101 Stores for Enhancing Happiness and Well-Being
Using Metaphors in Positive Psychology and Therapy
George W. Burns Routledge 2017
This book is full of thoughtful, inspirational, and useful ideas. Storytelling lies at its heart, the power of story-making, story-hearing, story-recreating. Burns’ work stands at a crossroads of Positive Psychology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness, and story-metaphor therapy.
It teems with the energy of his lively mind, as a therapist and a person whose eyes are ever-open to the world around him, producing a therapeutically-focussed, open-hearted, and life-engaged text, both scientifically-founded, and with that sense of a ‘twinkle-in-the-eye’ that makes for humour, thoughtfulness, and a wish to put his ideas into action in one’s own work. As a Creative Writing facilitator for Well-Being, I came away from the book with many potential lines of enquiry and further thought about the processes that may lead to change and healing.
Positive Psychology* is the bedrock of Burns’ work, and he utilises its PRO device
(P = Problem addressed; R = Resources developed; O = Outcomes offered) to structure his choice and use of story and focus in therapeutic sessions and beyond. This gives a clear-sighted path towards change, and the goals of change.
The metaphors/stories are presented in 17 themed chapters, the majority containing an introduction to the theme, and six stories that explore the theme and offer varying ways of approaching it. Each chapter’s title names the area of human experience in focus. These include: Finding and Using Strengths; On Being Accepting; Being Mindful; Changing Patterns of Behaviour; Learning from Experience; Improving Loving Relationships; Being a Problem-solver; etc. A wide range indeed.
The stories themselves come from many sources, but the majority arise out of the author’s life experiences, his therapeutic practice, personal life, reading, and wider interests, and this itself reflects the important final chapter’s concern with encouraging the reader’s own awake observation of life, leading to a creative storymaking that may be offered as inspiration to the client or group. This, in turn, it is hoped, leads to a creative self-storying for each client, effectively seeing creative work as a tool for self-determination, and self-empowerment.
Burns’ storying tone is down-to-earth, empathic, experimental, and clearly-focussed. Whether one shares his grounding in Positive Psychology or not, or feel drawn to many of the stories he narrates, I find here a cornucopia of images, themes, inspiration and encouragement for use in Creative Writing for Well-Being settings, and in enabling our own choices in material for positive change. These stories, for me, are models, examples of what we can create out of our own experience and study and art, for our own and others’ therapeutic benefit. Here are tools for reflection, given in a non-authoritarian, empowering voice, for facilitators and participants to explore and make use and take further.
*According to the Positive Psychology Center, “Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.”
Rob Henley taught in Steiner Education for many years; is a trained counsellor, and facilitates Creative Writing for Well-Being groups in Bristol.