Think about your earliest memories and what they say about your developing personality, your caregivers, and your heritage.
Now, think about one of your favorite memories. What does that memory say about your identity, interests, and values? A deep level of emotional insight is developed through sharing your life experiences, your stories, with others.
Storytelling has been an integral part of the human experience as far back as we can observe. The earliest known cultures had their own oral traditions of creation, life, and death, from the Hebrew account of creation to the Epic of Gilgamesh. Sociologists confirm this oral tradition was profoundly important due to the intimacy it created between the teller and the listener, and through the flexibility used by the narrator to tailor the message to the needs of the audience.
The storyteller had to be able to know and understand the audience, and choose what was most important for that audience, with the goal of reorienting their thinking or feeling. Storytelling, then and now, has deep meaning for identity, relationship, and life.
Most counselors don’t describe themselves as storytellers. They fear the descriptor would confuse people and lead them to think the counselor isn’t there to listen, but to talk.
Fortunately, storytelling is infinitely more than talking. A story can be told in a word, or a picture, or a look. It can be a monumental expression through one touch from parent to child, or the message captured in the furrowed brow of a friend. These interactions communicate essential elements of a relationship that deepen intimacy and reflect back to the “listener” valuable information about himself or herself.
Let me invite you to see my storytelling role this way, as a vehicle to communicate how I see you, to reflect back to you the way you see yourself, and to create a desire and understanding for the way you could see yourself. I want to invite you into a more relational experience of your world, one that can be translated to the important people in your life.
I tell a story that invites others to face tension, to see its value and not fear it. It’s a story to disturb and entice people to experience a truer picture of themselves.
We all need storytellers in our lives who are willing to help us see life as it is and point us toward the value of life as it could be. This is an invitation to understand your own story in a new and profound way.
I’ll end with the work of Mumford and Sons, songwriters who approach storytelling well. I hope this song reorients your thinking to the beauty of a journey towards authentic freedom.
After all, what good is a story unless it impacts our lives?
Mumford and Sons, “Sigh No More”
Love; it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design, an alignment to cry
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be
Who do YOU want to be freed to be?