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Your Assignment: Heal a Parent/Child Relationship with Good Storytelling

Colorful illustration of two people playing

Illustration Credit: Toy by Japneet Kaur

We tried talk therapy and it didn’t work. Our attempts at reconciliation always ended in recrimination and competition. The guilt of a father for deserting the family and the pain of a son who was abandoned remained too raw. In spite of our mutual love, we did not like each other.But storytelling transformed our troubled relationship. We discovered that a good story well told bypasses defenses. It sneaks into an ancient part of the psyche where disbelief is suspended and the listener identifies with the protagonist. An important story told from the heart exposes truth that admits of no negotiation and renders equivocation impossible; it must be heard. And then the only natural response is for the listener to tell a story in return.To invoke the transformative power of storytelling for your own troubled relationship, the teller must step into the primeval role of storyteller and invoke the sacred acceptance of the listener. Here are some practical tips for how to do this:Pick a specific scene/incident/memory related to your parent/child that has a strong emotional charge, something you can tell from the …

Adapted from Prodigal Father, Wayward Son: A Roadmap to Reconciliation by Sam Keen and Gifford Keen, Divine Arts, 2015.

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