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One of important things about myths and stories is that person brings to it his or her own experience. Most of fairytales, folklore and parables we’ve passed down through ages are dense with meaning we can’t quite put our finger on. It doesn’t matter; we still ‘get’ them. I’ve never heard someone say, “What does that mean?” after such a story. More typically they are lost in thought, off in their own world which has been deeply touched. Consider for instance fairytale of “The Poor Little Match Girl.” I’ve heard this interpreted as a feminist warning against inaction. The child is alone and freezing to death, huddled in a corner, with only matches to burn to keep herself warm.
Eventually she uses them all up and an angel arrives to take her off to heaven. She has frozen to death. The feminist interpretation is that it’s a warning against, I guess, staying at home barefoot and pregnant.
Whatever someone else’s interpretation, here’s how I took it as a child:
I compared myself to little girl in story. I knew I was well cared for, smart, strong and brave. I felt sorry for poor little match girl who must’ve been beautiful (as all fairytale children are beautiful), but had been left alone in world without resources she needed and I had. I wanted to help her and people like her and knew that I could and would.
Instead of thinking “why isn’t she doing something?” or “what could she have done?” or even “I would’ve done this and this,” I was thinking, “I’ll never be in that position myself, and I know how to help others who are.”
What some readers interpret as a dire warning against inaction, I took as inspiration – an affirmation of my resourcefulness, and a call to action. I was Big Sister, after all, accustomed to comforting and caring for my younger siblings. It was no big deal to me.
I also felt that since I (or some other helpful person) hadn’t been there to help her, how nice it was to know that when she died, she was carried off to heaven in loving arms of an angel. If not love and comfort in one plane, then love and comfort in another. What a warm, wonderful world. Yes, I was that kind of kid, and yes, I remember those reactions clearly, though they were many decades ago. We bring to story what we have to bring to it, and we take away with us what we need to take away with us.
If you are very clever, you can learn to construct stories to fit your needs in communication. They can be as short as a metaphor or a simile -- “You’re badgering me,” or “You act like there’s no tomorrow,” or “You were my knight in shining armor, darling,” or “Sorry, but I’m taking off red shoes.”
And when you so, use that special tone of voice, once that gets into right brain. Don’t know what it is? Let me teach you. But don’t mistake this for manipulation. It isn’t like hypnotism, either. You can’t control another person, nor is it nice to try, and this isn’t designed to do it. Rather, it pulls on what’s already there, and what person is inclined toward in first place, or it wouldn’t be happening.
Consider it more like saying something without barriers and obstacles your own left-brain puts out in your own path that fogs your communication. Communication is a two-way street. You can also use many myths and stories already out there. Classic myths have endured for a reason; they talk about human nature and challenges we have faced since time immemorial that transcend time, gender, age and culture. “Cinderella,” for instance, is very good for little girls who have mothers who make them do things they don’t want to. Several different cultures have Cinderella-type stories, because every little girl has a wicked stepmother, yes?
I, on other hand, had most of my conflicts with me dad, and my favorite fairytale was “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” You know, one where girls get locked up in their rooms every night by their FATHER, king, but sneak out to go dancing [wink wink] and where at end, handsome soldier chooses ELDEST SISTER to be his bride, not baby [wink wink]. APPLICATIONS
If you’re a coach, therapist, teacher, manager, or even a partner in a relationship, consider using myth, metaphor and magic to communicate. If you’ve been around block a few thousand times, you know that in-your-face doesn’t work. In fact, “You can talk till you’re blue in face …” Words – left-brain type words – don’t work. Try something different.
Studying The EQ Foundation Course© (see my website) can help you, and is taught from a right-brained standpoint.
One last thing before you leave. Take a look at this brain candy produced by The International Association of Intercultural Education: www.bigmyth.com . Then ponder it (right brain), don’t think about it (left brain).
©Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach & Consultant, http://www.susandunn.cc . Coaching, business programs, Internet courses, teleclasses and ebooks on EQ. I train and certify emotional intelligence coaches, and am the author of “The Magic of Myths,” an Internet course, and “Can You Read Nonverbal Communication,” http://www.webstrategies.cc/ebooklibrary.html . Mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for FREE ezine; put “ezine” for SL.