שי שוורץ דרך הסיפור
Shai Schwartz The Story Way

מטפל קבוצתי ופרטני​



Group and  individual therapy




The International



Shai Schwartz, Neve Shalom ISRAEL

Yehuda Bar Shalom, The David Yellin College of Education, ISRAEL

Tamar Ascher Shai, The David Yellin College of Education, ISRAEL


Abstract: In this paper we present Shai Schwartz's approach of utilizing traditional storytelling and drama in therapy and group facilitation of dialogue for social change and, bridging diversity. In this digital age of electronic media, we at times find ourselves at loss with events as they control us instead of us controlling them. We strive to understand our social interactions through the use of rational thought and find ourselves overwhelmed with conflicts. Since the beginning of human time the story has been the basic communication tool among people. It has been stirred and evoked by the ever compulsive human need to make sense of reality, connect the next generation to the tribal heritage and celebrate life. The traditional tale and its most fascinating story form of mythology with its magical thinking plunges us into the realm of the subconscious.

 Carl Jung maintains that myths are revelations of the preconscious psyche, involuntary statements about unconscious psychic happenings. The authors show and explain how the use of tale and drama in the context of individual and group work initiates very deep processes offering the group and each individual a wealth of understanding and learning.


Keywords: Group Work, Story Telling, Drama


“A SACRED STORY draws us right into the timelessness of human experience by connecting us with what is most essentially human, at the same time enabling us to see our own experience more clearly” (Robert Atkinson 1995, p.3).

In this digital age of electronic media, we often feel at loss with our experience of events controlling us instead of us controlling them. We strive to understand our social interactions through rational thought and find ourselves saturated with emotions that revolve around social strife and conflict. Because of the changes brought about by globalization, cultural clashes, and a postmodern, less secure sense of “self”, individuals in many societies are experiencing a reality of estrangement, loneliness and disorientation, conflict and escalating violence. Cities all over the world house estranged ethnic groups of immigrants, refugees, foreign workers, asylum seekers, and  marginalized minorities. Young people in our societies (many from excluded groups) turn to drugs and alcohol abuse, to alleviate the experience of meaningless and pain. In other cases, they turn to anti-social and reactionary forms of resistance in an attempt to regain a more solid sense of self. (Mallot & Carrol-Miranda, 2003). In this paper we are presenting the rationale behind using storytelling and drama as a specific tool for therapy, community building and empowerment of individuals in this day and age.

This article strives to give an example of creative, educational and therapeutic practice, and as such relies less on theory and literature and much more on the experiences described here.

The themes that we are concentrating on, include the importance of suggesting alternative ways to address the social and individual challenges that modern communities are facing, the manner in which storytelling, mythology and drama have traditionally offered solutions for these issues, and some illustrations of successful storytelling workshops that were led by Shai Schwartz.


Old Sources of Wisdom Revisited

It is essential that we reconnect to sources of wisdom and inspiration so as to empower ourselves as educators, therapists and facilitators of dialogue and in turn to empower and inspire the people we work with. We need to rediscover the values of traditional cultures and find creative ways to integrate it into today’s modern way of life so as to bring back meaning into our lives and the lives of our children. How do we recapture a feeling of community and of meaningful existence within the context in which we live?

“We in the 20th Century are in a ... situation of aching hearts ... our myths no longer serve their function of making sense of existence” (May, 1991, p.16).

Campbell points to the fact that myths and stories can help the younger generation re-formulate a viable ethos. Without ethos-generating myths, youngsters feel at loss (Campbell and Moyers, 1991, see also May, 1991). Since the beginning of human time

storytelling has been a central tool for communication between people. It has been stirred and evoked by the ever-compulsive human need to make sense of reality, connect the next generation to the tribal heritage and celebrate life. It has found expression through art and sculpture, music, pantomime, dance and words.

The most ancient, deepest and most fascinating story form is mythology. Out of this classic story genre there flowed legends, folk tales and fairy tales. Mythology’s magical thinking plunges us into the subconscious and perhaps deeper. Joseph Campbell describes myth as ‘the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into the human cultural manifestation.’ (Campbell, 1949: 3)

Carl Jung maintains that myths are "revelations of the preconscious psyche, involuntary statements about unconscious psychic happenings . . . The myth originates and functions to satisfy the psychological need for contact with the unconscious. The myth functions not merely to announce the existence of the unconscious but actually to enable humans to experience it". (Quoted in Segal, 1998:  3)

The myth and its many lesser forms signify inner unconscious activity. Dr Allen B. Chinen points out that psychoanalysts have made the connection between dreams and fairytales and maintains that we can interpret tales, in their symbolic form, just as we do dreams.

"Fairy tales are the purest and simplest expression of collective unconscious psychic processes (Von Franz, 1996, p.1) We might believe that existing stories (such as myths, fairy tales or folk tales) are chosen by the subconscious as opposed to the conscious, the choice of the story coming in response to the inner needs of the teller. The story teller will be reacting to conflicts and dilemmas that he is dealing with, and through the story might find some containment for his concerns.

 In the majority of our work the stories are chosen by the group as apposed to the facilitator, in what seems to be a random associative fashion; however we find these choices are the result of an inner process of the group or the individual dealing emotionally with an existing issue.


The Teller and the Listener and the Act of Storytelling

When we attempt to understand the social, emotional and spiritual process of storytelling, we find storytelling as a relational phenomenon inspired by the narrative essence of the collective subconscious. It highlights present and past relationships between the ‘self’ of

the teller, the listener and the many “others”. Each story is recreated in the interaction between teller and listener. It is the relationship that causes a particular tale to come to life. “By the act of sharing highly individual or collective, symbolic material with another

to whom this same symbolic structure matters, a special, fragile bond is created which lasts for as long as the story is allowed to continue.” (Gersie & King, 1988, p.32) The relationship between the listener and the teller resonates with past relationships in the internal representational world of both. The storyteller will invest passion and love in the telling. By turning to imagination and feelings, the storyteller becomes vulnerable to the listener and in the subsequent contact, the two will initiate a process of bonding. In telling their tale, the storytellers connect to their own internal identifications: these different parts of their ‘self’ are represented by the characters in his or her stories. They explore the internal terrains of the conscious and the unconscious mind. This is the ‘setting’ of their stories and they fulfill their desire to enact their lives in endless ‘plots’, continuously

recreating themselves. Thus the storytellers relive their own characters, settings and plots while recounting even the most far-fetched tales. These are inspired by the teller’s own repressed personal narrative and conflicts, as suggested above. Close attention to these mythological stories that people choose to tell can teach us much about their inner world, these aspects of their internal world are transferred over onto the characters and events and terrain in the story. The group or individual thus can explore them indirectly (Schwartz & Melzak 2005).

The renowned hypnotherapist Milton Erickson claimed that the metaphorical story creates a form of trance in the listener (Rosen, 1982). This is a psycho-physical condition of decreased tension and a change in the brain waves from a state of activity to one of rest and passive absorption. Storytelling has a need for an atmosphere of safety and in turn it

is instrumental in enhancing this feeling of safety which is so vital to the group or individual process in learning, dialogue or therapy. This situation expresses itself through the need of the storyteller to tell and the listener to listen. When it succeeds it evokes a state of freedom and spontaneity, the stories streaming associatively. There is a moment when the participants disconnect themselves from immediate reality. This is enhanced as

the session continues, especially when the storytelling deepens and dwells on one specific subject as if the group was researching a specific aspect of life. This is even more so the case when the tales take on a metaphysical or magical nature. At times the participants retreat into silence especially after a singularly powerful tale. Often at the end of such sessions the participants glide back into reality with a sigh as if they had been present at some magical event or returning from some virtual voyage.


Drama as a therapeutic tool with groups and individuals

Play and drama, like the story are situated in a unique and primal sphere of consciousness. Play is more ancient than culture (Huizinga J.1944)   and definitely the genesis of all conscious spiritual and cultural activity (Von Franz 1997). Winnicot calls this psychological sphere where humans play "the potential space".”This hypothetical area (that) exists (but cannot exist) between the baby and the object, during the phase of the repudiation of the object as not me, that is, at the end of being merged in with the object”. (Winnicot, 1971, pg.107(. This is an intermediate area of experiencing, to which an inner reality and external life both contribute.” It is an area that is not challenged , because no claim is made on its behalf except that it shall exist as a resting place for the individual engaged in the perpetual human task of keeping inner and outer reality separate yet interrelated”.(Winnicot,  1971, pg.2  )

“It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self. Bound up with this is the fact that only in playing is communication possible.’.(Winnicot, 1971, pg.54).

This sphere of play transforms the adult to the emotional space utilized when doing or interacting with art and other cultural media, prayer and ritual. It is also the place where the client will meet the therapist. 'Therapy takes place in the overlap of two areas of playing, that of the patient and that of the therapist. Psychotherapy has to do with two people playing together…" at times , "the work done by the therapist is directed towards bringing the patient from a state of not being able to play into a state of being able to play"  (Winnicot, 1971,   pg.38).    

Sue Jennings describes drama therapy through the wonderful metaphor of the "string" that the mythological Ariadne gave Theseus so as to find himself in and out of the maze of Minos king of Crete, on his mission to vanquish the fearsome Minator. The string tied to the entrance of the maze enables him to find his way in and out of this frightening maze so as to deal with the monster within.   

In this same fashion the therapist and  the drama enable the client to enter the "internal maze" so as to battle the monster threatening his or her inner peace of mind and more important, to be able to find the way out at the end of the battle.  (Jennings , 1998).

Thus the symbolic tale connects the teller and the listener to the unconscious material that they are subconsciously or consciously dealing with. Dramatizing and roleplaying the internal and external conflicts of the characters of these symbolic tales with themselves or with other characters in the tale enable us to work through these cardinal issues in the safety of work in detachment.      


The Model

We suggest this communicative mode of traditional storytelling and role-play as a basis for work with groups and individuals involved in diverse forms of learning, growth and therapeutic processes. We maintain that this model of work can be adapted to work with groups or individuals in a wide range of fields of learning, from education in the classroom, to self-awareness workshops, sessions working toward the empowerment of socially or culturally weakened groups, to diverse forms of dialogue groups between identities in conflict.

We have also found it to be a potent tool in therapy. The idea is to tap into the wisdom and the sources of energy found in storytelling and role-playing of traditional tale and mythology. All this is done by reintroducing folktale, fairytales, fables and myth into our modern culture as points of reference in education, awareness and dialogue.

Every issue arising in a process of learning is worked through using a related or freely associated traditional tale or myth, role-playing the characters of the tale and then returning to a deepened discussion of the theme at hand. The goal is to allow the group to associatively find a relevant tale that mirrors their inner world and the underlying issues. The model has a standard structure that works in most situations even though we have

found at times the need to improvise, shorten, turn about or give up one of the stages.

The following model is based on an opening and closing discussion with a storytelling session in the middle followed most times (but not always) by a role playing session of the characters mentioned in the told story. The technique will be described for the sake of

simplicity and brevity with a group and a group facilitator. It should be emphasized that a similar process can be done with a teacher, a social worker, or a therapist with any given group or individual.


The Opening Conversation

The facilitator opens the interaction usually by allowing an open conversation on the subject that is being focused on. Topics could include a certain value, or dilemma,

or the facilitation of a dialogue to solve an inter-group conflict between two or more identity groups in conflict. Alternatively the group or individual will have no

idea of what type of self exploration is potentially awaiting them. In this instance the facilitator will encourage an open exchange allowing any topic to arise, trusting the group process. This process usually will disclose what the group is dealing with intellectually or emotionally.. When the group motives have arisen the facilitator might echo back the subject to the group, making sure that it is clear both to him and to the group.


The Associative Process (Guided Imagery)

At this point the facilitator initiates an associative process not unlike guided imagery, using metaphors relating to the group issue. Childhood memories might arise. This process will have moved the group from thinking intellectually, to relating

in a more emotional way. In this process the facilitator asks the group for a free association of a traditional tale. Hopefully one of the participants will have a tale come to mind. There is no necessity that the tale have any real connection to the subject matter

of the conversation before. Alternatively in groups where there is no knowledge of traditional tales, a tale could be improvised or else the facilitator could retell an appropriate existing tale. We have found that even jokes hold similar symbolic meaning.



The participants will be encouraged to retell the tale. The group is again transported from the “associative place” to a “storytelling mode”. At the end of the tale the facilitator will welcome initial reactions to the tale, and a brief discussion will follow.


Time to Play (Role Playing)

Next the facilitator will invite the group to take part in role-playing. His or her attitude will be playful, as this aids the emotional transformation the group has to go through.

This phase includes the following stages:

1. A round of choosing and creating the characters:

Emphasis is put on their physical descriptions, which is always in the 3rd person. (It must be noted that we do not induce or manipulate a participant to choose a certain role). The best work is done with volunteers. We also restrain other group members from volunteering their descriptions of the part. It is important for the participant to express his own imagination of the role.

2. The facilitator interviews the “role-players”,

We begin by connecting them to the world of the character, asking the players general questions of the characters’ life. This is in order to help the participants take on their roles. The questions eventually become more specific around the different issues and conflicts portrayed in the tale and also as they arise from the dynamics of the role-play. The facilitator is attentive to the choices of the participants, utilizing the answers given in the creation of the beginning of the drama.

3. Dialogue:

As soon as possible the facilitator steps back and allows for the dialogue to develop between the characters themselves.

4. Drama:

We also encourage the non participating group members to enter into a dialogue with the

“roles” that are being played. At times we might suggest working through a specific issue of the tale.

5. De-rolling: When the drama has been exhausted or has reached a climax, we end the process with a de-rolling ceremony. This is where the participants that took a role in the drama, participate in a simple symbolic ceremony during which they declare that

they are no longer the character they portrayed and state their own name. When we take on roles we search and find the emotional knowledge and characteristics of the given character. These archetypes represent certain parts of our inner world in an emphasized

and concentrated degree. It is important for the participants (and especially young children or any emotionally unstable participants) to free themselves of these generalizations or concentrations and return emotionally to their own self identity.

6. Closing discussion- Associative thinking:

We encourage the group to associatively bring up the thoughts, feelings or metaphors that come to mind while contemplating the role playing within the context of the opening discussion and the issues that arose previously.


The participants tend to utilize the expressions and language of the characters in the drama as metaphors for this discussion.

These metaphors enable the group to express and define nonverbal concepts, emotions and abstract concepts derived from their inner world. At this stage, the facilitator puts great emphasis on group dynamics, and therefore

steps back at this point of the conversation so as to enable the group to develop its own dynamics around the issues that have arisen.

6. Sharing and Closure: Closure of any social process is important, and when the role-playing and /or the discussion has been an emotional one, it is virtually vital for the participants to share their feelings and for the facilitator to bring the discussion to a

more rational and intellectual plane at the closing of the session. This allows for closure and assures that all the participants feel emotionally safe at the conclusion of the session.


Sample Workshops

We have chosen to describe two very different types of workshops. The first is a more detailed description of a single parent- women’s group, where Shai used the tale as a tool of empowerment. Next follows a brief description of a course entitled “The Traditional

Tale as a Tool for Work with Groups and Individuals”. This course was unique; as it was held in a center in Jerusalem where half of the participants were Jewish coming from West Jerusalem and the other half were Palestinian originating from East Jerusalem. The course was held both in Hebrew and in Arabic with simultaneous translation. This added an intercultural dialogue to the learning process. So many important issues arose during this course, that we feel it deserves a separate paper and therefore it will be discussed only briefly in this article, with the addition of a brief introduction to the dynamics of identities in conflict within a group dialogue.


The Tale as an Empowerment Tool for Single Parents

One of the authors (Shai) met with a group of ten women, all single parents, who gathered in a WIZO cultural center in a suburb of Jerusalem, for a series of ten, two and a half hour evening meetings. The meetings always kept the same structure. They

would begin with an open discussion regarding how the women felt, mentioning the events of the week that had passed, and relating to the meeting from the week before.

After this Shai usually told a folk tale or a tale from the Greek Mythology that arose associatively out of the discussion. These tales usually had some bearing on the existential themes and dilemmas of the group members. In other contexts it would have

been appropriate to use associative storytelling as a tool, however since this group of young women proved to be sadly disconnected from their own sources of traditional folklore and tale, this was not a possible approach. They would then role-play the characters in the tale and end with a discussion around the associations arising from the role play. In this end discussion the participants usually opened up and shared very honest and deep thoughts and feelings. At times the role-playing brought about a very certain disclosure of an experience or dilemma that one of the participants was going through. We would relate to this sharing and at times even role-play certain aspects of the

situation presented. The participants were often surprised at what came up for them and for others. The workshop enabled them to go through a process of self discovery and also served as a support in the process of creating group cohesiveness.


Examples of Tales and the Associations that they awakened in the Participants

Little Red Riding Hood” brought up a discussion about the threats that the participants sensed from their environment, as well as feelings of guilt that mothers often experience with regard to the raising of their children. The distinct feelings of inadequacy,

loneliness and singular responsibility that single parents have, was very strongly pronounced as well. The workshop leader also offered the option of interpreting the different characters in the tale as different parts of our emotional inner world. This

was a very interesting discovery for some of the participants, and they discussed the various interpretations that sprung from this approach.

In response to the tale “The Girl that Became King” feelings of lack of freedom and satisfaction in their former wedded life came up. This also set off a discussion on liberty as apposed to security in life and especially in work situations. They compared conflicts with former spouses to conflicts with superiors at work. The discussion again moved to the unique conflicts of single parents with their environment, particularly in apartment renting. They spoke of the patronizing and at times hostile treatment by landlords. They discovered and discussed the empowering process that single parents go through in

dealing with life alone.

“The Stubborn Couple” an ancient Persian tale, made way for deliberations on the relationships and power struggles that married couples go through, and again other aspects on the empowering processes that a woman living alone can experience. This subject like several others returned time and again in many of our discussions. It seems to be a central concern of women raising a family on their own.

“The Kidnapping of Persephone by Hades” from the Greek Mythology inspired discussion centering on mother- daughter relationships, problems in educating children, and specifically the dilemma between allowing for freedom on one hand, and the need for

structure and discipline in children’s education on the other hand. Fear of loss was touched upon. One of the participants spoke of the role played by the “fighting and rebellious” first daughter opposed to the “lackadaisical” life of the youngest daughter.

Violence in relationships was brought up. One of the more introverted participants described her sensation of having been “kidnapped” by her former husband into wedded life. This was also a turning point in her participation and she became more active from this moment on, even volunteering to take part in the role-playing in later sessions, which was something she never agreed to do in the earlier meetings. The discussion in this meeting moved from this point on to the subjects of blindness in relationships and mutual

projections. Toward the end of the discussion Shai invited the participants to look at the more symbolic aspects of this tale. Shai and the group spoke of the cycle of nature and also the cycle of creativity we experience in our lives. The group moved from times when we are active and creative to times of “barrenness” in life and relationships.

“Psyche and Cupid” from the Greek Mythology raised thoughts regarding trust and faith in love and the expectations that we have of our partners in life. The group spoke about external beauty and the loneliness that sometimes accompany these notions. It was followed by a discussion about jealousy between siblings, and from there the group moved on to the feeling of loss and the mourning of separation in married life. Later the group discussed other aspects of separation, such as separation from the principle care-giver touching upon the symbolic meaning of this tale as a process of individuation.

The tale of “Hera and Hephaestus” allowed the group to discuss many difficulties in child raring especially with regard to issues around handicapped children or children with special needs. This encouraged one of the more passive and resistant participants

to disclose a very heavy predicament she had with her son who needed to be hospitalized for acute emotional problems. She spoke of her pain and her loneliness in the situation. She described how she was alone against her own family as well as the family of her ex-husband, who accused her of deserting the child. She received a lot of support from the group and emerged strengthened in her painful decision.

In the last meeting they heard the tale of the “Descent of Orpheus into Hades”. It gave an opportunity to discuss issues of parting and the problems that arise after separation.

In concluding the portrayal of this particular workshop, there are some observations regarding the group experience that are worth taking account of.

The group felt they had gone through a very meaningful experience and many group members expressed the desire to continue these meetings. A clear process of group cohesiveness took place, and along with that also came brave and honest disclosures

of many participants, where they revealed very intimate subjects. In general we found the discussion returning time and again to their unique situation as women parents. A sense of deep anxiety and loneliness were apparent, and with it a strong desire for answers to their queries on the “right way” to go about things as single mothers searching for acceptance and love, and becoming good educators for their children. They were encouraged to consider the option of the individuation process as an answer to many of their questions.


On Dialogue

Dialogues between identities in conflict are filled with denied emotions of anger, hurt, pain, and trauma. The language in the room will be mostly intellectual, as the best strategy for avoiding the expression of feelings is to talk “politics”. Because of the

defensiveness, the conversation will often become very superficial, stigmatic or accusative.

In this dialogue we define two specific entities: Ourselves and the “Other”. We are in need of the “other “so as to complete the definition of “us”. Research in social psychology has revealed fascinating discoveries of the dynamics of the creation of the

“other”. Humans have developed as social beings, and survival depends often on being accepted as part of the group, and the strength drawn from belonging to a group. The paradox is that one of the primary conditions for the creation of a group identity (“in-group”) is the simultaneous creation of an “out-group” or “other”. (Sherif et al, 1961)

In order to survive “we” have to be strong, in every sense of the word: Physically, psychologically, morally and spiritually. There must be a very strong justification for survival. For this reason we project all our dark or negative qualities on to the “other”,

thus possessing only positive qualities. This process intensifies itself in relation to the  degree of threat each party experiences by the other. This “other” holds all our undesired qualities. We enhance our identity by owning all the desired qualities we wish to see in ourselves. In this manner we disown all our negative qualities and project them on to the “other”. (Tajfel and Turner, 1986)

One of the main targets of the dialogue is to melt the divide between the two parties in conflict so as to enable a mutual learning process. In order to attain that, we are in need of a third classification that can be used as a source of identification for both parties.

The traditional tale serves as an attractive and neutral vessel, effective in creating a “we” from both “us” and “other”. Past experience in working at integrating the arts

into the dialogue and the use of traditional tale, has been found to be very effective. The symbolic tale describes and expresses reality on both the political, personal, cultural and spiritual level of existence. It simultaneously expresses itself through esthetic, spiritual and realistic spheres. This neutral narrative plunges the participants of the dialogue deep into their inner worlds and the collective sub-consciousness of the group, thus creating a dialogue from a much deeper level and lending itself to be used as a neutral point of reference in the fruitful discussion that follows.

Storytelling and role playing bring people closer to themselves and their feelings. Drama compels people to recruit humor - a potent tool in dialogue. The themes that have been occupying the members of the group come up in the role playing without anyone realizing it, making it the task of the facilitator to identify these themes so as to address them somehow later on, or to integrate them into a group discussion.


A Brief Description of a Dialogue Series

The following description aims at demonstrating the potency of the use of storytelling as a tool for creating dialogue.

In the months of November 2007 through to February 2008 a course was run in the “The Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center” which was intended for therapists, social workers,  teachers and group facilitators from the Jewish and Palestinian parts of the city.

Half of the participants, therefore, were Jewish and half were Palestinian. The course was held in both Hebrew and Arabic with the help of a simultaneous translator. The goal of the course was to teach this model of intervention through an interactive group process which one of the authors (Shai Schwartz) would be facilitating at first, while assuming that in the course of the process the participants would feel confident enough to take his place. This kind of work between societies in conflict is very important, considering

that people have been found  more likely to discriminate against those of the out group when they feel that their identity in relation to the group is threatened, or when there is a lack of face-to-face interaction with the individuals of the out group, as is often the case between Jews and Palestinians in Israel (Worchel et al, 2000).



In the opening session the discussion brought up associatively a tale of a wolf that “befriends” a white bull and persuades him to bring his two friends – first a black bull and then a red one, whom the wolf precedes to kill and eat, and in the end he kills the

white bull as well. This short fable had very powerful implications to the Israeli-Palestinian situation whereas the white bull was likened to different Palestinian factions cooperating with the Israelis. The role playing however brought forth a diverse

collection of issues around gender, politics and personal issues with the group, and surprisingly enough the issue that emerged strongest and that dominated the conversation after the role-playing was regarding skin color and race. This was brought up by a Jewish

Ethiopian participant and surprised the group. The discussion delved into the racial issues existing both in the Jewish and Palestinian societies. In a following session the Ethiopian participant recollected another animal tale of a group of animals joining together to travel. When they reach a river a pregnant goat asks the wolf to help her cross the

river. He agrees on the condition that she allows him to eat her leg. Not having an alternative she agrees but then finds that she cannot keep up with the rest of the group and takes shelter in a deserted house by the river. Later on the animals need to retreat because of bad weather and beg her to allow them to shelter there. Even though they have been so insensitive to her and the wolf has been cruel to her she decides to

let them in. Sometimes bad company is better then none at all.

The role playing of this tale brought up powerful issues of diverse social ills, such as issues of victimization. One of the Palestinian women of Israeli citizenship asked to play the “eaten leg”. She said that this was how she felt living as a Palestinian in Israel.

When asked to expand on this she said she felt that she was no longer part of the goat (The Palestinian society) but in fact she was now an expression of the wolf as she had already been digested by it. Once again a very surprising element brought up a profoundly original discussion between the Jews and the Palestinians. This is the advantage and the power of this tool as it enables the dialogue to descend to unexpected

depths of feeling and thought, catalyzing a very original discourse.


Summary and Conclusions

We believe that the model presented briefly in this article has potential as a tool of empowerment, both for the facilitator and for the groups that he or she works with. It seems that the stories and the interpretive acts help group members create metaphors that

enable others (and themselves) to understand their pain, their needs, their cry for help and their unique situation in general. We discover how some parts of the “self” are projected on to the story, and then “repossessed” by using acts of re-interpretation. The facilitators, on the other hand, must practice restraint, and even if they identify emerging themes,

they must allow the group to initiate interpretive generalizations. Sometimes, though, they can use their experience and point out to the group the emergence of hidden important themes, on the individual and on the group level.

The model is potentially very powerful, both in the educational, as well as in the therapeutic realm. Aside from the examples given above, there are studies showing how this model was also applied in work with traumatized young refugees (Schwartz &

Melzak, 2005). The ability to be touched, to feel again, is a small and important step toward healing. We feel that the model described here can help individuals or groups, adults and children alike, who feel that they have lost their sense of identity on a

personal, a family or a cultural level. It can restore their connections to the firm foundations of their development, at whatever stage of life they are in,and from this work they can enhance their personal capacities to value themselves and to relate to others.

In group work there is an ongoing debate regarding the extent of involvement of the facilitator that is considered appropriate. This model strives to take on a “middle of the road” approach. We do not believe in the silent, non-involving approach taken on

by Bion and his followers, as it is often perceived as alienating or even threatening by the group. Neither do we recommend a style where the facilitator finds himself pushing, manipulating or dominating the group with his thoughts. The model calls for periodic

intervention by the leader, but in all the stages once the nature of the work has been understood by the group, the leader retreats into an observational stance, thereby encouraging a dynamics of free discussion and thought.

The tale is a powerful and potent tool bringing the participants back to a time of safety, for those who experienced pleasant storytelling times during their childhood. It carries hope and optimism in a time that may hold fear and despair. The traditional tale always ends with a “happy end”.

In the words of Campbell: “We only have to follow the thread of the hero path and where we had thought to find abomination, we shall find a god: where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence: where we had thought to

be alone, we shall be with all the world” (Campbell 1949).




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About the Authors

Shai Schwartz

Originally from professional theater and storytelling, studied group facilitation, education,  performance art therapy , psychodrama, and gestalt and began integrating storytelling and role playing in developing models of intervention in dialogue between identities in conflict, cultural and social empowerment and therapy.

He is a group and individual therapist. He facilitates the Jewish –Arab conflict and works in Israel, Europe and the USA in cultural dialogue and empowerment. For the last 10 years has been cooperating with Sheila Melzak originally from the “Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture” and the founder of the “Baobab Center for Young Survivors in Exile” in London in therapeutic work with young asylum seekers. He teaches a course in The “Symbolic Tale and Drama” as Tool of Intervention with Groups and Individuals”


Prof. Yehuda Bar Shalom

Prof. Bar Shalom has done research in the following topics: Arab Jewish relations, religious and secular encounter

in Israel, relations between ethnic groups in Israel, Changes in Israeli society, culture and education, Israel Diaspora

relations and multicultural education. In addition to his position as Dean of Students at the David

Yellin College in Jerusalem, Yehuda teaches the core course in Jewish Education at Tel Aviv University's

Overseas school. Yehuda is co-founder of the Network for social entrepreneurship together with Jerusalem's

municipality, and he is very active in Jewish/Arab dialogue.


Dr. Tamar Ascher Shai

Dr. Ascher Shai was born in the US, raised in Switzerland, studied for her first two degrees in the States, and finally found her home in Israel. The need for creativity, innovativeness and charisma in working with young children is the same all over the world, and she is excited about finding new ways to help teachers in training to discover and develop these traits in themselves. As a teacher trainer and fieldwork supervisor she has the opportunity to work on a very personal level with her students, and delights in seeing the changes and growth in them throughout their studies.  In the past she spent two years as the Head of the Early Childhood department, but resigned once she realized that the administrative demands threatened to extinguish her passion for education. Outside of the Teacher’s College she is a karate instructor in an organization for women in the martial arts in Israel, and when the spirit moves her, she loves to write poetry.