One reason is that we are each a living story and the meaning of our life is based upon that story. As children just forming a sense of self and the world, stories are extremely important. At that time the psyche is still connected to the unconscious; the place from which all stories originate, and the physical world is not more important than the imagined one. Stories validate our experience and give us a way to understand that the unseen world has its value. We love to hear about the life of each creature we’re currently enchanted with; we imagine the life of an ant or a horse; we want to hear about the life of our parents and all those we meet; we want stories of adventure and life lived differently than ours. These form an essential identity.
It’s all preparation for the creation of our own story and the eventual reinventing of the self. As adults we’re drawn to stories that our outside of our own experience; again, it is a striving for a larger meaning. If we’re lucky, and our ego’s are intact and healthy, we will keep using stories to expand our sense of self to include more and more possibility; our identity grows and changes.
Through a story we may find an attribute of a person that we want to emulate. Children and teenagers do it all the time. When my daughter was 3 she loved the stories of cats and went through a period of “being” a cat. What teenager doesn’t have an idol, often going through several, who they’re emulating? The reason that person has become important to them is because they see something in their story that they want for themselves.
A story, no matter how simple or complex, is a template for the use of the psyche to grow and become all that it wishes to be.
Another reason is that as social beings we’re interested in the experience of the world around us; people, animals, bugs, you name it, we want to understand it. By hearing the experience of an “other” we can empathize, we can find compassion for their particular challenges which forms a bond between us. Stories of other times, other cultures, other life conditions, further our connection to the larger world making us better humans through the appreciation that life is much much larger than our one unique story.
We’re the only one, but we’re not the only one that’s the only one!!
Another reason is to nurture and grow our imagination.
When traveling in the Yucatan, I was so moved by the magic of the environment that my imagination was enthralled and I created a series of photographic images based on what I imagined in that place. It was pure fun, so entertainment is another important reason for stories in our lives.