We have no control over many of the things that happen to us in our lives but if we can make sense of what has happened, we will usually construct a narrative to explain it to ourselves. This narrative is more than just a story, it’s our escape hatch after trauma. It’s what we can use to help us to overcome whatever horrible disaster has befallen us. Climb over it. Make good our escape.
Dan Siegel maintains that people who have horribly traumatic childhoods make excellent parents once they can make sense of their own story – no matter how awful.
No matter what happens – once you can look it in the eye and make it your story it loses its power to control you.
We have told stories since forever which means they are commonplace in our societies. But common as they are, they are still essential to our well-being, safety and resilience.
We explain away myths and legends as primitive ways to explain the natural world – and they did indeed have a function in this regard – but it’s possible that they mean more than just that to us. It’s possible that they explain truths and experiences that are too subtle or difficult to approach in other ways and it’s possible that they allow us to construct narratives that function like ladders on which to climb out of the holes into which we may have been thrown.
If this wasn’t the case, then why do we still love to tell and hear stories? Whether it’s science fiction or vampires, rom-coms or action adventures surely our attraction to stories – myths – is because they are still fulfilling the same purpose for us that they have since time immemorial?