Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.
"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
The Power of Story
I woke up yesterday morning to a friend, Lois, posting a question on my author page. She asked me to write a line or two about the power of stories, particularly family stories. A line or two? This is worthy of a book! I will humbly attempt to answer her question, although many authors far above my scope of philisophic imagination have written about this, including my favorites: Joseph Campbell, Rollo May, James Hillman, and my grandmother, Madeleine L'Engle.
Lena, I'm teaching a course called the Power of Story to my college frosh; the first unit is about family stories. Could you share a sentence or a few about the power/influence/necessity/effect of story (either crafting it or receiving it) in the life of an individual or of a culture, and/or what happens in its absence? Thanks!
Everyone loves a story, but not everyone believes that they have a story to tell.
You do. Believe it.
"Tell me a story about when I was a baby."
"Tell me the story about the time you and Da met."
"Tell me a story about princesses and dragons."
My children bombard me with these requests and I happily oblige, for I know that it is through story that they will understand their lives.
Story is the lens through which we see the world: is it a good one - where love and hope reign supreme, or a bad one - where evil lurking behind every corner, no-one and nothing is to be trusted. For most of us, it's somewhere in the middle.
Story helps us craft our own world view, which is passed through our culture and our families. When we tell stories, we are asking people to bear witness to our experience. Nobody can deny the healing power of being heard. Stories also make us feel like we are part of a tribe and that we matter. Without our stories, we have no road map.
I am a writer. I process the world through story and essay. I am drawn to dark material, yet I work hard to find the silver linings of hope.
And yet - we don't have to be "writers" to do this. We devour books, movies, television shows, newspapers, family lore. We rely on "story" to tell us who we are.
But what if the stories we tell ourselves lead us on a destructive path? The power of story is not only positive.
When I was a therapist, I worked with my clients on "reframing" their experiences, because the stories that they were telling themselves weren't serving them anymore. They needed, as I myself have at times needed, to rewrite the script. They needed to take control of their own narrative.
Healer, heal thyself: I used to think that my stories were boring - worst of all that my own personal story didn't deserve to be counted. The stories I was telling about myself were dangerous. I was telling myself the story that I was unlovable. That I had nothing to offer, that I had no personal power. That I couldn't cope. I was reactive, rather than proactive. The glass was half empty, even though I pretended that it was half full.
Rewriting my story has changed me. The facts remain the same, but the way I view them aren't, because I today I take responsibility for myself and for my actions.