What does the horse whisperer do for people with horse problems? “The truth is I help horses with people problems,” he says. His lessons are far more reaching.
Home » Behavioral Health
Archive | Behavioral Health
The Art and Science of Patient Storytelling: Harnessing Narrative Communication for Behavioral Intervention
With the increasing interest in the use of narrative communication as a strategy for influencing health behavior, there has been an effort to develop standardized protocols for creating engaging stories and to determine the successful components of an effective story. Continue Reading →
Education and Training—Solutions That Often Don’t Fit the Problem
Education and training are the most common solutions when we run up against a performance discrepancy—a situation where we are trying to get people to perform according to a set of standards, expectations, or rules and they are failing to do so. Continue Reading →
Doctors telling patients to lose weight is not enough
Doctors are being asked to change their behavior toward their obese patients through guidelines developed by a group of medical organizations that include the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and the Obesity Society. Continue Reading →
Storytelling as Behavioral Therapy
I would like to talk about storytelling as behavioral therapy. As we all know, post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD, is a significant problems for many of our service members and Veterans. Continue Reading →
Healing Combat Trauma with Humorous Stories and Laughter
The last place you would probably expect to find a standup comedian would be in an Army uniform. But there I was for the better part of a decade, trying to make one of the most dangerous chapters of my life a laughing matter. Not because I didn’t take the Army seriously, much to the contrary. I took it very seriously, which is why when the laughter stopped I was in big trouble. Continue Reading →
Mirror, Mirror in the Group
The little boy loved to play army with his friends. There were the battles, the victories and the teamwork. As he grew older, he dreamed of doing something meaningful with and for other people. So he enlisted. But he never dreamed he would feel intense isolation after the battles ended and the teams disbanded. He would be alone with flashbacks of fear, guilt and horror.
In the military culture, it made sense to subdue vulnerable feelings – they didn’t exactly promote survival. So the soldier learned a new and necessary habit: emotional silence.
He did not know it, but his brain – like everyone else’s brain – recorded and retained information for the new habit in the basal ganglia. This is where neuropathways are formed for repeated behaviors.
So, later as a civilian, when he wanted to change this habit and he thought of sharing some of his experiences, he found it difficult and seemingly impossible. Relationships suffered. He suffered.
Blessed with a strong intuition, he accepted an opportunity to meet with some vets. As they everrr soooo sloooowly opened up about their feelings, his mirror neurons – like everyone else’s mirror neurons in the group – were activated. These brain cells are believed to mirror the behavior of others, so the quiet observer feels as though he is the actor.
He gradually saw and heard people who had similar and unique stories of horror, fear and guilt. Eventually, he felt that it was OK to share.
And guess what happened next?
In a safe and relaxing atmosphere, the childhood habit of teamwork and camaraderie overrode the adult habit of emotional silence. In other words, brain activity that is related to different habits – even opposite habits – can be remembered and rekindled by environments and situations when there’s a need for that specific habit. That’s what neuroscientist Ann Griel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tells us, and her work with habit formation won her the prestigious Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science.
There’s more good news. The brain is flexible, or plastic, so people can deliberately reinforce helpful habits. And even in stressful times, those chosen habits will get triggered more easily and more often. For healthcare providers, educators and anyone else interested in behavior change, that’s the best news.
There’s one last point to remember: When you need to use narrative communication to tell a story to influence behavior change, decide on which emotions you want your audience to mirror. Is it compassion and love, or is it guilt and shame?
Narrative Communication to influence Behavior Change
Sharing Learning through Narrative Communication to Influence Behavior Change
Saved By My Own Story
It has been a painfully slow climb out of darkness. For a really long time, I allowed past traumas to run my life. Bad stuff happened. Years went by. I couldn’t get beyond it. That’s called stuck. And being stuck sucks. Continue Reading →
It’s All About Behavior Change
Let me ask you a question. What do these concepts have in common?
Prevention, compliance, marketing, sales, assertive communication, setting limits, and incentives.
Look closely. The commonality may not be obvious because they are each associated with diverse areas of endeavor including medicine, business, interpersonal relationships, morale building and parenting.
Give up? Continue Reading →
Emotive Storytelling and The Challenge of Change
What is change? Most agree that “change” is the only permanent aspect of the universe.
Scientists acknowledge that matter changes — matter is the elementary substance of life. Evolutionary biologists tell us that our survival as a species, has depended on genetic changes. Over the ages, humans have had to adapt to a constantly changing environment.
And on the individual level, from the moment we’re born and throughout life, our physical body is undergoing constant change. So, we seem to have no problem accepting change as a fact of life.
Or do we? When it comes to the nature of the mind and human behavior change – its a different story.
It’s hard to change that aspect of who we are. That’s the challenge of change. Many of us think it’s too impractical or demanding. And when we do change occasionally, it seems most often – it’s a response to events or at the urging of others.
The 20th Century Indian and World Philosopher Krishnamurti – said it this way: “We must see the importance and absolute necessity of change. Changing ourselves in relationships, in our activities and in the process of our thinking. We all desire to help the world, but we never begin with ourselves.”
Think about it. Trying to change society while leaving individuals who make up society “unchanged”, is not only unproductive, it’s naïve.
Krishnamurti goes on to say “We want to reform the world, but the fundamental change must first take place within ourselves.” This means “…a change in our orientation, in our outlook, in our values, in our contacts, in the manner of our behavior and in the way of our thinking.”
No place is this more important than in regard to behavior change.
“Stories are instruments of change.” That was said by American philosopher Kenneth Burke. I agree with him and Krishnamurti.
Stories are capable of driving change in us. We are moved by them and make sense of our world through them. They can initiate change in our families and relationships. They can change understanding in our patients, customers and clients.
Stories open the door to the possibility. They enable us to be receptive to different viewpoints, to the lessons of others and to the value of making changes in our behavior.
In fact, stories may be the most effective way into the mind that will get us to even consider changing at all.
Since change is a fact of life perhaps you should help it happen with a story. You may go a lot farther with whatever you are trying to change. Something to consider.