We will focus on stories to create a sense of agency, stories to heal trauma, and stories about living a better life.
We spend an enormous amount of time persuading people to do what they say they want to do to become healthier. The first step is to create a safe space of radical acceptance without judgment or interpretation. Within that space, storytelling provides a means to persuade people to change.
We will review stories that teach agency, stories that teach more effective ways of managing emotions and relationships, and stories that help people feel better about themselves. We try to use traditional stories from people’s own cultures and review how to pick a story for people from other cultures.
Stories have been told to audiences with a purpose since pre-history. These persuasive stories can be used for good or for evil. Brainwashing lives at the extreme of evil persuasive stories.
In our work, we are attempting to persuade people that they can live without drugs or alcohol, that their lives have meaning and purpose, that they can make sense of their trauma in a way that’s uplifting, that they have agency – meaning that they can take action to improve the quality of their lives.
Besides traditional stories, we use stories about other people or clients we have known, mainstream cultural stories like Disney, and stories that we invent to suit the moment. We will focus on stories to create a sense of agency, stories to heal trauma, and stories about living a better life.
Week 1: Creating a safe space of radical acceptance without judgment or interpretation. We look at how storytelling within this space provides a means to persuade people to change. We explore how listening to stories by both client and practitioner propels us into non-ordinary states of consciousness from which personal change is more possible.
Week 2: Stories that Teach Agency. Agency is the sense that our actions can improve our lives and help us gain what we want. When we have agency, we are inspired to take action toward achieving our goals.
Week 3: Stories that teach effective ways of managing emotions and relationships. We are born into stories about how to relate and how to relate to our emotions. Some of these stories are not effective but, rather, defective.
Week 4: Stories that help people feel better about themselves. Stories can help us reframe the decisions we have made in the course of our lives. Stories help us transform blame and shame into celebration and transformation.
Week 5: How to pick a story from another person's culture. Using traditional stories for another person can be powerful. We propose that this is not appropriation but a therapeutic reintroduction of people to their cultures of origin. Some Indigenous people do not know their cultural stories. We can help them to reconnect.
Week 6: Persuasive stories can be used for good or for evil. Brainwashing lives at the extreme of evil persuasive stories. Advertising intends to persuade us to buy what we may not need. People try to persuade others to adopt their political views. Donald Trump, for example, is an expert at the art of persuasion.
Week 7: Sources of stories. Besides drawing stories from our own cultures and those of our clients, we can also use the stories circulating in contemporary cultures. They may come from movies, video games, novels, television, modifications of our own experience, and the inventions of people, places, or animals that we can imagine. Even cartoons can work.
Week 8: Stories inform us of what we should aspire to. Is a good life having much money or having many relationships? Stories tell us how to balance these factors. We know people who devote their lives to money and those who don't. Where is the balance in our capitalistic economy? How do we find a self-sustaining balance?
People in the helping professions, teachers, anyone who needs to help people change.
Online readings and asynchronous discussion board hosted on Wet Ink, weekly video presentation and discussion group (tentatively scheduled for 4:30 Eastern on Wednesdays) which will be recorded for asynchronous viewing.
Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD is a faculty physician in the Northern Light Acadia Psychiatric Residency Program. He is also associated with the Family Medicine Residency at Northern Light in Bangor, Maine. He graduated from Indiana University, Stanford University School of Medicine, and completed his post-graduate medical training at the University of Vermont. He works with Coyote Institute, whose goal is to bring Indigenous wisdom to the larger world. His PhD is in neuropsychology. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, Narrative Medicine, Healing the Mind through the Power of Story, and Remapping Your Mind: The Neuroscience of Self-Transformation through Story. His work focuses on the power of story, the neuroscience of story, and story as a tool for transformation. He keeps trying to transform psychiatry to be more humane and richer with stories.
Barbara Mainguy, MA, LCSW is a psychotherapist and Crisis Supervisor for Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness. She also has a private psychotherapy practice in Bangor and Orono, Maine. Her social work degree is from the University of Maine and her creative arts therapy degree is from Concordia University. She has graduate certificates in Arts and Medical Humanities, Drug and Alcohol Counseling, and Gerontology. Barbara is the author of Remapping Your Mind: The Neuroscience of Self-Transformation through Story (with Lewis).
You can connect with Lewis and Barbara through the Coyote Institute website or the Coyote Institute Facebook page and Lewis through his website, Facebook page, or LinkedIn.
The Transformative Language Arts Network is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization
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