How stories shape us

Stories have been told since the beginning of time even before writing was invented. That is how humans have passed knowledge in ancient times — by telling stories. Through the narrative we engage with each other, it’s a lot more than just a recitation of facts and events. Stories are speculative mirrors in which we see our worldview and ourselves in particular. Besides, they help to establish an emotional connection with people, help them understand us. 

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

– Pericles

As it is said, stories make history. They are central to human cognition, and with them the generational memory is preserved and morality exists.

Universality

We now live in the 21st century where ads, blogs, educational or funny information continuously bombards us from every direction. 

Does it mean that stories do not matter for us anymore? Definitely, no. 

The stories as a phenomenon are immortal. They can change their forms, scales and content, but they will exist until the end of civilizations. Stories preserve culture and pass on cultural knowledge from one generation to another. In essence, stories keep cultures alive.

Through taking an action a man becomes hero
Through death a hero becomes legend
Through time a legend becomes myth
Through hearing a myth…
A man takes an action.

– Unknown author

The legends and myths are nothing but stories. Almost every common story is a myth itself… a myth about values of little or big human beings’ cognition and worldview. Terminology can change, but the meaning will remain the same.   

Communication

Sometimes knowing a language is enough to establish verbal contact with other people. But for emotional connection you will always need something more sensitive. By telling stories we pass our passion, fears, happiness and sadness, and, through this, we find common ground with other humans.

This happens because of a specific feature of our brains: when we watch a PowerPoint presentation with certain bullet points and plot, our brain uses only its language processing compartment to access the words and determine their meaning. On the contrary, when we are hearing a story, our brain turns on not only the language processing part, but all the parts responsible for different experiences. In other words, our brain starts to empathize with the story. This is how emotional connection is established.   

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success”

– Paul J. Meyer

Decision-Making 

People make hundreds and hundreds of decisions subconsciously or consciously, making it a key component of their role in society. The narrative help us construct our mindsets, and thus, determine how we think, what we feel, and how we justify our decisions. 

There are a great many lessons to be learned from stories. We understand many aspects of life including social norms through them — that’s how we learn what is right and what is wrong, through lived experiences and stories. 

“I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.”

– Isaac Newton

As Newton said, our lives have a cumulative character. It means that every life-lesson, every idea and thought is based on former generations’ experience. Layer by layer, the knowledge lays on the outline of the History. And these are all the merit of not pure science, but stories. 

Worldview-Shaping

Stories reveal spiritual similarities between people. We learn to engage with each other within our diversity as we come to understand who the other people are and where is our personal place in this world. This is not solely an experience, it’s the combination of imagination, experience and knowledge.  

“I owe my solitude to other people”

– Alan Watts

Like Alan Watts’s world-famous quote, the crowd must exist so that we can learn solitude, the evil so that we can learn good. The stories are vehicles for such fundamental thoughts. Through such rich experiences, we come to understand our unique perspective and our place in the world.

In the right hands stories work as a verbal time machine. Through narratives, we discern not only our emotional state, but also the past generations. This is what shapes the morality of humankind. There is no human without morality, and there is no morality without stories. That’s why stories will always matter.

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