There is great power in stories. This is basic to the human experience. When we think of stories being told, the image of ancient peoples sitting in a circle around a fire comes to mind. Perhaps the gift of one person in the ancient community was the gift of story-telling, and so they were designated to tell the story of the community. The story brought the people together, and the telling of the story brought the people together with their ancestors, their history, and to their unconscious connections to past, present, and even future.
We still tell stories. Something in us wants to tell stories, and so we do. How often have we told one another where we were and how we heard about the events of 9/11, when the story of our nation in this post-modern era was forever changed? Why do we turn on the evening news, except to hear the story of the day, a story to which we are connected, like it or not?
What story of your own do you tell, again and again? What is the story of your life you would tell at this moment, at this time?
There is great power in stories. To heal from trauma, we must tell someone our story. Sometimes the details of the story change, but the story must be told, over and over and over again, to release the trauma. It is our need to tell the story. It is also our need to find someone who is safe to be the recipient of the story. When we are grieving, we need to tell the story of our grief, of our loss, of our troubles.
We need to speak our story to someone, to a community, that is safe.
Who is safe? Well, I can say who is not safe. Someone who interrupts to insert their own opinions or their own story, is not safe. Someone who wants to give advice is not safe. Someone who wants to change our story for reasons of their own is not safe. Someone who has an interest in keeping us trapped in our story is not safe. Sometimes our closest friends are not safe. Maybe we need to find others to listen, other friends, who are safe.
Certainly, someone who does not honor the importance and the privilege of hearing our story is not safe. Do not share your story with someone who cannot be trusted to keep the story safe, safe from telling others, safe from gossiping about your story. You are the keeper of your story, and as the keeper, it is your responsibility to care for your story, as you would a child, keeping the story safe from those who will abuse the story. You are responsible for your story.
There is great power in stories, and stories must be told. Our healing is in the telling.
Sometimes, stories need to be told again and again until their true kernel is discovered, through the telling of the story. Sometimes, we tell the story over and over again, as if we are turning a beautiful, rough rock in our hands, looking at it from many angles. We feel it, we sense it, we see it, we run our fingers over it. And so it is with the telling and the re-telling of our stories.
“All stories are true.” The details of a story are not often true. We see this in ancient scriptures, when sometimes the same story is told in many versions, from chapter to chapter, book to book. The details change. But the power of the story remains.
How often have you heard someone you love tell a story, and as you listen, you realize that the story – which you have certainly heard many times before! – is being told for a certain effect: to impress, to remember, to grieve, to instill with a particular meaning. And so you have witnessed, you have known that the details are not always true, but the story remains, the story is true.
What is your story? Who will you honor by telling your story? Choose carefully! Choose someone who is safe to hear your story! Choose someone who will honor your story – honor you – by listening, quietly, with great presence, with respect. Choose someone who will not degrade your story by telling it to others as gossip, as if the story was not rich and important. Your story – whatever it is! – is your richest gift to the world.
When you tell your story, you begin to see yourself in new ways. When you tell your story, you see the empty places, the things that are missing. You see the characters in the story, and you see who has had power in your story. As time goes on, and as you tell the story again and again, you begin to see the shifting of the story.
Perhaps you need to become the hero of your own story, because you are the hero of your life. Life is difficult, for all people. When you tell your story, you begin to look at it differently. Maybe you see the parts that are missing, the parts you are not telling, that you are ashamed to tell, that you have been told are not worthy to tell. This is not true.
And when you tell your story, over and over and over again, sometimes you may find that you are tiring of your own story! Some things that were true are no longer true, and will never be true for you again. You have grown. Maybe you’ve outgrown the story you have been telling. It is time to tell another story.
“All stories are true.”