Summary of "The Power of Stories"

Summary of

The Power of Stories

By Virgil Peterson

This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Peterson, Virgil. "The Rabbi's Resolution and the Power of Stories." Conflict Resolution Notes. V. 11, No. 2. September 1993. Pp. 29-30.

In contemporary conflict resolution literature, mediation and negotiation are presented as rational and analytical processes. Parties and mediators are supposed to calculate and use reasoning to achieve their goals. This is a "left-brain" mentality. However, there are other ways of thinking, through the use of imagination. Storytelling is an example.

In this article, Peterson presents a quote from Hasidic literature, which he cites from the book Dynamics of Hope written by Ira Progoff. In this quote, the rabbi resolves the conflict between two families by telling them stories from the Bible. The rabbi was able to transform the parties' perceptions about their conflict. While at the beginning of the mediation they viewed it as a major event in their lives and were driven by their egos, at the end of the mediation they were able to put the conflict within the perspective of a bigger picture of struggles and wonders of life in general. They realized that their conflict is just a small incident in their lives, and that their lives are part of a long historical journey of their nation: "the frame of reference was switched from the small world of self-righteous egos to the large universe of sacred time" (p. 30). Progoff identifies this method as a "psychological truth" or solving problems through experiencing them "at the depth level of the psyche" (p. 30), which we reach when we listen to stories, dream, or meditate. In conclusion, conflict resolution requires the use of both reasoning and imagination, of "not left-brain or right brain, but the whole mind" (p. 30).