Creative Connections & Client Communications
December 31, Counseling InsightsTell a Story to Convey a Point
All teachers use stories, parables, and extended images to make their points. These devices allow vivification of the points being made; they support recall for a long, long time; they help enormously with persuasion.
In a delightfully absurd fictional work I wrote some 25 years ago, The Case of the Missing Moon, I had the astrologer-hero, Michael Mercury, in a consultation with a lady who, out of fear of the content of her horoscope, had “dispensed with the planets”!
Mercury thought fast and he told a storyto remedy the situation his client faced in her life. He told how he had been doing extensive research over the summer at the Sorbonne, and he had discovered much fascinating data about the so-called Arabic Parts and Fixed Stars. And then, in the most serious of tones, Mercury said, “and one of these Stars, which no one has ever studied, is named Ego Redemptionis. –Mercury’s client had told him that instead of the planets, she used all the parts and stars she could get her hands on, and Mercury knew he could make his point through that lexicon.
He told a strong story about redemption of the Ego, etc. He mesmerized his client with details … just enough, mind you, to regale her imagination with the therapeutic potential of this particular Star and Parts constructed with it.
And then he said, most solemnly, “And the reason this is important for you Miss Fortunata … the reason is, that this Star –Ego Redemptionis—is precisely on your Ascendant!”
Needless to say, in the story, this creative, fictitious account really hit home, and Mercury was the hero in a single-session therapy triumph over Miss Fortunata’s panicky insecurities. She would look at her horoscope in a different light … literally and figuratively!
While that is a humorous presentation, it is a portrayal of a serious technique. --I used it to be helpful to a female client, just a few days ago.
During the telephone conversation, at about the halfway point of the consultation, I asked my client how tall she was and how much she weighed. She and I were consulting on intimacy anxieties, and I needed to “see” her better over the phone. Her answers revealed she was about 20 pounds overweight.
“But I have men lined up all the time; that’s never a problem!” –But my early-50s client had not had a relationship in ten years –THAT was the problem. I told a story:
“You could stand to lose 20 pounds, and while I know it is not vitally necessary, I want to call attention to the fact that during the process, something happens. Losing the weight, the process, does something for you. It makes you feel more important. It makes you feel more significant … it puts you in control of your identity.
“The Germans have a great word for it:Ausstrahlung, which means emanation, that which beams out from you, that which people feel from us.
“I had a mid-life crisis some years back, a bit early for it to occur in my life, and, in my sadness, I gained a lot of weight. I was alone, really down; I was overweight in my own pit of sorrow.
“I finally got myself into gear, learned to cook in order to eat better, I exercised a lot, and I lost 62 pounds in 4½ months. [Surely, the client was wondering where I was going with this story with regard to her situation, since weight loss per se was not her issue. But his kept her engaged with my every word.]
“Now, I was on the Board of Directors of my city’s symphony Orchestra, and a big concert was planned to open the season. I was given the responsibility of coming forward on the stage and welcoming the public and making announcements about the season to come to everyone in the concert hall.
“I remember putting on my tuxedo which I had had for years. I felt sooooo fine: I could button it, and I felt I looked smashing. I can recall the feeling inside.
“I went out on the stage and felt great. I didn’t have the extra weight … but what I had in its place was a rejuvenated Self. --You got me? [And intentional intensification into the vernacular.]
“I’m caring for you to have a development program that is a happy process for you. –Your mother wouldn’t talk to you like that [a major issue from the past], but I am AND YOU have to talk to yourself like that!!!!!”
My client and I shared great rapport through this story. We went on to related issues. I knew the story was deeply set in her memory, able to be recalled into consciousness easily, probably for the rest of her life.
When the consultation was concluding, the mission of it all –for her to feel better about herself so she could relate to others with trust and enjoyment—was dramatically illuminated. My final words to her were, “And we agree, you have to do this yourself; it’s easy; it’s fun; it’s important. And this is the way you can start buttoning your tuxedo!!!”
The smiles and appreciation we exchanged had the sounds of a lady heading for newness.
Look into your life for a story that says something strong about development … or watch for stories like that about others … and tell a story to your clients to help you make your point. They’ll remember it for a long, long time.
Next update: January 30, 2004