Story: “Gockle’s Good Luck”

Someone once told me, “When I was growing up my family kept hens and a cockerel named Gockle. The cockerel and the hens ran around in the yard together, scratching and pecking at grains. Once we decided to give Gockle a special treat, and so we picked him up and put him down right in the middle of the box where the grain was stored. That must have been heaven on earth to a chicken! Yet even though Gockle was now standing on thousands upon thousands of tasty grains, he simply looked at us with a surprised expression and did nothing. He did not eat a single grain. Finally we took him outside again, where he scratched and searched for grains like he had before.”

The story “Gockle’s Good Luck” reminds us that we cannot always recognise and accept happiness and that some people have reasons of their own for not improving their situation. It also reminds us that we need goals for which we fight and that unexpected success may overtax our capacities. In conversation with parents, for example, the story can be used to make it clear that children and teenagers should not be allowed to become accustomed to taking an affluent lifestyle for granted, and that they need to experience achieving success and possessions through their own efforts. The story can also be used to alert listeners to the fact that they are taking skills for granted and overlooking opportunities for action, even though – or perhaps because – they are present in abundance.

(From: Stefan Hammel: Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling. Sories and Metaphors in Psychotherapy, Child and Family Therapy, Medical Treatment, Coaching and Supervision, Routledge 2019)

“A doua viață” / “Second Life”

I am happy to present another story in Romanian, taken from the Romanian translation of my “Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling”

Traducere din limba germană de: Diana Rotaru/ Translation from German by: Diana Rotaru

Povestea „A doua viață“ demonstrează faptul că fericirea, sănătatea și speranța de viață depind de măsura în care o persoană își poate defini un plan de viață și niște finalități.

The story “Second Life” demonstrates that happiness, health and life expectancy depends on the extent to which a person can define his or her a life plan and goals.

A doua viață

Câțiva cercetători au dorit să știe de ce mor somonii după reproducere. Au pescuit câteva vietăți din râu, le‑au atașat un transmițător și le‑au dat drumul înapoi în mare. Și ce credeți:
peștii au trăit mai departe.


Second Life

Some researchers wanted to know why salmon die after reproduction. They fished a few fish out of the river, attached a transmitter and released them back into the sea. And what do you think: The fish lived on.

Now available: Romanian translation of my book “Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling”

TREI Cartea care te ajutá  or  Stefan Hammels shop.

Kind regards,


My Aim in Life

“My aim in life is to leave as much healing and joy in my wake as possible,” I said to a friend. “That’s a lofty goal,” he said. “I’m happy if I can avoid causing too much harm.”

The story “My Aim in Life” calls into question the absoluteness of existing life goals, and encourages the listener to formulate his or her own values.The story “Renewed Life” makes it clear that life plans and goals play a vital role in an individual’s happiness, health and life expectancy.

(From: Stefan Hammel: Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling. Sories and Metaphors in Psychotherapy, Child and Family Therapy, Medical Treatment, Coaching and Supervision, Routledge 2019)


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Povestea „Scopul vieții“ / The story “Purpose of Life”

I am happy to present a story in Romanian, taken from the Romanian translation of my “Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling”

Translation from German by: Diana Rotaru / Traducere din limba germană de: Diana Rotaru

Găsirea sensului

Povestea „Scopul vieții“ pune sub semnul întrebării ideea că ar exista niște finalități obligatorii pentru viețile tuturor și încurajează clientul să-și expliciteze propriile valori.

engl.: The story “Purpose of Life” questions the idea that there is some binding purpose to everyone’s life and encourages the client to make their own values explicit.

Scopul vieții / The story “Purpose of Life”

— Scopul meu în viață este să las în urma mea cât mai multă alinare și fericire, i‑am spus unui prieten.
— Ai mari pretenții, a spus el. Eu sunt bucuros când reușesc să nu provoc prea multă nefericire.


– My goal in life is to leave behind as much comfort and happiness, I told a friend.

You have high expectations, he said. I’m happy when I succeed not to cause too much unhappiness.

Now available: Romanian translation of my book “Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling”

TREI Cartea care te ajutá or Stefan Hammels shop.

Kind regards,


The Pruned Tree

The case study “The Pruned Tree” investigates how people can come to terms with losing their voice. The story can however also be used in other situations such as amputations and surgical interventions of all kinds, in particular mastectomies, the operative removal of sexual organs and sterilisation. In these cases the metaphor expresses the idea that the removal of the body parts which symbolise fertility (or the loss of their functionality) furthers goals aligned with fertility. Fertility is reframed as innovative energy and creativity, and the parts of the personality associated with the body part are asked to consent to the operation and to reconcile themselves with the consenting personality parts.

I recently met a Russian man in hospital who had undergone a laryngectomy. His son had painted him a picture of a tree bearing red apples, with the following caption in big letter; “The tree was pruned, and now it bears more fruit than ever. Dear father, we loved your voice. But we love you much more!”

The Sailor on Shore

The story “The Sailor on Shore” provides patients with instructions on how to deal with dizziness by optimising their sense of balance, for example if they are suffering from seasickness or travel sickness. A spirit level can be used as a metaphor in place of the nautical instrument referred to in the story.

“I’ve just come off a ship after spending five days out at sea,” explained the woman. “My head is trying to make me believe that I’m still out on the waves. Everything is swaying and rocking from side to side.” “I once visited a naval museum,” answered the man. “I saw a candle holder there which was specially designed to hold candles upright all the time, even out on the open sea. It consisted of three interlocking rings which were connected to each other but which could each rotate independently of the others. The outer ring hung on a chain and was positioned vertically, and the next ring was also positioned vertically, but at right angles to the first. The last and innermost ring was positioned horizontally, and supported the actual candle holder, whose centre of gravity was below the ring. No matter how much the ship swayed and rocked, the rings moved in such a way that the candle stayed upright.” “I’m not dizzy any more,” said the woman.

The Potential of Weeds

“The Potential of Weeds” is a fable about principles. Every principle applies only in the context from which it originates, and a change in circumstances makes it necessary to review the principles which previously applied. Principles which dictate how to think and act in a particular situation may impede development if they are carried over to different situations.

They were silent for a long time. Then the little dandelion asked his much larger neighbour, “What are you doing?” “I’m growing my taproot.” “That’s what I’m doing too. But I’ve made no progress for days. My root has hit a stone.” “Just do what the couch grass does and grow your root around the stone. Grow more roots if necessary,” said the big dandelion. “I can’t do that,” said the small dandelion. “A taproot is a taproot.” And he never grew any larger.

Heaven on Earth

“Heaven on Earth” is a story for idealists, perfectionists and those seeking happiness. The search for perfection is doomed to failure, but does not need to be in vain…

A man and a woman were once eating breakfast together. “My dear,” said the man, “I have something important to say to you. Today I’m going to set out on a journey. I’m going to search for heaven on earth.” The woman choked on her coffee. “Don’t be ridiculous – you can’t mean that. Have you lost your mind?”

“Last night I had a dream,” said the man. “I was somewhere that looked like our village, but it was all quite different.” “How was it different?” asked the woman. “It was a wonderful place. I found it after walking for a long way. When I approached, I noticed that there was no sign with the name of the village, but a radiantly beautiful angel was standing at the first house. I asked him, ‘What is this village called?’ He answered, ‘I’ll show you round if you like. This is heaven on earth.’ I was shocked. I’d imagined heaven on earth to be larger, and quite different – a palace in the clouds, or a city with towers and golden cupolas. But this village looked almost exactly like our own, and I was almost a little disappointed by heaven on earth. The angel looked at me as though he was waiting for an answer, and I started to find him a bit creepy. ‘Show me around?’ I asked. ‘I think I can find my own way around.’ ‘I think it’s better if I show you,’ said the angel mischievously, and so off we went. We came across people who were talking to each other and laughing. ‘Like in our village,’ I thought, but it seemed to me that something here was different. And as we walked through the village, I felt myself becoming ever more favourably inclined towards the angel and the people who lived there. I asked the angel, ‘What does heaven on earth have which my village does not?’ He answered, ‘Heaven on earth can never be the place you are looking towards – it can only be the place you are looking from. Didn’t you know?’ I was silent, and for an instant I thought I saw a smile on his face. ‘Go and search for heaven on earth,’ said the angel. He remained for a second longer, and then he disappeared, together with the people and the village. I was awake and lying in bed.”

After the man finished recounting his dream, the woman took a sip of her coffee and was silent. “My dear,” said the man again, “I was given instructions by an angel. I have to set off and search for heaven on earth.” Nothing the wife did or said could change his mind, and on that very same day he said farewell to his wife, his family and his neighbours. Then he set off to search for the heaven he had seen in his dream.

He travelled through many countries. He went to Africa, but heaven did not look like Africa. He went to Siberia, but heaven did not look like Siberia. He went to China, but heaven did not look like China. And he went to America, but heaven did not look like America either, and he did not find heaven on earth. He was often welcomed warmly, and occasionally people asked him to stay – and sometimes he even thought that the angel was close by again, but it was never quite the same as it had been in the dream. He never found the heaven he was searching for, and so after a long time he returned home. “Can you forgive me for staying away for so long?” he asked his wife. “I didn’t find heaven on earth, but I’ve missed you so much.” She took him in her arms. “And I missed all of you as well!” he called over to the other members of his family and the neighbours who were approaching from all directions. “I’ve learned how much I can miss you.” “So you didn’t find heaven on earth anywhere,” repeated his wife. “What did heaven look in your dream? Which village did it look like?” “Oh God,” said the man.

The Route Through the Mountain

The fable “The Route Through the Mountain” can be used to help the listener to search for or realise his or her vision. It implies the existence of great and as-yet-untapped opportunities, and encourages the exploration of new avenues of thought. Although disguised as a fable, in structural terms it is the biography of an inventor or explorer.

“What’s that?” a young swallow asked her mother. It was the first time she had joined the flock in its annual migration over the Alps. “Those are the rolling boxes which carry people around,” answered her mother. “But why are they coming out of the mountain here? This morning, when we were on the other side, they went into the mountain. Is it the same boxes which go in over there and come out over here?” “I suppose so,” answered her mother absent-mindedly. “Couldn’t we do that too?” continued the young swallow. “It’s cold and windy up here, and the route over the mountain must be much longer than the route which the boxes take.” “No swallow has ever flown through a mountain.” “Really?” asked the young swallow. She was already elsewhere in her thoughts, and these thoughts caused her eyes to light up