The American poet and political activist Muriel Rukeyser said "The universe is made of stories, not atoms." Ursula K. LeGuin has been quoted as saying, "There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories."

And yes, alright, they are both quotes by storytellers but these statements would suggest that storytelling is pretty important to all cultures. Elsewhere I have said (and I'm by no means the only one) that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we can use to change our lives. How exactly? How does storytelling help us change our lives more than, say, political action or direct protest? Apart from the fact that political action etc. might not change anything or, even if it does, it might not effect lasting change that sort of process is an external process. Storytelling on the other hand, either as the giver or the receiver, has a hidden internal process.

It can engage us emotionally, intellectually or both and the stories can have a hot line to our subconscious, essentially sidestepping the need to rationalise the narrative. Like insightful music or art it engages us at a deeper level.

Profound stories are a lover's arrow to the heart. And the story is working its magic at a deeper level while we are being engaged, entertained and maybe even laughing heartily. Our willingness to suspend disbelief as we immerse ourselves in the journey allows the story to access our inner being. And since a story will nearly always offer us empathy somewhere it will also be participating in the healing of our wounds.

Stories can also help people who are seeking to change their lives by offering different ways of living. They can provide practical solutions to some of our problems and inspire us to great things which, at other times, might astound us.

If we are the storyteller ourselves then healing might take place as we express what we feel we need to. Many a storyteller has used elements of autobiography to express their pains and pain expressed - even, and maybe especially, through humour - is sometimes pain released. It is, in any event the beginning of healing.

Now, lest all this sounds terribly worthy, stories are fun. But they are also profound and the need for storytelling is severely underestimated in our Western society and often seen as a trivial pursuit fit for children but not really an adult activity unless we are too tired to do anything but plonk ourselves in front of the telly to watch a soap. The severe underfunding of the arts in the UK is an illustration of how unnecessary consecutive administrations (thinking they are executing the will of the electorate) consider storytelling (in all art forms) to be.

A society without storytelling is a sterile and emotionally poverty-ridden society. People underestimate the power of stories. They dismiss them as 'just a story' therefore something without truth or significance. But if stories are 'just stories' and hold no power how come so many people in control of the entertainment and publishing industry (not the creative people themselves) want to change your story and make it adhere to a formulaic template which says the same thing everyone else is saying thus reaffirming the status quo?

At their best, stories threaten the status quo which is why the status quo (the big corporations who control the entertainment and publishing industries, not to mention governments) won't easily publish or endorse controversial or subversive material (unless they see its commercial potential when it has been released by an independent source).

Thus stories and storytellers have the potential to be at the vanguard of shifting paradigms while those who hold power want stories which reflect the old paradigms which keep them in power. Therefore they will seek to censure and censor the stories and storytellers who stand for and advocate the very changes they fear.

Change is inevitable though, however gradual, and stories and storytellers can be the midwives helping to ease the pain of the birthing. Ergo storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we can use to change our lives.

We are all on a journey and a journey is a story. It has (finally) a beginning, a middle and an end (of sorts) even if we haven't come to the end of ours just yet. Stories are a means of expressing that journey and speak to the human need to make sense of life and to address the big questions of life and death. They communicate knowledge, are entertaining and they stimulate the imagination. Storytelling is emotionally involving, nurtures community and helps us heal. Storytellers and stories help us move on into new paradigms.

We are nothing without our stories.

Author's Bio: 

I have been writing professionally since 1976 for stage, TV and radio with forays into journals and magazines. Prior to that I was an actor, theatre director and stage manager, though I trained as a journalist. I also host workshops whenever I am invited, which, originally theatre-based, have increasingly ventured into the world of self-development, empowerment and healing after I discovered I had a gift for the latter (more about which can be found on my website, address below). I have taught at a number of universities, in fact I still do, and I have just started offering an online creative writing course, details of which can be found at The Write Inn . Also please visit