Stories have a way of penetrating our psyche, offering us a reawakening or reimagining of ourselves. A story from ancient mythology, a folk tale, or a story in the latest film can resonate within. How often have you listened to a story feeling a spark of reconnection to something deep inside yourself?
Storytelling is a creative process that Carl Jung spoke of as being a “way back to the deepest springs of life” (Jung, 1966). Whether a story is fact or fiction, this has certainly been my experience.
Listening to a story very often touches something deep within us. I have listened to local myths of the land from Ontario to New Mexico, from Connemara to County Down, transfixed and transformed each time. A simple work of fiction can have the same effect. Something deeply affected my soul reading the novel The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce. I will never forget it.
As a craniosacral therapist, listening to people’s stories is a shared experience. An act of both my hands and body. I listen to the whispers of their body telling me their life’s story. The exchange is without doubt just that, an exchange, of meaning and life experience. A neurobiologist might describe this as the nervous system echoing experiences in earlier life.
Storytelling is a powerful medium in many cultures, often used to impart otherwise hidden understanding and honest truths. It can reach deeply into the collective psyche uncovering a wealth of insight.
In my home country of Northern Ireland, we use oral history, or storytelling, as a way to better understand our troubled past. Irish culture relies heavily on oral telling. The Irish are famous for their hearth-side stories of days gone by.
Carl Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz, James Hillman, and Joseph Campbell famously use story, folk tales, and myth, as a way to access the psychological mysteries of our being. They reach to the depths of story to glean the archetypal patterns of our psyche.
The mythologist and oral teller Martin Shaw goes a step further in his book Scatterlings showing how he lives the oral story tradition. He shares the wonders of place through the stories of the land and its creatures, bringing to life each subtle rhythm of nature—transforming ancient traditions into a modern day experience.
The Jungian trauma specialist, Donal Kalsched, points to the Inuit carving “The Storyteller,” which depicts a face with one eye open and one eye shut, advising us to keep a balance between the inner and outer world. We must give equal importance to our inner imaginal world and the outer world of hard-edged materiality. This is where storytelling can be so powerful. It provides a bridge between the inner imaginal world and the outer material world.
I believe storytelling is a fundamental form of human connection—listening to others can effect change. For me, it is always a rich experience to exchange stories!