We all have stories, they hold our memories, we share them with others, they explain how we understand our lives and they provide us with direction. Our stories weave together our personal experience with the experience of family and friends and the world around us. Our stories can lift us up, move us to tears, and create connection as well as division. We can learn from our stories and they can also help us transcend our experience allowing us to approach our well being in a more supportive way. A story conveys our perspective and has an impact on our ability to heal; our thoughts and feelings can influence our physical well being. It is important to note here that healing does not necessarily mean curing. We can heal emotionally, mentally and spiritually even though there may not be a physical cure available to us. Healing in this sense allows us to find value and meaning in our lives no matter what we may be facing. Our stories matter, through them we express the meaning of our experience and they can help us to understand how we heal if we listen to them.
That stories matter is not something I would have been writing about a couple of years ago. I listened to people as they told stories about their lives and I heard a great deal about what was important to them but I didn’t understand what they were getting from sharing the detail and nuances of their experience in this way. I was listening for what was behind or underneath the story more than appreciating the experience that was being shared. My way has been more succinct, a bit of “just the facts ma’am” to be honest. Learning to share more of my experience has taken practice and through that practice of sharing more of my story with others I have learned to connect in new ways. This began when I signed up to be part of a group of coaches interested in the role of coaching in the healing process.
The stories we tell about how we heal reveal our deepest beliefs, some are supportive and some are undermining of our well being. There are stories we share with others and ones that we tell ourselves. We are not always fully aware of the content and meaning of those stories or of how they are influencing our behaviour and decision making. How we form and share our stories varies greatly from person to person. So, how do we make sense of what we hear in a way that best serves us?
Consider your own style of storytelling in comparison to the styles of those you listen to. Some of us tell a little, some of us tell a lot about what is going on for us, leaving us with either not enough or so much information we really aren’t able to say what is important. Our telling style fulfills our own needs to express what is important to us and over time we have developed ways of dealing with the stressors that we face by creating stories to explain, manage and make meaning of what is happening. The content of our stories indicates whether we are past, present or future oriented. It also indicates where we look for support and how we receive that support. Our stories also clearly display whether we hold our experience as an ongoing whole with its elements maintaining significance as time passes, or as a series of events strung together rather like the idea of punctuated equilibrium posited by evolutionary historian Stephen J. Gould.
Have you noticed that some people’s stories have a beginning, a middle and an end? Others start somewhere and meander all over the place, pulling in things about connected people and events without ever seeming to get to an ending. Personally I have a tendency to start somewhere in the middle leaving others without context, this makes telling jokes awkward because I tend to share the punchline early. Being aware of our natural style can help to make us more able to understand what we really believe about what is happening for us, for others and for the world around us.
When we hear what we are saying we can begin to see whether or not our stories are serving us well. Sometimes we need someone like a coach to help us really hear what we are saying. By revealing our beliefs and the assumptions we make based on them, we have the opportunity to make changes to our stories that makes them more supportive of us. We can shift from an illness perspective towards a wellness perspective and begin to make different decisions about how we heal. This is what Narrative Health Coaching is all about. You can check us out at www.teleosis.org.
About the Author
Lois’ passion is helping the people she works with achieve true transformative change in their lives. She develops personalized coaching programs for each client, which helps them to build capacity to actualize their desired outcomes. Lois challenges the people she works with to examine how they are approaching what they have come into coaching for and what they are willing to do for themselves toward achieving their goals. She supports them as they stretch themselves and grow into the new way of approaching their challenges. Read More About Lois.