Summoning a Story

Image Description: The word ‘lan-guage’ as an entry in a dictionary. Public domain image.

One of the most transformative and empowering acts of care we can offer is an invitation to tell a story. When people can put their experiences into words, they connect meaningfully with others, and perhaps most significantly, they make meaning of their own lives. People remember who they are and become crafters of narratives that convey some of their most significant experiences.

Trauma researchers have written a great deal about this; healing often comes with the ability to share narratives and make meaning out of challenging experiences. We never want to inquire about trauma experiences in intrusive ways, but when people begin to open up, and we sense that they want to share, an invitation of, “Would you like to tell me more about that?” can be remarkably transformative.

Likewise, invitations to share stories of positive experiences can be just as transformative, especially when people are feeling down, sad, confused, or burned out. At the right time — and it is important for it to be at the right time — have you ever asked someone to share about their own resilience? Or about a moment when they felt joy? Or about a time when they felt really engaged and alive in what they are doing?

As they share, these positive memories of the past become present, physiologically speaking. These stories flow through people’s bodies as they tell them, and the act telling them changes how their bodies are feeling in that moment.

So yes, one of the most transformative and empowering acts of care we can offer is an invitation to tell a story.

Renee Roederer

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