For example, we cannot understand love without stories about love. Stories about love that we see in fiction, in our own lives, in our family history shape our understanding of what love is and what love is not. Stories of love and belonging that we invent or that are told to us, help us understand our own or perhaps a friends childhood.
We only need to listen to the stories from our youth or from our friends youth; we do not need to know a great deal about the history of patterns of attachment that extend back into childhood to know how we or our friends see love.
Past loves shadow present attachments, and take up residence within them. This, in turn, suggests that in order to talk well about them we will need to turn to texts that contain a narrative dimension, thus deepening and refining our grasp of ourselves as beings with a complicated temporal history.
Perhaps that is why when lovers first meet, they listen with rapt attention to the stories told by their new love. They listen not only to the words, but to the emotions of those words, because the emotion gives our stories the life they need to become alive and vibrant to our new love or to our new friend.
One of Nussbaum’s central points is that the complex cognitive structure of the emotions has a narrative form — that is, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we feel shape our emotional and ethical reality.
Our stories create the paradigms in which we live our lives. The stories we read, watch and listen to help us by creating a prism in which we see the many facets of our life. However, what we watch, read, and listen to is shaped by our earliest stories of who we are, and how we do things, both individually and in our family and social groups.
This of course is the great psychological function of literature and the reason why art can function as a form of therapy. By understanding how we perceive literature and art we can understand how we view the world, in a larger sense and gives us an understanding of our own personal philosophy of life.