Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
© 2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
"Give people a fact or
an idea and you enlighten their minds;
How many healers does it take to pick the sweetest peach at the very top of the tree of life? None. True empowerment, maturity, fulfillment and enlightenment come from within the individual seeker through well-earned growth. The healer simply steadies the ladder while you go pick your own peach.
Stories are empowering collaborations between storyteller and listener that create a common ground of emotional identification and personal resonance. Storytelling catches our attention, holding it in a deep contemplation on our relatedness as beings, suggesting profound remembrances of our true identity. They are one of the oldest and most successful teaching tools for transmitting the morals and values of human behavior, encompassing both individual and cultural norms. In communicating a sense of being about individuals, personal stories become healing for us all.
What gives stories their healing quality? Through the power of the Word, the unseen hand of God takes us one step closer to understanding our reason for being. Layers of meaning redirect us toward wholeness and purpose. Ultimately storytellers are agents of the Divine providing scaffolding for our everyday lives, ushering in profound lessons that steer us through the portals of self-transformation to self-transcendence.
As a practicing psychologist for two decades, I have had the privilege of sharing hundreds of people's courageous journeys and stories of healing. I have found that the single thread that runs through them all is the shift from an existing hell of separation into a living heaven of oneness. In the spirit of Christian tradition, hell and heaven can be likened to states of mind: hell representing a complete and final separation from God, resulting in the eternal suffering and misery of those who died unrepentant in sin; and heaven designating a perfect union with God that yields supreme happiness and eternal life achieved by those who honored God and His precepts of good.
Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher, mathematician and creator of a whole system of ethics, is most instructive in clarifying this shift from separation to oneness. According to his principle "all is numbers", all things in life can be reduced to mathematical relationships. Thus, in his system, the number "2" took on the meaning of two-fold and duplicitous. Hellmuth Kaiser, a colleague and contemporary of Sigmund Freud, declared that duplicity, that is, self-deception, is the universal symptom of neurotic behavior. When worried by doubt, you think twice; when anything is folded twice, it might hide something. Being dual or two-faced doesn't inspire trustworthiness or healing.
For Pythagoras the number "1" represented unity and goodness. One is the root for "atone," so atonement is being "at one" with God once again. The Latin word "unus" or "one" forms the words unity, unison, unanimous and union. The Latin word "integer," meaning "intact", "whole" or all in "one" place, yields the word integrity and relates to the English words whole, holy, hale, hallow, wholesome, heal and health. These words name healing as oneness within his ethical system.
A quality of completion is a keystone of healing stories. Leaving anything undone or unfinished will tend to nag at us mentally and emotionally. The psychological phenomenon called the Zeigarnik effect states that we tend to remember what we don't complete, especially negative messages. The healing stories contained in this book exemplify oneness, particularly life affirmative experiences. They offer the promise of closure and empower us to make whole the loose ends in our lives, modeling a positive, widescreen picture of our life tapestry so we can once again feel complete, travel lighter and breath easier.
Metaphors are at the heart of stories that usher in wholeness. Both brashly honest and brilliantly subversive in a healthy sense, metaphors disallow rigid either-or, win-loss, narrow-minded thinking that has roots at least as far back as Aristotle. Alternatively, the literary use of one thing standing for another evokes this possibility, yet not that, and another, and still other interpretations. Well-chosen metaphors bring the gift of a rich panoply of flexible and-both, multiple option, open-minded thinking that is the cutting edge of advances across all disciplines and all human experience.
Metaphors serve as the supportive trellis in our blossoming Spring garden of personally touching, life-changing stories. As in all art, metaphors provide glimpses of the world as it actually is, something different from human knowledge as restricted to mere shadows on the walls of caves, Plato's metaphor from 2500 years ago. Metaphors astutely balance the literal, concrete expression of the five senses with what one of William Shakespeare's characters, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 4, 67-73), refers to as the corresponding intellectual and intuitive faculties of the five wits: imagination, memory, judgment, creativity and common sense.
Healing stories connect us to our own answers by portraying who we are, where we've come from and what we are meant to do, both individually and collectively. Poet Muriel Rukeyser goes so far to propose "the universe is made of stories, not of atoms." Arising out of silence, stories give voice to our essential needs, coming out of imagined guilt's by way of a confession. Absolution comes in the form of laughter and tears, curiosity and wonderment. Stories to grow on are cathartic in taking us to a more profound emotional level in our experience of life: helping us to see when we had only looked, listen when we had only heard, and feel when we had only sensed.
Tell all the Truth, but
tell it slant
As Lightning to the children eased
As Emily Dickinson knew, to confront an issue head-on is often too difficult and even overwhelming. A more effective approach to resolving a situation, relationship or perspective can be to hint, suggest, paint a picture, be indirect and metaphoric. Stories often heal by sidestepping our conscious resistance, penetrating our thought patterns and providing a disguised pathway through our life predicaments. These slanted or indirect methods grant our overworked, conscious minds some crucial distance and processing time to organize and digest new information, while our deep unconscious receives the hidden messages that sensitize it to change.
Timeless, universal stories act like a balm on our wounded spirits by portraying emotionally satisfying and inspiring pathways through problems of living. They lend a helping hand to protect our natural abilities to love and trust from anti-life forces who would degrade. Life narratives that affirm our intrinsic goodness reveal the wholesome life within our reach. Each one of these stories was chosen for its wisdom or playful humor; above all, these touched our hearts.
Healing Stories II
All the characters in a healing story, as in dreams, represent different parts of us-both the hero and the villain, the king and the fool, the puppet master and the marionette. These characters exist inside of us as unacknowledged ideas, urges and energies. As we meet and identify them, we become greater people, able to broaden our understanding and compassion through owning all of them as facets of ourselves. I am convinced that developing a new image of life's possibilities and us is one of the most effective methods to stimulate change in human behavior. Healing stories masterfully accomplish this.
Every story imparts its meaning on a personal level. There are multiple waysall valid, true versionsof understanding any life story. Each enlightens us to know the value of choice in how we view a life. Of course, it is up to the individual to attach their own significance to the plot, characters, symptoms, problems and relationships in a given story, because each factor conveys unique meaning to his or her psyche.
Universal stories that resonate within us live in the experience and imagination of each person telling and listening to them. We freely adapt and individualize what we need from a story to have it fit into the fabric of our lives. Even stories that appear phantasmagorical when objectively perceived from the outside in, are understood as true when subjectively experienced from the inside out. If the process of telling and listening to healing stories often make no logical sense, they do make perfect emotional, intuitive sense in our living relationships.
I have found that the realm of knowing what you do not knowthe intuitive wisdom of our greater selfto be a most intriguing one. We are reminded of what we already know yet hadn't consciously acknowledged. Our self-deceptions are gently revealed as we instinctively accept what we already knew on a deeper, unspoken level. We are privileged to perceive the familiar once again, now through new eyes and ears. These ineffable glimpses through our attachments, blind spots and unawareness are healing.
Healing stories have a structure that typically moves through six stages. The opening situation presents us with a metaphorical conflict, some difficulty that represents a broader set of problems in living. Next, additional events occur that intensify the dilemma, usually provoking a dramatic crisis requiring resolution. This results in a change in context, a shift that redefines the main character's perception or the reader's perspective.
Midway through the narrative, a realistic, workable resolution of the problem is suggested. Then a steady build-up of intense choice making leads to the universal climax, healing redemption and the triumph of wholeness. Apparently incompatible opposites are reconciled in a unitary vision that is aware, present and accepting of the paradoxical conditions of living.
The outcome or denouement brings to conclusion the plot's minor threads, while the transformed characters share a well-earned celebration. We feel something palpably open up inside of us we can practically take into our life. Safely entertaining and often cheerfully subversive, these life-changing stories are presented with confidence that an epiphany of true hope and personal renaissance can be ours. Redemption, becoming whole after facing great challenges and your life falling apart, is the key theme of healing stories.
Healing stories have no beginning nor end because they are ever changing, adapting and evolving to the times and conditions of life. Like the mythic Phoenix, our old, unworkable life story dies in a transforming and purifying fire to be reborn in a new, more fulfilling life story. Once-upon-a-time transports us into another world for a healing respite before further modern-day dragons need slaying, while lived-happily-ever-after concludes our trip on the ebullient note of fulfillment, harmony and a long, healthy life.
Our ending ever returns us to a new beginning. Having come full circle now, we are renewed and fortified to participate in the on-going comedy and tragedy that is life, freed to make new mistakes, not just the same old ones. All is now whole...all is well...and all is peaceful. . .
© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
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