Recently I've become interested in stories. There are a few different kinds of stories, but what they all have in common is that they control the lives of humans. There are the stories that are common to most of us, such as the story of money: The concept that certain pieces of paper have immense value. If you would find a hockey trunk full of money on the street, you would have a very strong emotional reaction, because you believe in the story of money.
Even if ISIS believe in very different stories than most people in the western world, they still share the belief in the story of money. That is why they destroyed pretty much everything as they entered new cities; books, buildings, human lives. But they did not destroy the American dollars they came across.
There are also the kind of stories we tell ourselves. Like, maybe after many years of very hard work, you finally make it to your dream job. Say you become partner at your law firm. The goal everyone in the business aims for. You make a shitload of money. But you aren't really that happy if you search deep inside yourself. Although you ignore these thoughts, you stop them right as they appear, because they do not fit with the story you are telling yourself about this job.
Stories are powerful things. The placebo effect is an example. A belief in a story can become so powerful that it manifests itself physically.
People give their lives because they believe in stories. To get someone to join an army, just tell them the story of the nation they so proudly will die for, or the story of the 72 virgins they will get to enjoy in heaven, after they have given their life.
The concept of stories is deeply rooted in our minds. Our big brains are not built for storing data, like a computer. Our minds are not built primarily for processing letters and numbers. No, our minds are optimized for storing, processing, communicating and drawing conclusions from stories. That is why we are sucked into a good story much quicker than a book of facts. That is why some of the most well-known and well-preserved guidebooks for life, all are in the form of collections of stories.
What stories do you believe in? What stories do you tell yourself on a daily basis? Are these stories making your life better or worse? These are simple questions that unfortunately most of us do not ask often enough.