Toula’s Story

Approximately ten years ago, Toula’s children (then aged 12, 10 and 9) were struggling with some issues. While on a family camping holiday, she decided to write stories about the problems they were facing, but one step removed. She had a character experience a similar situation as her child, but they were guided by a (Jungian) wise-sage character. As her children read about the characters and discussed them with her, Toula hoped her children would learn the characters’ positive ways of coping.

Animal symbolism in Toula’s book of stories (later called The Universal Child) to help her children

The protagonists in her stories were animals named after her sons and daughter. As they ventured on their heroic quest, each character learned to resolve their problems by listening to the “wise sage”.

To reinforce the stories’ key messages, Dr Gordillo created accompanying images, scribbled on a piece of paper or drawn with a stick around the campfire.

Future stories and images contained elements from myth and legend her children could relate to: talking animals, dragons, vampires and paladins, the natural world and symbols that surrounded them.



The development of the ‘tools’

Toula’s children said they found the stories and images helpful. To help them learn other important life-skills, Toula continued writing stories. She wrote twelve stories in total, and they were also well received by her children.

Employing what she calls ‘Jungian Action Research’, Dr Gordillo began using these tools with her young students and clients. She again received excellent feedback and results. 

Young people use stories and images (social media, movies, books, song-stories, YouTube, video games and digital websites) to cope

Toula also conducted PhD psychology research regarding ways technology can help young people become more resilient. One of the key messages from her qualitative research was that young people use stories and images (online and offline) to cope with their problems. In fact, 79% of the respondents’ described using stories and images to cope (most of the fiction they view/read was either fantasy or science fiction).

Based on her results and with a continued desire to develop methods to improve youth resilience, Toula enrolled in a Doctor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing). Here, she began researching creative ways in which stories could be written to deliver helpful mental health messages to young people.

Along with other synchronistic events, this marked the beginning of Talk to Teens, Universal Psychology and SIT.