Stories are important to us as humans because they carry the DNA of authentic human experiences. They move right past the numbers and statistics and put a face on every event that happens to each of us; sharing those events with others helps us to create meaning in our lives and in the lives of those with whom we’ve shared our stories.
That’s the power of stories that we know from personal experience, but there are several psychological reasons for the power behind them.
- Stories are the bedrock of culture and constitute a primal form of communication. The stories we tell form timeless links to ancient traditions, legends, archetypes, myths, and symbols. They connect us to a larger self and to universal truths.
- Stories are about collaboration, connection and belonging. Stories transcend generations and engage us through emotions, and they connect us to others. Through stories we share passions, sadness, hardships, and joys. We share meaning and purpose. Stories are the common ground that allows people to communicate, overcoming our defenses and our differences. Stories allow us to understand ourselves better and to find our commonality with others.
- Stories are how we make meaning of life and are the basis for our very thought process. Stories are the stuff of thought – whether we call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors, or narratives. Stories are how we explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we justify our decisions, how we persuade others, how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values.
- Stories provide the order and stability that humans seek. The narrative structure is familiar, predictable and comforting. Within the context of the story arc we can withstand intense emotions because we know that resolution follows the conflict.
- Stories take place in the imagination and work with the way we are wired. To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences. Stories create genuine emotions, presence (the sense of being somewhere) and behavioral responses.
By engaging our imagination, we become participants in the narrative. We can step out of our own shoes, see differently, and increase our empathy for others. Through imagination, we tap into creativity that is the foundation of innovation, self-discovery and change.