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Monday, February 4, 2013

Aha Stories

There are some therapists who use therapeutic or inspirational stories as part of their therapy process. Sort of “a-chicken-soup-for-the-soul-adapted-for-the-therapy-hour” if you will. As we all have our own preferred colors and hues and the way we let our brush strike the canvas is as unique as one's own fingerprints I prefer to let the patient tell his own story. .

But then there are the times when a patient chooses to share a story that is not his own but for some reason he found enlightening. Such rara avis: a story found inspirational not by someone else but by the patient himself.

And today I was told one of these stories. Here it is:

Once upon the time there was a country where there was a very rich man who owned all the land in that country as far as one can see and a very poor man who owned nothing. Each man had a son.

When his son was almost ready to be a man, the rich man took him up the top of the tallest mountain in the country. 

And he said: “Son, look. One day everything you see will be yours.”

When his son was almost ready to be a man, the poor man took him up the top of the tallest mountain in the country. 

And he said: “Son, look.”

For some reason it was this story - from the many stories that my patient has heard or read - which brought that rush of insight, a true Aha moment.

What I learned from this story is how a simple message could hide layers after layers of meaning.

My analysis follows but reader be aware. Reading further is my breaking the above koan-like story apart. So please take a moment, read the story again, savor it, stay with it, draw, if you need to, your own conclusions and only then, if you still feel like it, come back to read my take on it. The risk is that if you will jump to reading my take on it before letting it sink you might see the magic of the story fading away.

There are many ways to present mindfulness. There are many stories alluding to the power of presence, complete awareness, or entire books for that matter about the Power of Now. At the same time there are stories galore about the inherently distracting and as such destructing power of focusing on external gratification. Whole religions have been built on the foundation of what St. Augustin sees as re-ligare, re-uniting the distracted mind with the unmovable side of things (internal and external).

Two and a half millennia ago Heraclitus noted that "everything flows, nothing stands still" to which a number of traditional religions and philosophers offered the solution that the way to wisdom and peace of mind is to see and accept things as they are in the moment. While everything changes from moment to moment, nothing changes in the moment, litt. inside the moment.

Not to mention the inherently distracting nature of material riches, forms without content, and of course Voltaire's "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien”. Aspiring to possess "everything you see" is not only the enemy of the good but a sure solution for the end of mental equanimity.

How so many things can be conveyed in the space of a 110 words story is in part what makes it magical, a true Aha story.

Many people have their own Aha stories. Stories that others might think strange or maybe in poor taste or made up or simply boring. Fairy tales or real life or may be just so stories.

I hope to hear back from you with any such stories. For a story to qualify as an Aha story it needs to have passed the test of an Aha moment. A moment of a sudden flush of understanding or insight following the reading, hearing or at times maybe remembering of a story one has heard a long time ago. And then yes, of course, it needs to be short. Less of a thunderstorm, more like a lightning. Short for enlightening, right? 

I hope you will share your Aha stories here as comments - if of reasonable length. Or, as always, you can email me your comments or, in this case, stories

Here is my promise: your Aha stories enhanced with my "psych" notations will be introduced to a worldwide audience through this blog. I will dedicate each story a full blog entry as long as the sender will share what about the story resulted in an Aha moment.

Looking forward to our Aha's.

© Copyright Adrian Preda, M.D.

1 comment:

Adolescent Psychiatrist said...

Storytelling is a powerful way to arrive at truth. I agree with you that sometimes, stories can bring that "aha" moment in a way nothing else can.
It sounds like this was a mutually beneficial session for both you and your client.
Really, therapy does often include much "story time," and there is certainly great healing value in both listening and telling these stories.
Thank you for the inspiration and challenge in this post.