floating around in separate bubbles.  These experiences are not integrated because no new useful learning could take place except on the most basic physical survival reactionary level.  That is the only level that communication is taking place — on the ‘low road’ of instinctive body reaction without access to the ‘high road’ of higher cortical processing.  The ability to express and communicate the nature of these realities does not exist because the entire experience has been occluded from the traumatized person’s ongoing life except at this oldest and fastest low road level.

oc·clude (-kld)

v. oc·clud·ed, oc·clud·ing, oc·cludes


1. To cause to become closed; obstruct: occlude an artery.

2. To prevent the passage of: occlude light; occlude the flow of blood.

3. Chemistry To absorb or adsorb and retain (a substance).

4. Meteorology To force (air) upward from the earth’s surface, as when a cold front overtakes and undercuts a warm front.

5. Dentistry To bring together (the upper and lower teeth) in proper alignment for chewing.

v.intr. Dentistry

To close so that the cusps fit together. Used of the teeth of the upper and lower jaws.

[Latin occldere : ob-, intensive pref.; see ob- + claudere, to close.]


I will introduce here the fact that what is known as handedness and lateralization are implicated in the origins of posttraumatic stress disorder, and are ‘issues’ that are very strongly implicated as being risk factors for developing PTSD following a traumatic experience.

SEE:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17510288?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DiscoveryPanel.Pubmed_Discovery_RA&linkpos=1&log$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed

I will go into detail about these aspects in the section of this site dealing with “Trauma”

https://stopthestorm.wordpress.com/trauma/.    Our brains must have the ability not only to access information, but to process it (which also relates to Sleep and Dreaming).  Processing HAS to involve learning something new from all experience so that the ‘traumatic cycle’ can be completed.

In a link below

My Mother’s Childhood Stories

I will present our family’s amazing find, stories written in a small school composition book in my mother’s child hand over 70 years ago.  It is important to realize that this little book has traveled many thousands of miles through hundreds of moves and came into my hands after my mother’s death.  I believe these stories are a gift to all of us, particularly as the reveal to me, the survivor of 18 years of consistent and chronic terrible abuse acted upon me from the moment of my birth by this woman, the child of 10 – 11 years old and the devastating mental condition that is exposed in the last of these stories as she deteriorated.  Please follow this link and enter for a few moments into the mind of a child who would later suffer from psychosis and in fact would probably today be diagnosed with a severe Borderline Personality Disorder.  (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/borderline-personality-disorder-fact-sheet/index.shtml) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderline_personality_disorder)


So as we journey on through the following pages in exploration of story we can carry with us the understanding that the most expansive story of our species is contained in our DNA.  I believe that our genetic code is in fact the most efficient memory data storage bank of the experience of our species and contains not only our collective memory but also the most distinctive and effective means to realizing the story of our race – the story of the human race – Homo Sapien Sapiens, The Wise Ones.

SEE — Homo Sapien Sapiens, The Wise Ones:


Our wisdom is in our stories, individually and collectively.  They are in our bodies, part of our bodies.  When we can tell the stories of our traumas in any possible and available fashion we have reached a degree of fulfillment of our species’ mission, to be wise.  It is in this wisdom that we KNOW, in every fiber of our bodies, what it is that the experience of traumas large and small have to teach us about surviving in an unpredictable and often a dangerous world — as individuals and more importantly as members of our human tribe.  And so has it always been.


3 thoughts on “Power of Story

  1. My memoir has just been published about growing up with my mother’s untreated BPD. I wrote it on the advice of my therapist, for people like us who had their childhoods stolen, had their hearts and souls whittled away by incomprehensible behavior and suffering, and who yearn for a life where the past no longer ruins the present. The Emotional Terrorist: Growing Up With a Borderline Parent (Amazon) resonates with readers and shows them the light at the end of the tunnel.
    As well, my story demonstrates that it is possible to break the cycle of abuse and raise a child with unconditional love. I hope it offers some solace.

    Best regards,


  2. I don’t even know where to comment, there are so many things I want to comment on here! All I can say right now is THANK YOU! From the very bottom of my soul, thank you. I can’t talk about my whole story…not just yet. But I try; a little more each week. And happening upon your blog, I am sure, will help me to find the voice I need to tell my story.


    • Good Morning! Welcome welcome welcome! Comments from readers like you gives me renewed hope that there is a purpose to this writing I do, and this means so much to me! Feel free to drop a comment on the blog anywhere you wish! Your voice is needed! (((hugs))) to you, too!!!! Linda – alchemynow

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