Stories that Heal; Stories that Harm
I attended one of the most inspirational and exciting days last Friday. A conference on story-telling and understanding across communities and other social divides. One of the themes which stuck out for me was about hearing from those that are invisible in society and hearing those bits of people’s lives which they hide away through fear or shame. Understanding that in sharing these parts of ourselves we become more human and more connected to a greater whole.
Another theme of the day was the individual and collective fear of exposing some stories and emotions and about what meaning we bring to what we hear. As individuals we are always making sense of the world, I believe that we are meaning driven creatures. Things need to make sense for us or we feel unsafe. We look to stories to provide sense, safety and identity. The meaning that we offer to a story or a reflection might not have been what the story teller intended. We might have heard our own pain or humour in what was offered in a very different way. Our own identity shapes how we experience others and that stories can offer us a way to loosen the bonds around the individual and merge to a more collective experience. It’s something that’s interested me very much since being part of the CTBI team, the focus that church society seems to have for groups of people, collective suffering being almost more important or more easy to witness than individual suffering. Is individual suffering too much for us and our self value?
Is the work of society now to open up more space for the individual? It seems like madness to even suggest it in our highly individualistic society and yet to hear the individual stories of suffering, confusion or pain is an incredible privilege. But yet that story is only powerful in its relation to others. How stories move us or motivate us to change our behaviour and the way that we see ourselves. There feels like there’s something big in the relationship between the individual and the collective and how we understand those differences and how we work to bridge the gap between the story of one and the story of many. I am left in no doubt about the restorative power of stories and what they offer us as individuals and communities. I seem though to have more and more questions...