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The Healing Power of Stories; Creating Yourself Through the Stories of Your Life by Daniel Taylor. New York: Doubleday, 1996 182 pp. $31.95 CAN, $22.50 US. ISBN 0-385-48050-4
Seeing our lives as stories is more than a powerful metaphor, Daniel Taylor says in the itroduction. "By better understanding story, and our role as characters, we can live more purposefully the kind of life that will give our own story meaning." Taylor uses his own life stories, mixed with numerous examples from literature, philosophy, psychology, and religion (he describes himself as a Christian humanist) to demonstrate how stories shape our view of the world and carry meaning for our lives.
He defines story as the telling of the significant actions of characters over time. It is the telling of the story that first marks its humanity, and while a story needs only a teller, every teller hopes for a listener. "This is the essential invitation of story: 'You come too'. In this invitation resides its formative and healing powers."
This is not a self-help book nor a handbook on how to create yourself through stories, although it does have an appendix in which Taylor lists questions to assist you in identifying your defining
stories. Rather, it is an engaging and personal essay on story and its life and character shaping effects. Taylor asserts that even the darkest stories can have life-enhancing possibilities, that a story of disconnectedness, once told, might result in an easing of the disconnected feeling. He argues that character has been replaced by personality in today's society, and says the best road to a healthy self lies in the question "Who do I want to be like?", not in fine tuning our personalities. Not all stories are created equal he says in the final chapter as he addresses relativism, responsibility and the stories provided by, and necessary for, a healthy community. "We will be defined as individuals and as a society by the stories we choose to live and by those we value enough to pass on to the next generation. This is perhaps our ultimate responsibility as characters acting freely. What stories will we tell our children and why? What stories will they choose to tell in turn?"
The Second Story Review, Vol 2, No 3 December 1997