Crazy talk

Stories are everywhere these days. In science, medicine, art, therapy, politics ... all of these fields have recognized the power and the value of both listening to and telling stories.

It seems to me that this emphasis on stories as vehicles of learning and understanding can be traced in part to the work of Carl Jung. As he notes in his autobiography, Memory, Dreams, Reflections, when he first got his start in psychiatry, the standard procedure was to type patients by their outward behaviour, to assign them to a predetermined category of mental illness and then diagnose treatment. Jung developed a different approach, one that seems self-evident today. He was one of the first psychoanalysts to recognize that what his patients were actually telling him about themselves -- their lives, their dreams, their "crazy talk" -- was important. He was one of the first to listen to their stories.

Jung believed that the human personality desired to evolve out of unconscious processes towards an experience of wholeness and awareness that he called individuation. He noted that "I cannot employ the language of science to trace this process of growth in myself, for I cannot experience myself as a scientific problem."

Where the language of science can't or won't go, what language is there? The language of Story.




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