Once upon a time … all stories began that way. At least around my house. “Tell me a story,” I would beg my mother, or my grandmother, and they would sit back, with a twinkle in their eye, often pulling me into their lap, and begin … “Once upon a time.” [sigh]
Key to experience, there was no eye contact. I sat beside them, or on their lap, or they were lying down beside me at bedtime, or driving car. It wasn’t an in-your-face experience. This is part of it. Part of what? Let me tell you a story first, and then I’ll tell you about telling stories.
So settle back, close your eyes, and let’s begin …
Once upon a time there was a wise and powerful king who had two vassals. One, Sir Rodrick, was known for being stingy and mean. The king sent him out on a task. He was to travel kingdom and find one good person.
Sir Rodrick returned after many days saying in all kingdom he hadn’t been able to find one good person. He said he had found some who did some things that appeared to be good, but it was an illusion, and underneath they were all selfish and wicked. As to a truly good person, there were none.
Next, king sent Sir Roland out on a mission. Sir Roland was known for his generosity and love for his people. His task was to travel kingdom and find one bad person.
Sir Roland failed as well. He returned many days later saying in all kingdom he had not been able to find one bad person. He had found some who inadvertently went astray, temporarily, but underneath they were all good and kind. As to a truly bad person, there were none.
AND THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS …
What do I have to say about this story? Not a thing. Anything I say would damage it for you. It speaks for itself, and it speaks to you in its own way, and that’s way good stories are. The ones that begin with “once upon a time…”
MYTH, METAPHOR & MAGIC
In a fascinating article called “Myth, Metaphor and Magic,” Patrice Guillaume explores power of Three Ms as related to functions of left and right brain. Our left hemisphere is analytical, logical and linear; it sees trees and not forest. Our right hemisphere is highly specialized to manage complex relationships, patterns, configurations and structures; it cannot see trees for forest. The two hemispheres function well together, and not so well alone.
Here’s how different they are. In research with individuals who’ve lost function of one hemisphere or other, it’s been discovered that when told to “match’ a picture of a cake, left hemisphere will match it functionally – choosing a spoon or a fork. The right hemisphere will match it according to appearance – choosing something with same shape, such as a hat.
SPLIT BRAIN RESEARCH
In their book “Left Brain Right Brain,” Michael Gazzaniga and Joseph LeDoux draw conclusion that major task of left hemisphere (our “verbal self”) is to construct a reality based on our actual behavior. The left brain doesn’t always know why we’re doing something. “It is as if verbal self looks out and sees what person is doing, and from that knowledge it interprets a reality.”
So, somewhat simplified, you could say our behaviors originate in right brain, while our left brain is left to justify our actions. I’m sure you know feeling of trying to explain something you did, when you really haven’t a clue!
Now, follow this line of reasoning: IF our behavior originates in right brain (and is only explained intellectually in left);
AND we want to change someone’s behavior (as a parent, coach or therapist, for instance) or change our own;
THEN why not save our selves some trouble and talk to right brain, not left brain.
Makes perfect sense. But … if right brain doesn’t use words, how do we communicate with it? The answer is …
Analogic communication includes figurative language, puns, jokes, metaphor, poetry, art, music, ambiguities and allusions as well as non-verbal communication, such as posture, gestures, facial expressions, voice inflection, tone of voice, and sequence, rhythm and cadence of words themselves.
It’s descriptive, stuff of myth, metaphor, dreams and “once upon a time” type stories.
In a way that’s hard to explain, because “explaining” is what left brain does, information take into right hemispheres has far more effect on behavior. It’s way to “reach” someone, to “touch” them. Intuitively we know this.
Along with this is NOT-IN-YOUR-FACE experience. When we get in someone’s face – literally and figuratively – guard of Other goes up. Down comes reflector shield, and up come defenses. We turn off and tune out. When a story is delivered, without intimidation of eye contact, effect is different.
DOES IT WORK?
Want someone to get up and help you clean house? Try playing a march by John Philip Sousa. Go here: http://www.laurasmidiheaven.com/Patriotic.shtml and play “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Oh yes! (My son and I used to clean house to this when he was a preschooler. Not a problem.)