A Powerful Painkiller


We all know the power of a good story, but did you know that a good story is a powerful painkiller?

Helen Mullen, a librarian, tells the story about visiting the pediatric wards of hospitals and telling stories to the children, many of whom were in severe pain. While the children were listening to the stories, they did not feel the pain.

Madeleine L’Engle shares in her book Walking on Water:

I remember my elder granddaughter’s ninth summer, most of which was spent on the pediatric floor of a city hospital after she had been hit by a truck on her way home from swimming. She could not be given any painkillers because of the head injury, and she was in great pain.

As she returned to full consciousness, she said to her parents and grandparents, “I love you,” and then, “Read to me.” So we read to her, hour on hour.  When our voices would tire and we would slow down, we would immediately hear, “Keep on reading,” and so we kept on.

Story was a painkiller, quite literally. When her brain was focused on story, then it was not on the pain center.  Story was a more effective painkiller than any chemical medication. 

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