Story telling is the entire focus of a therapy known as Narrative Therapy. Some really focus upon the idea of telling our stories…not just the distant past but the present and near past. Have you noticed those who enjoy being the center of attention- generally they are good story tellers. They enjoy being around people because it’s an opportunity to share their stories- in a way to share their lives, but this process of sharing is powerful. Memories that are shared and relived with others become stronger and more alive. Those who repeat their escapades at the grocery store end up transforming their ordinary experiences into adventures and those adventures get rerecorded and held much deeper in the narrative of their lives. I have clients who come in and have no stories to tell me. In fairness, I have often responded to the general question “what’s going on?” with a profound “not much.”
I’m convinced that this is not the way I want to live my life and I encourage you that becoming a better story teller will transform your past, produce more joy, create more connection in your life, and will engage you in your life more.
I have become a bit of an expert on the stories people tell, I listen and ask questions all day long as a profession and I’ve noticed one big difference between those who suck me in and those who leave me on the outside. It’s the emotion and passion…even more than the details and humor. I am sucked in as the story teller let’s themselves go and embraces the exhibitionist in themselves- allowing them to become the center of attention and get lost in the show. We often tell our stories from a distance as one inspecting a mathematical formula, but those who dive into their stories and swim around have a way of drawing us in. So, there is the third benefit of storytelling, we get in touch with the moment, let go of self-conscious anxiety, find ourselves less cerebral, and enjoy the ride- what a great way to be.
I think we struggle sometimes with this because we expect rejection, we imagine in advance that people will be bored or as we speak, the story just “feels” like it lakes any value. That’s not to say that this is the only hurdle, as a result of lack of practice those storytelling “muscles” have no doubt atrophied. But a huge obstacle is how we view our story and our audience. Imagine if you will a child who paints a picture. He loves his creation. He can’t wait to share it because that is the natural human response to creation- we share it! He leaps from his table and runs to his mother who is too busy on the phone, undaunted he scrambles to his father who gives a cursory nod and goes back to the television. The excitement drains from him, the painting dangles lifelessly from his hand as head bowed he goes back to his desk, learning not to grow excited about sharing the things that spring forth from his heart. Many have experienced some such experience in their life that has left them without much excitement to share.
I was inspired years ago by an interview with a comedian on the radio. He talked about his process for working on new jokes. Once developed, he would try his new joke out at three venues. He said, “If no one laughs I won’t use the joke, it’s not that it’s not funny, they just don’t get it.” I marveled at his confidence in the face of lack of appreciation. I have since made a habit of saying that we need “jokes” that we appreciate even if the rest of the world doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean that we stop sharing our “jokes.” On the contrary, this is where we start. Valuing our lives, our stories and intentionally trying to re-cultivate that excitement to share, pushing through the disappointments, and allowing ourselves to get lost in those stories. Make no mistake; you probably won’t do a great job at first. Like anything it will take time. But my advice to you is to find at least one person that you make it a regular habit to begin cultivating this story telling fervor.