The Power of Storytelling

The Power of Storytelling

Across every country and culture, people have used stories to share knowledge and information. In fact, storytelling is the oldest known mechanism for learning.

Human stories share common themes about struggle, loss, joy, and journey making. Our personal stories explain our past, describe the present, and point the way toward the future. The stories we tell about ourselves define us, including our life satisfaction and personal effectiveness (Feinstein & Krippner, 2008). Storytelling has historical significance, universal appeal and accounts for the shared evolution of the human psyche.

“Storytelling is an ingredient for growth, change, and health.” G. F. Lawlis 

Recent breakthrough research in neuroscience reveals that when we read or listen to stories, our brains become active participants rather than passive spectators, making storytelling especially useful for personal development. Other developments in neuroscience indicate that storytelling is also important tool for healing, change and personal growth (Lawlis, 2007).

But why?

Stories give us insight into ourselves. They help us understand our own actions and the behavior of others (Barclay, 2007). Human brains are literally wired to make sense of stories because the brain is designed to link metaphors and literal happenings automatically.

The brain is a problem-solving machine. It makes predictive decisions based on known patterns and causal relationships. However, brain science also proves our decisions are unconsciously driven by our emotions even though we believe ourselves to be making decisions based on ‘logic.’  Because emotion rather than logic is the primary force that drives most of our decisions, stories are proven to be the most effective means of learning, information sharing, and connecting people emotionally.

Day-to-day life requires us to analyze and quickly make decisions from a mass of complex information; stories help us make sense of life’s paradoxes and complexities. Researcher Dr. Keith Oatley suggests that storytelling acts as a life simulation tool, because “negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky” (Mar, Oatley, and Peterson,  2009). One research study indicates that people who frequently read fictional stories are more able to empathize with others and see the world from a variety of perspectives (Mar, Oatley, and Peterson,  2009).

Storycatching® builds on the power of storytelling to illuminate the structure of personal narratives. Stories reveal themes and patterns, helping children develop personal insight. Through storytelling, children make sense of their emotions and experiences. They learn to transform stories of struggle or loss into joyful stories–life stories of their own design.


Feinstein, D., & Krippner, S. (2008). Personal mythology: Using ritual, dreams, and imagination to discover your inner story. Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press/Elite Books.

Lawlis, G. F. (2007). Story as Personal Myth. In S. Krippner, M. Bova, & L. Gray (Eds.), Healing stories (pp. 177-192). Charlottesville, VA: Puente.

Mar, R. A. (2011). The neural bases of social cognition and story comprehension. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 103–134.

Mar, R. A., Oatley, K., & Peterson, J. B. (2009). Exploring the link between reading fiction and empathy: Ruling out individual differences and examining outcomes. Communications, 34, 407–428.

Mar, R. A., Oatley, K., Hirsh, J., dela Paz, J., & Peterson, J. B. (2006). Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 694–712.