The healing power of sharing stories
We all have a story to tell. Our stories come about as a result of our own personal life experiences. Many of our stories are happy ones that end happily ever after – these stories we love to share and tell them over and over again. However, some of our stories make us feel ashamed or they might make us feel sad. They may also make us feel guilty or angry. These stories we may hesitate to share with others, preferring to keep them suppressed deep within us, avoiding them as much as possible. What we don’t realise , even though we can pretend these stories don’t exist, we still carry with us the negative feelings that these stories trigger in us.
Our stories are very powerful – not only for ourselves but also for helping others. I experienced this myself, quite recently, when currently attending a counselling skills workshop. There are seven participants, all women, attending this workshop and over the weeks, we have shared many stories with each other – each person’s experience being unique to them and yet their story resonating with each one of us on some level.
There was one story, however, that stood out strongly for me. One of the participants recounted her own experience of losing her two daughters to a long custody battle with their father. This story happened to her nearly twenty years ago and while it still triggers sadness in her, she no longer feels the sense of helplessness she experienced back then. She was able to share this story knowing that she had only done what she thought was right at the time, considering the resources she had available to her at that time. She could also share that she has a very special and loving relationship with both her daughters now.
This story resonated deeply with me because I, too, had lost my daughter in a custody battle with her father. At the time it was devastating and there were many a day when I thought I would lose my mind. It happened thirteen years ago and for all of those thirteen years, I carried feelings of shame, guilt and doubt in my ability to be a mother. So, what a relief it was to hear another mother share a similar experience. It finally helped me to realise that I was not the only mother in the world who had lost her child in a custody battle and that I am not the only mother in the world to have experienced such a sense of failure and despair. It also helped me to realise that there was no need to carry such intense, self-judgmental feelings. As the other mother said, so rightly, I was operating with the resources I had available to me at that time which were scarce on many levels – from financial, lack of support and emotional levels.
For me, there were many astounding realisations that came out of hearing this story – not only did the other women in the group respond with unconditional love, support and understanding but so did I (which made me question my own harsh self-judgement!). As a result of hearing this story, I was finally able to acknowledge the deep sorrow that I had been carrying for so long, alone, too ashamed to share my story with anyone else. With this acknowledgment and dropping the harsh self-judgment, I was finally allowing the healing to take place.
This is the power of sharing a story – it gives not only yourself, the story teller, a chance to heal, but also for others who experience and hear a similar story to theirs, to heal.
As a life coach and spiritual teacher, I get to hear many stories. The nature of my business requires my clients sharing their stories – negative and positive ones. And, it is my business to empower those who have stories that hold them back, to identify them and to create a different story so that they may move forward into a better space. Shamans have a beautiful word for creating a new story – “dream-weaving”.
Think about all your own, personal stories, especially those that don’t serve you in a positive way. Think about how these stories continue to make you judge yourself harshly. Now, imagine telling this story. What response do you expect to get? What would happen if the response was different? How would you feel? Imagine being able to “dream-weave” your story to create a story that gives you permission to understand, love and support yourself. That’s the power of looking back on the whole story, which includes you and the resources you had available to yourself at that time. By truly exploring and understanding a life experience and seeing it from all angles and not just from one, narrow, twisted perspective, you are giving yourself the power to heal.
Think about the stories you need to heal within yourself and find someone you can trust to share that story. Accept that your experience in your story is unique to you but also accept that your story may resonate with another person, on some level, and may just be the story they need to hear to heal their own story. Let the sharing of your stories heal not only you, but for those who hear them.