I am passionate about stories. Since the time I could write it is all I have wanted to do. I don’t honestly know how many books I have knocking around in my head begging to be penned. I also am obsessive about hearing stories and reading stories and studying different methods of storytelling. Our stories are the most powerful tool we have as a species. Stories teach us things in ways where we don’t even know that we are learning. They are beautiful and enrapturing and, quite simply, magic.
I know that many writers and even passionate readers feel the same way. But a few years ago I began to wonder more about the power of stories and if they could be used to consciously heal our lives.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘duh! Of course stories have the power to help us heal our lives!’ But I am not just talking about how stories impact us I am talking about using stories as a strategy for healing.
Let me give you a bit of backstory.
I was in a severely abusive relationship for four years. He was my first boyfriend and thusly, all of his abuse ingrained in my head as how love was supposed to be. Logically, of course, I knew that love was not supposed to be abusive but trauma doesn’t associate with logic. So, after I left him I spent some years being single and raising my babies, essentially just loving life again. But after a while an amazing man came into my life. And that’s when my trauma scars reared their ugly heads. I spent the first year of our relationship in literal terror every single day. Not because my new partner was causing it but because my fears and anxiety from my ex were wreaking havoc on my subconscious.
So, about a year into it I decided I needed to do something about all the pain I was going through. I began looking into coaches and healers and they helped. But every coach I worked with took everything so damn seriously. And, don’t get me wrong, I was taking my healing serious but I had been through so many hard things already it was hard to get motivated under the pretense that healing was going to be just another difficult undertaking.
After multiple coaches I had a revelation. I was working on my novel, editing it through and really diving into the character development. And I realized, I had written different aspects of myself into my work. Each character was essentially me channeling myself out onto the page. And once I realized that, I started thinking, maybe I could consciously create myself as a singular character and take on a quest like in a story! And then maybe I could overlay that onto my everyday life.
I tried it out. And it worked.
More than any of the programs that I had participated in. More than any of the ‘tools’ I had been taught. I could use the mind’s natural adoration of stories to teach concepts to myself that were hard for me to grasp through my anxiety!
Because that is one of the issues when trying to heal some of the more fear based mental disorders, like anxiety. Healing makes you afraid, everything makes you afraid. So, by taking that fear outside of ourselves we are able to think of our fears objectively, like a character in a story is navigating them as opposed to ourselves. But because the character is in fact ourselves we still get to absorb the lessons.
We have used stories to learn from the time we were small children so if we do this consciously the effects ripple through our lives at an alarming rate and it makes healing a heck of a lot more fun.
And anxiety is one of the ways that we block ourselves from unlocking our true potential. We are all magical creative humans but since childhood the world and life in general puts blocks on our imaginative power. I believe all humans have innate intuitive gifts, so once I had used this method to heal my anxiety I moved on to see if I could use it to discover, well, my magic. And it worked again.
As writers and readers we have absorbed this amazing super power without even knowing it! Because we actively visualize every time we are digesting or creating a story we have a skill that some people never develop.
Visualization is the first step.
I encourage you, if you suffer from anxiety or any mental struggles for that matter to use this method. Visualize yourself as a character, any character, it can sometimes help to imagine yourself in your favorite book or in the world of one of your favorite stories.
Then, whenever you have a huge (or even not so huge) hurdle upcoming that you have to jump, visualize that as your villain, the major challenge that your character has to overcome. But, just as in a story, have your character go on a quest to reach that villain.
And, as with any good quest, there will be small challenges to overcome on the way. So lets say your ‘villain’ is your sister’s wedding in a month and you really don’t like being around a bunch of people and it is freaking you out. Start your quest with small things, like going to a friend’s get together that you ordinarily would have avoided.
Each time you do something like this create a challenge that your character of you completes. By tackling your fears and struggles in this manner you are tricking your mind into using your imagination to heal.
Here are some tips I have learned from doing this process.
~ Get really clear on what villain you are taking on at any given time. Give that villain personality. It is a story, remember, so make them scary to your character.
~Actually create a visual representation of you as a character and of your villain to look at. It can be a drawing or picture of your or even a cut out from a magazine. Just something for your brain to see.
~Find a buddy if you can! Having a spouse or friend who is also using the character method will make you talk about your characters and make the journey more real in your mind.
~Have fun! This is the imagination method of healing, don’t get bogged down just enjoy the ride!
When I first began doing this I was shocked at how quickly I was able to overcome some of my greatest fears. And I have seen this story method do the same for many others. It quickly became my mission to share this message of healing through stories with others. That is why I wrote my book and that is also why I became a coach. To show the beauty of imagination in being the most powerful tool we have at our disposal.
Stories are what make us human, and thusly our humanity is what makes our stories beautiful!