Let's talk

How storytelling can unlock a greater sense of self

Our Associate Trainer, Dr Janice Russell joins us to share the wonders of storytelling, and how we use them in our everyday lives to create a sense of identity.


I’m trying to free your mind…but I can only show you the door. It’s you who has to walk through it. The Matrix 1999

Isn’t that a great quote?  From one of the most trail blazing stories of our time, full of metaphor, amazing visual effects, and as relevant now as it was then.

And yes, it’s a story. We are surrounded by stories, aren’t we. Who doesn’t remember a fairy tale, usually beginning ‘once upon a time’? Folk and fairy tales across the globe pass from generation to generation, through oral storytelling, maybe sitting around the fire side; later through pictures and symbols , carved in stone or wood, later sung by minstrels, then written down; and now we live story after story in films and TV series, and can even step inside those stories through different means, like gaming, or VRT sets.

Because us humans love a good story. They help us make sense of the world, and to dream up new worlds. A well-spun yarn can spread ideas and knowledge, taking us along on a journey of the mind.

(As it happens, I’m writing this from Dubrovnik, hot on the heels of my Game of Thrones tour, this being the most successful TV series ever. And yes – I did get to sit on the Iron Throne!):  

So, who makes the stories? Facebook, Instagram; social media invites us over and over to contribute to our own story. It seems that we need to create stories, to create a sense of identity.

And that’s what people do, on their own, in their communities and organisations. Stories are how businesses create their brand, how they engage people, their customers, and their employees.

So how good are you at storytelling – you may be better than you think!

Over the last few years, my work has been to help people and groups of people understand and develop the story of them, to identify their issues, desires, and resources towards a given outcome.  

I use storytelling cards to support this process, and with my colleague Keziah, have delivered a number of workshops, within organisations, and also at open seminars. 

My favourite open seminar? The International Seminar on Storytelling and Fairy Tales, graced annually by masters of the art of storytelling across a variety of contexts, using it therapeutically or developmentally. Brilliant.

So, in all those contexts, my job is to facilitate people’s storytelling skills, to free their mind to have a go without inhibition, with confidence, flair and fun.

For the International Seminar, Keziah and I decided to base our workshops around Tarot cards, lovely, vibrant cards full of imagery, pictures that speak volumes – at least a thousand words!

If you don’t already know, Tarots are a five-suit set of cards, with iconic imagery; each suit a story within a story.

Classically they are beautifully illustrated. Tarot. Weird and wonderful?  Truly wonderful. Fortune telling? Not in a tall, dark and handsome kind of way, yet definitely, if, like me, you believe that you can influence your future.

The Tarot visuals help to tap into the creative brain to complement any well-thought-out planning processes.

A merger of left brain/right brain, or conscious and unconscious. 

Pictures appeal to people. You can look at a card, and just ask yourself what it reminds you of, what you see in it, what its interpretations might bring to your table.

Look at it in the context of your now, or what you want, and you may be surprised by what you see.

Take the Magician card – the figure of a person in command of their own communication, a person with all the resources of head and heart, earth and wind, fire and water. Wow.

What if I behaved as if I were the Magician today, or what/who else might they represent?

We took a whole fleet of cards to our last storytelling seminars, and people loved them.

In just a couple of hours, they were able to explore issues/aspects that they wanted to and create their own narratives of their presents and their futures. Many found insights from a different part of their being to the part they normally use.

So, here we really do use Tarots and other storytelling cards in many contexts, so that people from the CEO to the office cleaner get to find different ways of being at their best – and they do get creative.

We love, for example, how H&H embraced our use of storytelling cards and rapidly created a deck of their own for use in organisations big and small. In fact, we use the H&H deck in our NLP Training sessions.

Often, it might be that we give out one card at the beginning of the day, to focus attention on. It’s surprising how often delegates then refer back, over a day, to what they saw in that card.

And they’re great to use with businesses, because every business tells a story – with beginnings, middle, ends, and endless.

Why not add our unique, pack of 32 visual metaphors ‘Storytelling Cards’ to your toolkit?

Discover the power of storytelling in your organisation with our vibrant and creative Storytelling Cards!

What’s your story, and where might you enjoy using a card or two to stimulate your creative processes?

So, just for today…take a look at the card below:

Fairytales and folklore: using storytelling to unlock a greater sense of self

Give yourself a two-minute break and bring in a part of your life or day that you would like to set a positive intention with.

Look at the card again – what does it say, what does it offer? 

If you take with you any resources which seem to be apparent in it, how might that help you?

Have fun – and notice anything different?

For more information about learning Tarot in a way which makes it meaningful as a developmental tool, click here!

Meet the author

Jan Russell

I’m an accredited Coach and certified Trainer, who’s made a living out of helping people to unlock their potential and achieve what they never thought possible. I support H&H in the development and delivery of their learning and development projects, using the science of neurolinguistics (NLP) to coach people on how they can live out excellence every day. From working with the homeless to large multinationals, in Pontefract to Kuwait, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to see life through a variety of unique and diverse lenses. When I’m not encouraging people to reach for the stars, I head up my two businesses, Your Business in Mind, and Jan Russell Org, both professional training and coaching consultancies. I’ve also authored several fiction books and teach creative writing. Come and connect with me on LinkedIn!