Scientific American comes close to my ink-stained heart with their interview with psychology professor Timothy D. Wilson, a leading authority on using story editing to change people’s lives:
A variety of writing exercises have been developed that help people reinterpret troubling events from their past in ways that speed recovery from these events. Another approach is to get people to change their behavior first. This “do good, be good” approach was well-known to Aristotle, who said, “We become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlling by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage.” One of the best ways of preventing teenage pregnancies, for example, is to get teens to do volunteer work in their communities. Doing so changes them from alienated kids who don’t care about the adult world to kids who feel like they have a stake in their communities.
I certainly don’t claim that story-editing techniques are the answer to all of society’s ills. These techniques have, however, been shown to lower the rate of teenage pregnancy, reduce teenage violence, lower the use of alcohol and drugs, improve relationships between members of different ethnic groups, and reduce the achievement gap.
A theme of the book is that whatever approach we take to address these and other problems, we should test the effectiveness of interventions scientifically with the experimental method. All of the story-editing techniques I review have been shown to work in rigorous experimental trials.