Q. How is it possible to use ancient stories to deliver mental health information and strategies to our sons/daughters or clients?
A. Ancient stories, such as Aesop’s Fables, Dreamtime stories and even Norse Cosmology (e.g., 'Tree of Life') can be used to deliver important information, including mental health information, to young people. You could use an artefact, like a collection of old stories that you have gathered, and then you adapt the ancient stories into a modern day context. It doesn't have to be a long story.
You might use Shakespeare's quote, for example, "To thine own self be true" and ask your teen what they think this means and how they could apply this in their own life. You could use the quote by Napoleon Hill (originally Epictetus)... "Circumstances don't make the man, they reveal him to himself". Short quotes, metaphors, even simple phrases can build an image to help reframe situations from a different context so that young people see situations differently.
You might use a story or collection of stories, for example, that involves a young person with mental health difficulties or other problems who discovers a magical tree. The magical tree bridges the gap between ancient and modern worlds. You could talk about issues your young person may be struggling with. Weave them into the story and discuss when the young person is very relaxed.
In keeping with narrative therapy and the Indigenous art of storytelling, stories may be used to deliver important messages and information that can help with a range of situations and problems. Today's generation can, and should, learn from ancient knowledge.
Many teens and preteens will be familiar with the movie 'Thor'. In the movie, the magical tree concept is used to ‘bridge the gap’ and includes the Ancient Norse Cosmology of Yggdrasil, of Babylonian origins about 3000 to 4000 BC. Yggdrasil represents a magnificent world tree that grows at the centre of the universe, extending from the planets and stars, through the world of human affairs and into the chthonic underworld – thereby bridging the three realms of existence together (http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/sacred/worldtree.php). The world tree concept can symbolize a bridge between ancient and modern worlds and Thor draws a picture of it when he is speaking with Natalie Portman around the campfire.
As part of Story Image Therapy & Tools (SITT)™ you might ask the young person to draw 'The Tree of Life' and to place key words from the story onto the leaves of the tree. As they draw the tree and write the words, you could discuss the words in relation to your son/daughter or clients’ problem. You might also use 3D models that can explain the story and be discussed. In this way, you are using an eclectic approach – incorporating a variety of therapeutic techniques or ancient knowledge into a modern day story, your 'teen story'. The result is interesting and informative therapeutic or warm and involved parenting style, that teens and preteens from all cultures will enjoy and learn from.