Tag Archives: stories

let the wizard of oz help you!

i just finished reading norm amundson’s new book metaphor making. it is written to assist counsellors in making better use of metaphors and includes theoretical foundations and intervention exercises. the most interesting part (for me) were the forty metaphoric images that offer an in-depth practical and personal opportunity to experience working with metaphors. i’d like to give you a taste of it. this one is about the yellow brick road. since i’m thinking of using it with my immigrant clients who may not be familiar with the wizard of oz, and since some of you may have forgotten the story, here’s a short intro, adapted from amundson’s version:

once upon a time there was a young girl, dorothy, and her dog, toto.

one day they were swept away by a cyclone and carried away to the land of oz. dorothy was determined to get back home and found out she should get help from the wizard who lived in the emerald city.

on her journey there, she was joined by three companions: a lion who needed courage, a scarecrow who needed a brain, and a tin man who needed a heart. the foursome met traveled on a road paved with yellow bricks and they met many adventures, and good and bad witches.

in the end they found the wizard and it turned out he was no real wizard after all! still, they managed to reach their goals through the magical encounters they had had along the way.

amundson’s thoughts on this story:

sometimes we are unexpectedly blown away by strong winds that knock us off the ground and take us to new places. when that happens, we get confused and we have to create new plans.

in the story dorothy has silver slippers that have the power to take her home but she does not know that. instead she goes on a journey to get help from an expert who, it seems, has all the answers.

dorothy’s companions all have lost confidence in their natural abilities. together they represent passion, intellect and the courage to act – all essential elements of a happy life. they, too, are seeking to find help from the wizard.

when we are in transition (“on the road”) we often feel uncertain. there can be confusion and doubt that we are smart (the scarecrow’s missing brain) or emotionally strong enough (the tin man’s missing heart). we can feel fear, and that can take away from our courage to take risks (just like the lion).

still, it all gets resolved because of persistence, problem solving and help that comes in the midst of all the difficulties – often from unexpected sources.

the wizard in this story has maintained power through lies and illusion. maybe that’s similar to some job seekers who feel that there are negative forces that exert control over them (e.g. a bad economy). in the end, the wizard is unmasked. however, no-one kills or punishes him – he only is allowed to show his true, human face now – and it turns out that without his mask, he also can be helpful.

the morale?

the answers for many of life’s problems lie within us rather than in the hands of an all-knowing expert. there are also many ways in which people can support each other to reach their goals.

things to think about:

can you see any similarities between your situation and the story of the wizard of oz?

can you see some areas of your life where you may have more strengths than you are using right now?

if you were in this story, what would you be looking for: courage, passion, intelligence, a home – or something completely different?

can you think of another story that might have similarities with your situation right now?

emotional!

does this happen to you, too? once in a while you look at an obvious fact for the 1,285th time and all of a sudden, its profound truth hits you like a ton of bricks.

for the last few days, this profound truth was – well, let me say it this way:

humans are 60-70% water and 98-99% emotion.

as you can guess, this post is be mostly about emotion (i’ll leave the water to my good friend raul) although it is interesting to note that in some traditions, water is intimately connected with emotion – in most pagan traditions, for example, as well as in jungian thought.

freud spoke of the thin veneer of civilization, and boy, is it thin. even when we are rational (for example, in science). or maybe even then. how edgy we get when our thoughts/logic/rational arguments/fill-in-the-blanks are challenged! anger and fear arise, the stomach knots up, blood pressure rises, heartbeat increases and wham! we fight back. if we stay “rational”, our arguments will not be physically violent or replete with swearing; they will be well crafted and most likely laced with sarcasm, knowing we are right, an unwillingness (and inability) to hear the other and a frantic scrambling for hitting the other with more facts that prove our superiority.

the funny thing is that a truly rational response would be to reach out, to soften, to be curious. that is, assuming that one has in mind to have a true exchange between equals, which again would be a rational thing to do. we could define rational behaviour according to psychologist albert ellis as

acting, emoting and thinking in ways that are alternative-seeking, realistic, flexible and most importantly self- and social-helping and functional in helping humans in achieving their personal and social goals and desires

and somehow we find this incredibly difficult. currently i’m reading three books (you always have at least five books on the go, too, right?) that show just how deeply important emotion is to us. one is mark goulston’s just listen who keeps driving home the fact that in order to interact with people rationally, we need to make sure that they can actually hear us, without being prey to the “amygdala hijack”. the amygdala is part of our limbic brain (sometimes referred to as the reptilian brain) and initiates the fight or flight response. it compares incoming information (e.g. facial expressions, tone, body language, smells, etc.) with emotional memories. an amygdala hijack occurs when the amygdala decides that the information it has just processed threatens survival and hence any reaction needs to be fight, flight or freeze – and not be directed by the frontal cortex, which is the part that helps us act rationally (i.e. the amygdala “hijacks” decision making power from the frontal cortex). the amygdala will react similarly to the threat of being eaten threatened by the woolly mammoth and a perceived emotional attack.

the other book is daniel ariely’s predictably irrational. from the jacket cover:

not only do we make astonishingly simple mistakes every day but we make the same types of mistakes … we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. we fail to understand the profound effects of our emotions on what we want, and we overvalue what we already own.

fortunately, ariely proposes that

these misguided behaviours are neither random nor senseless. they’re systematic and predictable.

that’s good. it has such a – rational sound to it.

finally, a book i have been gnawing on for months now is made to stick – why some ideas survive and others die, by dan and chip heath. i’m “gnawing” not because it is hard to read – it decidedly is a joy to read – but because there is so much useful information in it. the main idea of the book is that in order to get a message through to an audience – students, for example – the last thing we need to do is inundate them with facts (which is something our rational brain likes to do). ideas that stick are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, contain a story, and appeal to our emotions.

they give an example of an appeal to help starving children in malawi, africa. one appeal provided very informative statistical bullet point to show reasons for giving; the other told of a little girl, and what the money would do to help her educate and provide her with medical care. not only did the story-based appeal result in donations over twice as high but also when potential donors were presented with both the story and the statistics, they still gave significantly less.

as i said, many of the points i made are pretty obvious. but do we really act on them? often, way too often, it seems that some irrational part of our brain tells us to keep hitting people over the head with too much rationality.

does that happen to you? how do you deal with it?

share your story

journallinghave you experienced recovery and healing in your life? goodtherapy, a great new resource for people who believe in affirmative therapy, therapy that is non-pathologizing, empowering, collaborative is starting a healing story collection. if you have something to share, go here.

the first contribution you’ll find starts like this:

once upon a time there was a wonderful little girl, sensitive, intelligent, gifted. she was so sensitive that it was easy for her to see words that weren’t spoken. words that other people did not speak swirled through the air but ended up inside of her.

when she was not very old, and couldn’t even describe it with words, she noticed that there was a shadow on her father.

when she grew old enough to express the feelings (though only in her own quiet little mind), these were her words: “i am not sure that my father loves me. sometimes he seems to love me. but i’m not sure that he really loves me. he is so far away. his eyes are heavy and sometimes when he looks at me it’s as if he doesn’t even see me, or he sees me from a long distance. i think his smile looks so watered down because it has to travel so far to come from him to me.”

for the rest, read on at little lil – a story about trying to be perfect