Skip to main content

This Is Your Brain On Storytelling

  


   “Careful the things you say,” go the lyrics to one of my favorite Stephen Sondheim ballads, “children will listen.” And so they do. And by “they” I mean “we” because we were all children once and the stories we heard and saw in our developmental years can be annoyingly difficult to get out of our heads. It often baffles and bewilders my clients who, through the storytelling process of psychotherapy, begin to see how a parents’ story – even one that was carefully and consciously avoided – has become part of their own.

     Listening is the connective tissue in relationships, and as member of a profession that demands listening with a maximum of attention, it was with great interest that I read a research study showing that a listener's brain activity synchs up with the brain of the storyteller. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Psychological Sciences published a study that showed "coupling" in the brain waves of tellers and listeners, some visible evidence of the way our consciousness connects. And here's the kicker. This is an effect "that vanishes when participants fail to communicate."

      The stories we hear change our brains. The stories we tell change others' brains.  This is how psychotherapy heals. It is how relationships grow. Think of listening as the expression of connection with the important people in your life and you will participate in shifting the narrative. Think of how the stories we tell define us to the people who receive them, and their impact on how others feel and think. "Careful the tale you tell," the Sondheim song continues, "That is the spell, Children will listen."

Jude Treder-Wolff is a trainer/consultant, writer and performer. Her current show is Crazytown: my first psychopath in performance at Actors Theatre Workshop, 145 W. 28th St., Third Floor, New York, NY. More information available at www.judetreder-wolff.com

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Improvisation Games & Exercises For Developing Emotional Intelligence

Since September Lifestage has been offering a monthly training workshop exploring the use of improvisation to develop Emotional Intelligence. These workshops have been geared toward the work done by clinicians, educators and trainers who guide the process of personal change or professional development, but as it turns out we have enjoyed some interesting diversity among the participants -  managers, business owners with both employees and customers, community activists, and performers. 
    Below is a collection of the exercises we have used in the workshops, accompanied by some studies that supports their use. 


Why Improvisation?
Improvisation is a powerful way to become aware of mental habits and patterns. Reflecting on our inner experiences after engaging in an improvisation exercise provides an opportunity to decide whether our mental habits are effective and useful or self-limiting and obsolete. The tensions of the creative process and this kind of interpersonal interaction are a fa…

WARM-UP EXERCISES FOR GROUP WORK - For Therapeutic, Educational or Training Groups

Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP, Director of Training at Lifestage, Inc and Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP, Trainer/consultant and writer/performer. Follow on twitter @JuTrWolff


   “To begin assembly one must have the right attitude,” goes a Japanese instruction for assembling a particular object, as quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance. The "right attitude" is one that best serves the action we are preparing to engage in, just as an athlete warms up his/her muscles before using them in the stress of a work-out or game. Psychological and emotional "muscles" that are properly warmed up will perform more effectively and make it less likely that we will experience strain or allow fear to produce a shut-out when things get rolling.
    The right warm-up makes everything learned in a training situation or classroom more accessible and immediately useful to the trainee/student. New skills and knowledge - in education, personal growth or a professional train…

IMPROV RULES: Social-Emotional Development From The Classroom To The Consulting Room Using AI

"I think improv helps people become better humans. It makes people listen better. Improv rules are life rules. And so, if a lot more people are taking improv, a lot more people are being thoughtful in their daily life about how they interact with each other....We could say that saying 'yes' is the foundational thing, but really its listening and hearing what the other person is saying. Then building off of that rather than waiting for someone to stop talking so you can say your thing. That's the hardest thing to learn as an improviser-its to listen. And I think that's one of the hardest things to do as a person." 
Learning To Listen, With The Help of Improv, on Atlantic.com
Improvisation can be a seemingly magical experience from the perspective of both improviser and observer. People with little or no actual knowledge about one another, in an empty space, create a world, a relationship, a story with neither script nor director nor defined outcome. It can appea…