Story-Telling

We were never meant to be alone. A factor that can influence severity and duration of various mental illnesses is whether or not a person has a supportive community. Isolation can lead to a downward spiral. It has been said that joy is not complete until it is expressed, shared with others. We need other people. And not just those superficial conversations about the weather and clothes, but rather authentic soul-bearing friendships that allow us to share the ugliest parts of ourselves and still be accepted. Those types of friends are rare, I admit, and I don’t recommend leading into a new friendship with that type of content. But when we can be vulnerable and share our stories, we invite others to become vulnerable as well.

It is important to share with others the good and the bad in our lives. It helps to lessen the burden of the painful. It allows the blossoming of the joyous. But what if you have a hard time expressing your story?

In his new book The Examined Life, psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz also discusses the importance of telling your story. In a conversation with Jane Clayson for On Point radio, Grosz talks about the emotional damage that results from an inability to express your life in stories.

I’m really interested in what happens when people can’t tell their stories. So often people come to see me and of course the most difficult story from their childhood was the one their parents…didn’t help them find the words for. ..maybe because of guilt…[the parents] don’t know how to help the child articulate their feelings…Sometimes we don’t know how to put into words the most important things that a child may be going through. Those stories don’t go away, they get buried in us, and they come out in all sorts of different ways. And part of what therapy may be about…are people who are then troubled or caught in an impasse because of these stories not being known to them, not having the words for them.

Stories are important because it helps us to understand ourselves, our world, and those that inhabit it. Stories help us to make sense of things, and to heal. We all have the ability to hold memories. Perhaps these memories are accessed as feelings first, with no real content. And then as one begins to untangle the confusion, the memory emerges in more clarity as a coherent story and can be dealt with in a healthy way. It might involve grief, it might involve anger, or any other slew of emotions, but the power behind the memory can be dismantled. We need trusted others in our lives to give us the space and the grace to process these things. To help us articulate the pain. Or to simply sit with us and acknowledge our tears. In this chaotic world, we were never meant to be alone.

Some ideas on articulating your story:

  1. Try journaling in an attempt to articulate your story
  2. Read memoirs or other biographies to help inspire and bring your story own to life
  3. Talk to a trusted friend
  4. Paint your story, or aspects of your story