our brain on stories

The Love Story Between Stories and Our Brain

Connecting with Stories – Episode 1

Food is a source of calm. And everything that happens during this time adds to this source code. That is why I began to tell my son stories during meal times.

Everyone loves stories. Why else would we spend hard earned money on novels, movies, and novels that have been turned into movies? It is the story that we want and the character that we become. We have now moved one step ahead and entered the domain of virtual reality as the character itself, transforming into either the saviour or the annihilator.

What happens when we are experiencing stories?

I don’t watch hard-hitting tales like those of sacrifice and tragedy because I end up crying over the character. Action scenes are what I prefer to watch, because I wish that I could punch and kick the bad guys just like the hero of the movie. Or deduce the criminal out just like Sherlock Holmes. Most of us can identify with the characters of the tale and this make us emotional.

How does this happen?

I like action movies because I have never been able to bash up anyone. Not the physical fist fight, but the mental one. I have always let others override me with their words or actions.

When I was in primary school, I was bullied. I have now understood enough to say that I let myself be bullied. This set off a pattern where I would succumb meekly to what others decided, overruling what I wanted to do. So, I developed a “wish” to be someone who could bash up the baddies. When we are going – “Oh! How I wish” is when we begin to emote.

I also like fantasy and who-dun-it tales. Every one of us identifies with certain character traits and interests and our preferences towards those stories move accordingly. When the brain receives information that corresponds to our interests and wants, it triggers emotions which triggers dopamine which creates strong memories.

What else happens?

Have you climbed mountains when the character of the story was climbing them, or fallen in love with the smart kid that your favorite character had fallen in love with? Sometimes, we fly along with superman or dance along with the star. Except that all of this happens in the brain. This happens because an interesting story can open up several areas of the brain – visual, language comprehension and processing, smell, auditory and movement. The listener connects intently with the teller, mirroring his emotions, becoming the story-teller himself.

When does story-telling begin?

Imagine you are going to buy a pastry from the shop. What is it that you are thinking? It begins with the want to eat the pastry and then moves to something like this – take money, ride the bike, reach the shop, choose the pastry, purchase it, come back home and eat the pastry.

This is a simple narrative, a story in its base form. We are filling our heads with hundreds of stories like these every day. Now, why do we do that? We do that to organise and remember what we have to do. How does this happen? It happens because of an activity called neural coupling. Neural coupling turns stories into ideas, or ideas into stories.

We are constantly telling ourselves stories and then we tell our stories to others. It could be a rag to riches story, it could also be the story of what your son told you last night before he went to sleep.

How can stories help?

Stories help us remember stuff. It could be the story of a plant growing up from a seed. Or it could also be the story of what you have to buy from the grocery store.

My brother keeps his stories organised. The books are divided into categories based on genre and then size. Movies are stored in folders based on language, genre, and favourite heroes. Yes, he is that bad at organization. My brother’s life is organised too. His mornings are organised, his work is organised, his vacations are well-planned. His home is spic and span and everything is in its place unless my niece wills it otherwise.

Stories help us stay organised. It is a story when you plan out and follow up on what you want to do during the day. Everyday becomes a story. Everyone’s life is a story. And every one of us has a tale to tell.

How do simple stories turn into a drama? Find out in my next post.

But as usual, it’s time for self-introspection;
• Do you prefer to read a book or watch a movie?
• What are your favorite kind of stories?
• Which part of the story do you connect with?
• What are your favorite own life stories? It could be meeting your friends for lunch or spending some time dancing. 
• How much time do you spend on your favorite stories?
• Has it helped or not?


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