I believe deeply in the healing power of stories. But let me tell you what I mean, because it has layers.
First, there are the lovely stories which touch our hearts or teach us something. We find them in books, sometimes in films, and are affected by their beauty, cleverness, authenticity.
Then there are the old stories, the fairy tales, which speak with simplicity and truth to the experiences of so many people through the ages. I've seen what happens when a group of women start talking about the story of Rapunzel, and how it resonates in so many different ways with their own lives. These stories are a wonderful general therapeutic resource.
But then there are the stories created just for one person - stories which relate with them, lyrically, metaphorically, about their own experience. (Yes, with them, not to them. Stories that come from the person's truth and resound it.) These stories are the ones I love best. They must be requested from the dark silence, and allowed to come freely in their own shape through the heart and mouth. They aren't composed by the teller. While it's beautiful to work through the regular process of creating a story, it's magical, humbling, glorious, to be a conduit through which the listener's words come.
I personally believe therapeutic stories are most special when they use fairy tale language, because the old rhythms and symbols lift us out of ordinary understanding, taking us to a place where we can hear with our hearts as well as our everyday minds.
I've been thinking about this subject a lot in the past while, so when I saw this post by Terri Windling, and a twitter link to this website, I knew life was engaging with my thoughts. One of these days I hope to write a whole book on the subject. It's tragic, I think, the way we break people's experiences down to questions, answers, soundbites, summaries, instead of honouring the complexity and magic of them.