Who would have guessed that just by telling stories we can help our children and one another not only gain access to our whole brain but also come to discover solutions to problems that we thought were insolvable. Interested? Here's how it works.
Our brain is divided into two halves: the left brain – logical, literal, linguistic, and linear, and the right brain - intuitive, holistic, and emotional. The left is the scientist and the right is the artist. The simple act of storytelling (putting words onto emotions) creates connections between the fun loving right and the more serious left.
In my childhood my sainted mother regarded “storytelling” as something to be avoided. “Do not tell stories young man,” she scolded more often than I care to admit. Storytelling was code for lying, fibbing, and telling untruths. It was a clear and certain bre
ach that required going to confession. Yet now I am discovering late in life that telling stories is a scientifically proven way to gain access to more of your brain.
It turns out that in the telling of the story the truth emerges But it takes an attentive and encouraging listener for this to happen. There is good science to back up this assertion. The linguistically oriented left brain puts words onto the emotionally oriented right brain. The right brain adds emphasis, color, and energy to the remote and logical left brain. The words we create on the left side link with the emotions on the right side and create physical connections between the two haves.
When you, a loved one, or a child experiences pain or difficulty, silence is the enemy. The most loving thing you can do is to encourage words be put on the emotions. You will not retraumatize the person. It is not bad to bring up a past hurt that needs to be unwrapped, looked at, and understood in the light of day. It is in the telling of the story that not only the truth unfolds but the solutions appear. We are often afraid we will be overwhelmed by the flood of words and emotions that come with a pain filled story. Yet there are only two requirements; 1) a Storyteller, and 2) a Listener. Let the solution happen of its own accord.
For example, your child hurts herself at play and scrapes her knee. After you have cleaned and bandaged the wound, encourage her to tell a story about what just happened. "So you were running and you fell. Then what happend?" you ask her. And as she begins to talk about what happened encourage her to explore details of not only the actions but how she felt and how it was all resolved. She might even come up with a plan to avoid that again. You have just helped her make connections in her brain that will help her for life. Try the same thing with an older child, a spouse or a colleague. Encourage them to explore not only what happened but also their feelings around what happened.
How easy is that! Let the story unfold and appreciate the person and the effort. As the truth falls out, so will relief and a greater resiliency to face the next challenge. And life is full of challenges.
Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Don’t be afraid to listen. So when you go home tonight tell the story about your day or listen to the story of someone else’s day.
It’s the greatest gift we can give to one another.
Your brain will love you!