Why tell stories rather than talk psychology?


You'll notice when you enter these new "Growing Awareness" pages that, instead of telling people about psychology, we are usually just telling stories.

What is the same? What is different?

In these new pages we may use different words but we are not speaking a different language. There are a few changes from voice dialogue. Mainly, the abstract, hard to visualise psychological terms that I use in my voice dialogue pages have been replaced with easy to visualise, concrete, non-technical words. These are the words storytellers use to describe life. Psychologists may use different words, but the stories both tell are the same.

For example, I tell stories about your "inner village" rather than what, in my voice dialogue pages, I refer to as " your primary selves" or "operating ego".

Each individual "inner self" is respected (and embraced) as a separate "inner villager" a unique character.  As you meet and get to talk with them and they tell their stories, each of your inner villagers has the chance to become a real live character. You start to picture them much more clearly as they live and work carrying out their jobs as hard-working members of your village. 

As you learn more about life in your inner village other characters enter into the story. For example, what is described in voice dialogue as a "disowned inner self" enters the stories as a "discredited" or "exiled" villager. We hear about them being expelled and we can picture them living somewhere out in the dark forest away from the warmth and light of their inner village.

And behind the village is a high and wonderful hill. In our stories climbing up on the hill marks the beginning of separation, the discovery of self-awareness. Perhaps for the first time you find yourself looking down on your inner village and seeing more clearly what is going on there are. Some of the best stories about making changes are told from viewpoints up on the hill.

What is new?

The main difference is  that we spend more time talking to the Inner Villagers about life in different parts of their village. This is easy because Inner Villagers love being real story book characters and chatting about what goes on in their village. 

Within each part of each village we find very different kinds of characters.  It's almost as though they actually need to live and work separately. The  more time you spend discussing your own unique inner village and visualising it's different parts, the more useful the information is as a key to making changes. 

Miraim Dyak in her "Voice Dialogue Facilitator's Handbook" suggested something similar with her illustration of different parts of the inner operating system as different parts of an island.  Like Miriam's Island, an inner village is divided into clearly designated sections.  However In the storytelling approach each individual village is as unique and as different as the individual person. So understanding what is going on means the spending more time learning the layout of that individual person's unique village. 

In the storytelling approach (compared with and voice dialogue) more focus is placed on differences between what characters from each part of the village do, compared with other those in other parts. 

The more time that you spend watching life in your own very unique village, talking and learning about what goes on (in different parts of the village) the more you  see things clearly. It's much easier to make changes in your life once you understand which kind of character from which part of the village is either helping changes happen or blocking them.

Different Parts of a Typical Inner Village

Your village may not include all or any of these parts, but the ones I talk about on these pages include:

  1. Active Area - this is where the easiest and most easily observed characters live and operate. This is similar to the "operating ego" in voice dialogue. I like to identify Active villagers  by the letter "A" a key to remind us what they are like, what they do and where they belong in the village.
  2. Backup section - there is a small group of not quite so active but very important villagers who like to do things in the opposite in the way to the Active characters. They are however quite different from other opposites like the disowned or discredited types. The B types are helpers because they are good at stepping in and taking over quickly (a temporarily switch) when the normal A characters for some reason are unable to do their job or for some reason fail to get the results they are expecting. Once things are sorted out satisfactorily the B characters return to the background.  Backup villagers are identified as "B" types, a quick way of reminding us where they belong in the village and the different kind of work they do. (See separate page Different Parts of the Village
  3. Complex Corner - a very interesting but complicated part of the village. Characters who live in the Complex Corner try to protect you (like other villagers) but what they emphasise as their main role as protector is only half the story. There is usually a second and deeper underlying vulnerability well camouflaged by all the noise and energy around the surface issue.
    It's hard to get to know the characters who live in this corner, but if you succeed with even one of them the outcome can be a positive, powerful and significant improvement in your life.
    Complex villagers are identified by the letter "C". (See separate page Complex Corner
  4. The Deep Dark Forest -  When discredited (disowned) characters are expelled or exiled from the village they don't go very far away. They still live nearby in the deep dark forest. These characters are referred to as  "D" types.
  5. The private section - This part of the village has a high wall around it. An outsider seldom gets to know much at all about the characters who live in the private section. Only you will know about the private characters in your village, referred to as P types.
  6. Other parts of the average inner village include the refugee section (see separate page Carried villagers - "refugees" from someone else's village.
  7. The new Village up on the Hill
    Visualising a new village high on Awareness Hill  is a more radical departure from voice dialogue. All kinds of growth and understanding is possible in the new village on the hill.

Newly inducted characters such as a Magic Father or Inner Mother, go straight to the new village. Some of the old villagers grow enough to make the climb as well.  

The healing power of stories

What we are noticing here in SE Queensland is that when we use this easy to visualise, storytelling approach something very important happens.

People grasp the whole idea of inner self work with much less effort than in the past when we used to explain it all in abstract psychological terms. What is exciting is that these changes start happening much sooner and with much less effort than previously. Inner wounds begin to heal sooner. People start making positive changes in their lives, changes that really make a real difference.

It is a significant step forward from the hours we spent in the past explaining what was needed to create change labouring with abstract psychological language.

The wonderful thing is that process that you and I are familiar with and know and love as "voice dialogue" does not need to change at all. It's just that instead of calling it "voice dialogue" at the start, it's more comfortable for newcomers if we tell them a couple of stories first about their inner village and get them to start "talking with their inner villagers". Later on as people become familiar with the process it is easy to explain in more detail about "voice dialogue" and their "inner selves" because by then they have pictures to attach the words to.

Some psychological terms and their equivalent easy to visualise, storytelling terms are listed in the table at the foot of this page. For more extensive comparisons see How the terms used in Growing Awareness pages differ from Voice Dialogue.

Story telling as a means of helping people to change and grow has been around for many thousands of years. I acknowledge that this experiment with the storytelling approach has been very much influenced by the work of Daniel Taylor and his book "The Healing Power of Stories". (Millennium books 1996).

He quotes Alasdair MacIntyre pointing out the role stories play in teaching all of us how to live (and what roles we play in our lives)…..

I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’

One of the most positive aspects of talking with our Inner Villagers (or voice dialogue) is that they have such powerful stories to tell us about life in our own inner village. Many of their stories we have never heard before, but once having heard them we can begin to understand so much more of why things happen as they do in our lives. And that in turn gives us the power to make changes.

As Daniel Taylor points out, "Stories do not require happy endings, but they must hold out the possibility for things being different than they are."

So in combining the gifts given to us by Dr Hal and Dr Sidra Stone who showed us how easy it was to dialogue with our inner selves, and the power of storytelling we get the best of both.

Welcome to the world of the inner villagers and the stories they are waiting to tell you.


Here is a comparison of some voice dialogue terms and the storytelling "language" that we use in this alternative approach

Abstract terms

 Storytelling terms
Easy to visualise,
more d

The Inner selves (as a group)
  Inner Villagers
Inner self inner villager - a character who lives or works in the inner village
Primary self  Active villager - a character who lives in the inner village and who is very active or plays a significant role in the village. Also known as a Type A (for Active)
Operating ego  the Old Village - the older part of the inner village. Where they often say "That's the way we've always done it."
inner child
 If you wanted to talk to one of your own children about something that was worrying them,  you would get a better response if you used their name, rather than calling them "my child".
(first name) of inner child   - It is much easier to visualise our inner child when we use his or her first  name.
And this in turn makes much easier to dialogue directly with this important member of the inner village.
vulnerability visualised as a bog or swamp  with very slippery edges, somewhere in the village. It is all too easy to fall in and much harder to get out again. It's a place of powerlessness and feelings of devastation. Most of the main characters in the Inner Village play some part in trying to stop each other and the inner child from falling into the swamp. And a number of them are closely connected with helping rescue those who do fall in.
disowned self Discredited or expelled villager - one who has been exiled or expelled from the village and who wanders, lost  somewhere in the deep dark forest nearby

Voice dialogue


a conversation, discussion or meeting with any character who lives in the inner village, including the inner child
Facilitator   the person having a friendly chat with an inner villager and talking about life in the village - interviewer
Separation  each time someone goes up on Awareness Hill behind the village and looks down at the village below they get a little more clarity about what is going on inside them. They can then see that each villager inside them is a separate character. They can also separate what one villager thinks, says, does or feels from other villagers and even more importantly separate that villager from their aware adult (the part of them that can look at things from up on the hill or outside the village )
another person's operating ego   someone else's inner village
inner patriarch Village patriarch -  who lives in the inner village. A very significant character. Often still described as the inner patriarch
inner matriarch Village matriarch - another very important character found in the Inner Village. Often still described as the inner matriarch
inner mother ideal or Magic Mother
inner father Ideal or Magic father

Other linked pages .....  (ADDED SINCE JANUARY 1996 - - 2010)

Growing Awareness and Voice Dialogue - Similarities and Differences (updates and additions 21 February 1996 - - 2010)

Guidelines to working with Inner villagers -1996 - - 2010

Life in the Inner  village -1996 - - 2010 

A fable about using fables

How do you measure the effectiveness of inner self work? 1996 - - 2010


search for a way to speed up the changes and to make them last longer

A deeper psychological discussion of the theory behind the experimental Village and the Awareness Hill storytelling approach - 1996 - - 2010

The Complex corner  added 23 February 1996 - - 2010

Carried villagers - "refugees" from someone else's village

Feedback - please e-mail  me John Bligh Nutting -   at

Copyright © John Nutting 1996 - 2010  and   ©   GROWING AWARENESS   All rights reserved World Wide   LAST UPDATE 

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Don't worry about these copyright notices at the foot of each page. It just means I want to hang on to legal ownership of what I write for use in future books.  Until that day, please feel free to copy and even adapt them for your own use and for friends as long as you acknowledge me as the author and owner of the copyright and you don't charge anyone for them. If you want to use them professionally or commercially (charge a fee for them) or for clients, each sheet you hand out must include full acknowledgment of copyright ownership as above and if  you are benefiting as a result, I would appreciate an appropriate sharing.


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