Why Stories Help Us Heal From Anxiety and Depression

They can open up our thinking.

Key points:

  • The drama about the U.K. Post Office scandal was powerful because it drew us into the heart of victims’ lives.
  • Stories connect with the brain’s right hemisphere, which enables us to see the fuller picture.
  • Because stories let us see differently, they can also help us out of conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • That is why human givens therapists learn to use stories to heal.

“It’s been impossible to move for the surprise and shock expressed on the airways at the power of drama.” So said Paddy O’Connell recently, in his BBC Radio 4 programme Broadcasting House, which airs on Sunday mornings.1

He was referring, of course, to ITV’s four-part dramatization of the 20-year Post Office scandal, Mr. Bates vs. the Post Office, which generated mass outrage in a way that nothing previously revealed about it was able to do.

As classicist Mary Beard commented in the same programme, drama, right back to ancient times, has made us look at things we might have looked away from and connect with them emotionally in a way that can change our thinking. Gwyneth Hughes suggested that the impact of the ITV drama, which she wrote, was so great because even the best documentaries somehow “appeal to your head rather than to your heart.”

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