Mrs Flow

The story “Mrs Flow” personifies therapeutic goals and resources in a fictional character, and at the same time distracts the patient from any stressful real-life experiences which might block the work.

Mrs Flow builds staircases. She builds wooden staircases, marble staircases, and even glass and rubber staircases and spiral staircases. She builds staircases which go up and staircases which go down, and she has invented a new type of staircase which goes up and down and up and down and up and down. She has invented a staircase which can be folded up, a staircase which can be pushed together and a staircase which is completely flat. I don’t quite understand how it works, but experts have assured me that it really does exist – a completely flat staircase. Mrs Flow also works together with a colleague to build escalators. The interesting thing about these escalators is that they start off as a not-staircase, gradually turn into a staircase, become less and less of a staircase and then end up as a not-staircase. When I was a child, I always wondered where escalators come from and go to. Once I saw an escalator at an airport without any steps at all. You could build a hill into a step-free escalator of this kind so that it changed from a flat treadmill into an escalator going up, then an escalator going down, and then a flat treadmill again, maybe with a higher level in between – up the staircase, flat for a while and then down the staircase, or the same thing but going down instead of up. The luggage carousels at the airport are just like flat staircases which go around lots of corners. Some of them bring the luggage up a steep slope, a luggage staircase or a luggage lift first before it starts going around the carousel. There’s a great deal of flexibility when it comes to designing these staircases and luggage carousels, and Mrs Flow is an expert on the matter.

Morbus Feivel

The city of Chelm once became the breeding ground for a strange epidemic, and this is how it happened. So many people in the city were falling ill that Doctor Feivel thought to himself how much quicker and easier it would be to stop examining the city’s residents to find out what illness they were suffering from, and instead to find out who had been infected by health and what kind of health it was.

He diagnosed healthy bones in a patient who had no broken legs, a healthy heart in another patient, a severe case of healthy skin in a third and so on. When Schlemihl came to see him, he diagnosed uninfl amed health of the gums. When Schlemihl asked him what he meant, the doctor – who had already started examining his next patient – muttered, “Morbus Feivel, advanced stage of severity.”

Schlemihl did not really understand what he meant, but did not wish to admit his ignorance and so did not query the diagnosis. When he arrived home and his wife asked him what the doctor had said, he answered curtly, “Infectious health.”

Schlemihl’s wife wondered how it could be possible that she and the children still had a cold when they lived in such close quarters with Schlemihl. When she asked Doctor Feivel, he explained, “It’s because of the incubation time. The proper symptoms only appear a few days after transmission of an infection of this kind.”

And by the next day Schlemihl’s wife and children were indeed feeling much better. “We’re suffering from infectious health,” they explained to their neighbours. “We caught it from Schlemihl.” The neighbours were also infected with health over the next few days, and soon Morbus Feivel had spread like wildfi re throughout the entire city. Before long the residents of surrounding villages came to infect themselves with Schlemihl’s epidemic, and eventually the entire country was infected with it – at any rate according to Schlemihl’s version of the story.

(Stefan Hammel, Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling, p. 38-39)

Risk of Contagion

I recently visited my sister and her family.

Right at the start of my visit I took a drink of water out of a glass which was standing in front of me.

“ You didn’t drink out of that, did you?” asked my sister. “That glass belongs to Luise, and she’s highly contagious.”

I bent over the glass and spat the following words into it: “Make sure you don’t catch the Stefan disease!”

Then I drank all the water in the glass. And nothing else happened – at any rate not to me.

(Stefan Hammel, Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling, p. 39-40)

L’odeur du pain

Mon ami Charles Naceur Aceval, un raconteur algerien a traduit ma petite histoire “L’odeur du pain” et il l’a combiné avec les mémoires des odeurs de son enfance. Un conte des odeurs aimées…

(inspirer de l´ouvrage de Stefan Hammel « Der Grashalm in der Wüste »)

Les odeurs ! Ah les odeurs de mon enfance ! Elles collent à mon âme. Parfums de mon pays, ma région, ma mère, ma grand-mère, ma terre natale. Toutes ses odeurs à jamais fixées en moi ont construit une bonne partie de ce que je suis. De toutes ses senteurs, je voudrai vous parler de trois d´entre elles. Celles que je fais revivre continuellement comme un rituel. Surtout parce qu’elles émanent de ma mère que je sens toujours à mes côtés. « Une personne ne meurt que lorsqu´elle est oubliée ! » dit un proverbe nomade.

La première est l´odeur du café.
Elle me renvoie à l’image de ma mère assise par terre en tailleur sur une peau de mouton, et torréfiant le café dans un torréfacteur cylindrique en aluminium. De temps en temps, elle prélevait un grain de café, le mettait dans sa bouche pour le croquer. C’était ainsi qu’elle évaluait la torréfaction. Une fois le café torréfié à point, elle nous donnait à ma soeur Nora et moi le petit moulin manuel à café. Et tour à tour nous tournions avec effort la manivelle qui nous renvoyait le doux bruit du grain qui s’écrasait pour tomber en poudre dans un petit tiroir au bas. Une fois le café moulu, ma mère prenait dans le creux de la paume de sa main une petite quantité de poudre, y ajoutait une pincée de sucre et d’un geste versait le petit tas dans sa bouche. C’était ainsi qu’avant la forme liquide, elle dégustait le café.

Ce n´est qu´après qu´elle mettait le reste dans le haut de la cafetière, la partie filtre, et passait l’eau frémissante qui laissait couler le café. Des effluves bien spécifiques embaumaient l’air et nos narines. Dans le Sni, plateau en cuivre, elle alignait les petites tasses et posait à côté, le Tbag, plat en alfa, garni de tranches de M´bessess (pain de semoule beurré et grillé). Nous nous régalions alors sous l’oeil tendre de notre mère.

Mon deuxième souvenir d’odorat est celui de l´encens.
Un véritable rituel mystique pour chasser le mauvais oeil et les mauvais esprits. Dans un braséro en terre cuite, maman allumait du charbon et lorsque la braise prenait elle y jetait une pincée d’encens. Puis tenant le braséro fumant dans les mains, elle se promenait dans toute la maison, pièce après pièce, elle encensait les lieux en marmonnant quelques formules en directions des esprits et des
invisibles de la maison. Sans oublier les toilettes, car c´est là que se trouvent les
mauvais esprits. Puis elle posait le braséro à terre, elle l’enjambait et demeurait
debout au-dessus, un pied de chaque côté. C’était alors que la fumigation se
réalisait sous sa robe pour une purification du corps par le bas. Un mystère que
cet acte magique et touchant à la personne même.

Enfin, l´odeur du pain.
C´est l´odeur du pain, qui convoque le plus de souvenirs liés à ma mère. C’est
ma « madeleine de Proust » ! Comme par magie l’odeur du pain chaud me
projette pour un voyage dans le temps et l’espace.

Dans mon enfance, nous avions souvent faim. Ce n’était pas la misère mais la
nourriture était rare et précieuse. Et l´odeur du pain pétri par ma mère et sorti
du four banal, annonçait le grand régal. Le pain est un symbole sacré dans
plusieurs cultures et en Algérie, on l’aimait et le respectait. Pas une miette ne
se perdait, et surtout, ô sacrilège, ne se jetait !

Lorsque la tristesse me submerge, lorsque rien ne se passe, rien ne bouge,
lorsque le temps s´arrête, je prépare un pain et l´odeur se propage dans tous
les recoins de la maison. Là, comme par enchantement, tout devient vivant. Un
sourire sur les lèvres, une larme sur la joue, je revis et ma mère revient à mes
côtés.

Une histoire me revient. Une histoire qui a le parfum du feu de bois. Au temps
où la modernité et l´électricité n´avaient pas atteint les campagnes. Dans un
petit village vivait un boulanger seul avec sa femme. Son pain était apprécié de
tous, et même les gens des villages avoisinants n´hésitez pas à faire un long
chemin pour acheter le bon pain.

Un jour le boulanger dit à sa femme :

  • Les années passent vite. Un jour, je n´aurais ni la force de porter les
    lourds sacs de farine, ni celle de pétrir une grande quantité de pâte. Si
    Dieu nous avait donné un fils, j´aurais pu lui transmettre l’art et l’amour
    du métier.

Sa femme répondit :

  • Toi qui es généreux et bon comme ton pain, prends un jeune homme et apprends-lui ton savoir-faire. Ainsi, le jour où tu ne pourras plus travailler, ton pain continuera à faire le bonheur des familles.

Après que la nouvelle soit répandue dans le pays, quatre jeunes garçons se présentèrent chez le boulanger. Ce dernier ne savait lequel des quatre choisir. Il demanda conseil à sa femme qui lui dit :

  • Envois-les moi à la boulangerie et je te dirai lequel tu prendras comme apprenti.

Ainsi, fut fait. La femme du boulanger posa alors une question au premier jeune :

  • Pourquoi veux-tu devenir boulanger ?

Il lui répondit :

  • J´aime bien me lever à l´aube et aller au lit de bonne heure. Ainsi je suis le premier à apprendre les nouvelles du jour.

Au second, elle posa la même question. Celui-ci expliqua :

  • J´ai l´intention de me marier prochainement et faire des économies pour une vie nouvelle.

Le troisième répondit :

  • Etre boulanger c´est un métier sûr.

Lorsque le quatrième pénétra, avant même qu´elle ne lui posa la question, elle dit à son mari :

  • C´est lui qui sera un jour ton successeur.

Etonné le boulanger demanda :

  • Comment le sais-tu, tu ne lui as même pas posé une question ?

La femme expliqua :

  • C´est simple, lorsque ce jeune garçon a franchi le seuil du moulin, un court moment il a fermé les yeux et humé l´odeur du pain.

Ainsi pour moi l’odeur du pain, est devenue un monde où toutes les odeurs renvoient à la mémoire de l’âme. Et la mémoire est le bien précieux de chacun, celle que personne ne volera à personne et cela jusqu’au jour dernier. Personnellement, ces parfums sont ma mémoire et ma mémoire aide mon être à voler par l’odorat sur les ailes du temps et de l’espace.

Mon bonheur est de ces petites choses qui comme le soupirail de Rimbaud donnent à rêver.

Je suis un orphelin heureux car je peux jouir des produits d’où viennent mes odeurs et revivre ces moments heureux avec ma mère.

Aceval Charles

The Replanted Tree

The story “The Replanted Tree” is designed in particular for children finding
it hard to come to terms with a new living situation after a house move
or adoption, or after their parents have divorced and the family has been
restructured. Once again, it is a good idea to refer to a minor injury in the
story in order to incorporate the problem which the listener is facing and its
predicted improvement without lending too much gravity to the story (and by
analogy to the way in which the patient handles the associated situation in his
or her life). The story can also be used for patients who are forced – for agerelated
or health- related reasons – to move out of their own house in order to
go and live with family or in a home, or adults with disabilities who are forced
to move away from their families and into sheltered accommodation.

One day a gardener was working in his garden when he found a small tree
right in the middle of some shady undergrowth. “A shadbush!” he cried.
“How on earth did that get here?” He would never have suspected that
such a beautiful and valuable tree could be found in such a dark location.
Perhaps the wind or a bird had carried its seeds there?
The gardener thought carefully about what he should do next. He
knew that it is sometimes diffi cult to move a plant to a different location,
but he also knew that his shadbush would never grow into a large, strong
and beautiful tree if it stayed here in the shade. So he decided to replant it
in a different location, where it would get enough sun and wind to thrive
and fl ourish. He took his spade and dug out a broad ring of soil around
the trunk of the tree before digging a hole in the ground where he wanted
the tree to grow and placing the shadbush there, root ball and all. He then
fi lled the hole back up with soil, added exactly the right amount of fertiliser,
and gave the plant a good watering.
When he looked at his tree the next day, he was dismayed to see that all
the leaves on it were drooping. He thought to himself that the tree’s roots
had probably extended a long way under the ground before it had been
dug up, and that it must have lost some of its tiniest hair- like roots. The
tree would need to conserve its energy to heal these injuries, but it should
be able to regrow its roots, and so the gardener decided to give his tree the
best possible care and simply be patient. He waited and gave the tree all
the time it needed, and soon the leaves had indeed regained their former
strength. After a few months the tree was a fi ne specimen, and after a few
years it had grown into a large and strong tree.

Det omplanterade trädet

Here is a story about “the replanted tree” (Stefan Hammel, Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling), translated into Swedish by my colleague Viktoria Carlsén.

En dag när trädgårdsmästaren arbetade i sin trädgård så hittade han ett litet träd, mitt i den skuggigaste delen. ”En häggmispel!” ropade han. ”Hur i hela friden har den hamnat här?”. Han hade aldrig kunnat tro att ett sånt vackert och värdefullt träd skulle kunna finnas i en sån här mörk plats.
Kanske hade vinden eller en fågel burit med sig frön hit?

Trädgårdsmästaren funderade noga ut vad som skulle bli hans nästa steg. Han visste att det ibland var svårt att flytta en planta till en annan plats, men han visste också att häggmispeln aldrig skulle kunna växa till en stor, stark och vackert träd om det stannade kvar i skuggan. Så han bestämde sig för att omplantera trädet till en ny plats, där den skulle få tillräckligt med sol, vind och kunna frodas och växa.

Han tog sin spade och grävde en vid ring runt trädet innan han grävde en grop där han ville att trädet skulle växa och planterade sedan trädet där med rotklumpen och allt. Han fyllde sedan igen hålet med jord och exakt rätt mängd gödsel och vattnade plantan rejält.

När han tittade till plantan nästa dag blev han bestört av att se att löven hängde på trädet. Han tänkte för sig själv att trädets rötter hade säkert sträckt sig långt under marken tidigare innan den blivit uppgrävd och att några av de pyttesmå rötterna måste blivit kvar. Trädet skulle behöva bevara all sin energi för att läka sina skador, och rötterna skulle återigen kunna växa ut.

Trädgårdsmästaren bestämde sig för att ge trädet den allra bästa omvårdnaden det behövde och att och ge allt tålamod som behövdes. Han väntade och gav trädet all tid den behövde, och snart började löven återfå sin forna styrka.
Efter några månader var trädet ett vackert exemplar, och efter några år hade det vuxit till ett stort och starkt träd.

Översättning: Viktoria Carlsén

Hypnotising Dogs

The story “Hypnotising Dogs” is also designed to cure the symptoms of travel sickness, since what’s good for dogs is also good for humans. The method involves refocusing attention from bodily experiences to the hearing, relieving anxiety and stress through a relaxation trance, and producing heart and breathing rates which are similar to those experienced during sleep and are wholly dissimilar to those experienced during attacks of nausea. The procedure is also suitable for infants, dementia patients, coma patients, people with severe mental disabilities and other people with whom verbal communication is not possible.

I recently took a coach trip with a group of family members, including Luna the labrador. “She feels sick,” said my sister-in-law. “She’s already retched several times. She doesn’t like travelling by car because it sometimes makes her vomit. Can’t you hypnotise her so that it doesn’t happen while she’s in the coach with us?” I talked to Luna for a while and then asked my nephew Nikolas: “Would you lend Luna your MP3 player? Find some peaceful music – a lullaby or something similar. Set the volume very low, and place the headphones on Luna’s ears.” Nikolas found a band whose music was suitable and put the headphones over Luna’s head. After half a minute or so, Luna relaxed and lay down, and was soon asleep. Her symptoms of nausea did not reappear.

3rd International Festival of Therapeutic Storytelling

Stefan Hammel (Germany) and Marie-Jeanne Bremer (Luxembourg) are organizing the 3rd International Festival of Therapeutic Storytelling in Otterberg, Germany on Oct 15th – 18th, 2020.

The convention languages are in German and English. At the moment information in the www. is available in German [Link website]. 

However, if you consider to come, don’t hesitate to contact us (e-mail-Adress ifte@hsb-westpfalz.de) and we can figure everything out so you can join us.

Progress

Here’s the story of the salmon in English  (Stefan Hammel, Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling, p. 193f.)

A salmon was travelling along the annual salmon run, further and further upstream. He had leapt up rapids and jumped over enormous boulders – and even used all of his power and skill to ascend waterfalls. “Not long now,” said the salmon to himself at last. “I remember being here before – I passed it on my first evening on the journey down. I’m much larger and stronger now, and I’ll have reached my destination in just a few hours.” The salmon redoubled his efforts, wanting to make faster progress. But as he did so, the current also seemed to become stronger. The path down the river had seemed easy, but the way back seemed pure torture. Sometimes he was too tired to swim, often he lacked the concentration to jump properly, occasionally he had to swim around the rods and creels of the salmon fishers and once he even had to avoid the paw of a hungry bear. Again and again he stopped to regather his strength, but the river kept on flowing to the sea. By the evening the salmon noticed that he had not made any progress – if anything, he had gone backwards. Sad and disappointed, he found a protected spot between two boulders on the bank. He thought to himself, “It must be possible to reach my destination – others before me have managed it. But how?” Then the clever fish had an idea. “I’m not going to try and get there as quickly as possible any more; I just want to make progress. All I will ask of myself is to get a little bit closer to my goal every evening than I was in the morning, and if I do that day after day I’ll eventually reach my destination. As long as I’ve made some progress by every evening, it won’t matter how short a distance I’ve travelled – even if it’s only half an inch.” The salmon plucked up his courage and started again. Some days he barely made any progress at all, but mostly he travelled much further than he expected – and if he didn’t, he remembered his resolution and was content with what he had managed. After a few weeks, he reached his destination; a lake near the source of the river. He looked around, and found that only a few other salmon had reached the lake before him – most were still trying to reach their destination in the shortest possible time.