by Alison Davies
Life without stories is a little like art without colour or pattern. Stories are so much more than narratives to entertain and amuse us, they’re a part of who we are and a way of connecting with our environment. Our ancestors soon learnt the power of a good tale, it was a way to bond, build an oral history and most importantly to make sense of the world. The narratives that they created were the building blocks of society, covering the nature of light and dark, good and evil and everything in between. These folk tales, which were in the most part used to explain things they didn’t fully understand, soon developed into myths and fairy tales, some we might recognise today. They became every day blueprints, showing us how to live and the consequences of our behaviour. They also provided inspiration and encouragement when times were tough.
Consider for a moment the forbidden forest, a place that occurs frequently in fairy tale land. Feared by all, it harbours deep and dark secrets, dangers like the big bad wolf, or the scary witch. Think Hansel and Gretel as they were led deeper in to this spooky landscape, the terror they must have felt at being lost in the woods and then coming face to face with the witch. But as scary as this story might appear, they manage, through some ultra quick thinking on Gretel’s part, to escape the witch’s clutches and emerge from the forest unscathed. That’s not to say they weren’t changed by the experience, but it’s a happy ending and they find their way home feeling no doubt bolder and braver than when they first set off. This story might seem a simple tale of good overcoming evil, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. The forest was a scary place to the Ancients. It represented the unknown, but even though they were afraid they had to overcome this because the forest was also the place that provided food and fire wood. So to combat this fear they made up stories like Hansel and Gretel. For surely if two lost children could enter the forest and defeat the witch, then they as great warriors and hunters could be brave enough to plunder its depths? Over the years this symbol of the forest has grown in importance and although we may not have to hunt and forage as our Ancestors once did, we still have to face people and places that distress us. Here again we can identify with this story and it becomes relevant.
Let’s consider for a moment your own fears and phobias. In most cases these are the result of some past trauma or event from early childhood. If you can remember that event then you probably recall it often in your mind, like playing out a movie. As you do this it grows in size. Imagine the difference if you could take that story and turn it into something positive? So instead of the school bully embarrassing you in front of the class and leaving you a quivering wreck, you stand up for yourself and feel empowered and brave. This might seem hard at first, but if you plan out a simple storyboard with a beginning, middle and end and identify the core message, you’re half way there. The next step is to change the core message to something positive, so fear becomes courage, sadness – happiness, and so on. Finally you need to transform the outcome to ensure it matches the new core message. So ask yourself, what needs to change in order to do this? Make a point of reading the story out loud, once a day for around a month and you’ll soon notice a difference. The ideas you’ve reinforced with the old tale will start to fade away because they’ve been replaced by the new narrative. You’ll soon feel empowered, positive and able to move forwards.
The most important stories are the ones we tell ourselves and we often don’t realise we’re doing it! Think how many times you’ve been tempted to go for a goal or dream, but then you’ve started to tell yourself that there’s no point, that it never works out for you so why waste your time and energy. You’re telling a tale of how you predict things to be and building that narrative into your subconscious mind. All you need to do to change the outcome, and manifest the things you want is to create new narratives and build them into your psyche. This might sound complicated, but it’s the simplest thing in the world because we’re all storytellers. It comes naturally!
Using fairy tales accelerates the process because these stories work on a deeper level. They incorporate themes and symbols that we can all identify with, and that triggers something in our subconscious mind. Plus, let’s be honest here, it’s lots of fun! Fairy tales take us back to our childhood and there’s something equally delightful and primal about this. My work as a storyteller has meant that I’ve worked with so many different people, from various backgrounds and cultures. Everyone is unique and everyone has a story to tell. The most common phrase I hear at my sessions is ‘I’m not very creative’, and that always makes me smile because we can all engage our creative spirit. Interestingly, fairy tales play an important role in helping us do this, because they fire up the imagination and transport us to another world. The Victorian’s called them ‘wonder tales’ and I can see why. It’s ironic then, that many of these stories are based on folk tales, which were written to explain this world and our place in it. But once you start to immerse yourself in the realms of storytelling and the joy of fairy tales, you’ll begin to see and experience this magic everywhere!
Be Your Own Fairy Tale
Available from Watkins Publishing from October 2015.
Pre-order on Amazon
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