Have you ever thought about how obsessed the human mind is with stories? Yes, I say obsessed, because when you think about it we surround ourselves with stories everywhere. We read stories in books and newspapers, we watch stories on film and television, we listen to them in music, we tell each other stories about our day when we have coffee or dinner with friends and family, and even when we sleep we dream up stories in our heads.
We need stories. Storytelling is basically how our languages were created. Scientists say the narrative is a central part of the human mind and how we function as human beings. We are highly social creatures and interact with others, which spawns a narrative. We are creative and inventive, we are able to fantasize and dream and build things. Stories help us deal with possible events in real life, help us compartmentalize all that could happen to us. But if we were not so social we would probably only create factual stories, built around true events. Then there would be no fiction. Imagine that!
Alright, so it’s easy to understand how fictional stories were made up by homo sapiens around the camp fire, telling stories about other tribes possibly attacking them or travelling to a place where water is scarce, and how this could benefit the tribe in the future by imagining different scenarios. But what about the pleasure we get from stories? Well, not only does it give us a simulation of game plan in our real life, which gives us a sense of control, an evolved structure of behavioral systems, but it also triggers our emotions. We learn to understand our own and other’s emotions. This sharing of made up stories thus helps us deal with the complexity of our creative mind, we can live out different plots and we feel satisfied and in control, and our emotions make us happy. In other words, don’t feel bad for spending so much money on new books every month, it’s good for you!