Show and Tell

Mental health is the emotional and spiritual resilience which allows us to enjoy life and to survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in our own, and others’ dignity and worth. (ref. 1)

Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist, founded psychoanalysis after having become interested in Joseph Breuer’s ‘talking cure’ (ref. 2). Over the last hundred years some form of therapy involving talking has persisted and is still popular with many health professionals influencing the use of both storytelling and digital storytelling within clinical practice and within arts and health (ref. 3).
Though beneficial for many, I have often felt there is a proportion of people who would be daunted by applying such storytelling to their own situation due to the very personal nature of their experiences or the way in which they have reacted to and dealt with those experiences. From my own observations, such ‘storytelling’ can be a sanitised version of events. Research has also shown that people’s subjective version of events coupled with people’s variable ability to remember events has made the utility of stories within psychotherapy problematic. As Henry reports: “So the stories that people present in therapy may be just that, stories bearing little relation to reality” (ref. 4).
However, growing evidence suggests the importance of emotional intelligence, “the ability to interpret and handle emotions effectively” for positive outcomes within many aspects of life (ref. 5).

A collaboration between myself and Clare Potter, a performance poet and creative writer began in 2010. This was initially funded by the Women’s Arts Association who had sought innovative proposals from artists and creative practitioners wishing to explore the potential of digital technology in relation to their own practice whilst responding to the theme of 'The Unseen and the Unspoken'. Therefore, much of this collaboration has been about exploring storytelling without the actual telling of the story, instead focussing on how creative expression (of emotion) can be a powerful substitute for speaking directly about issues that affect individuals and society as a whole.

There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion. – Carl Jung

Below are two audio pieces from the collaboration. Please note there is some swearing in 'Anna Speaks'.

Chatter                                                                                                           Anna Speaks


ref. 1: Health Education Authority, Mental Health Promotion: a quality framework. (London: HEA,1997)

ref. 2:
John Launer, ‘Anna O and the ‘talking cure’’, QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 98.6 (2005), 465-6

ref. 3:
Elwyn, G., and Gwyn, R. (1999). Stories we hear and stories we tell: analysing talk in clinical practice. British Medical Journal; 318: 186-188.
Greenhalgh, T. (1999). Writing as therapy. British Medical Journal: 319: 270-27T.
Greenhalgh, T, and Hurwitz, B. (1999). Why study narrative? British Medical Journal; 318:48-50.
Hudson Jones, A. (1999). Narrative based medical ethics. British Medical Journal; 318: 253-256.
Launer, J. (1999). A narrative approach to mental health in general practice. British Medical Journal; 318: 117-119.
Philipp, R., and Robertson, I. (1996). Poetry helps healing. The Lancet; 347: 332-333.

ref. 4: Jane Henry, ‘Strategies for Achieving Well-Being’ in A Life Worth Living, Contributions to Positive Psychology, ed. by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Isabella Selega Csikszentmihalyi (Oxford University Press, 2006)

ref. 5: Daisy D. Grewal and Peter Salovey, ‘Benefits of Emotional Intelligence’ in A Life Worth Living, Contributions to Positive Psychology, ed. by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Isabella Selega Csikszentmihalyi (Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 104