We tend to think of stories as emerging from consciousness—from dreams or fantasies—and traveling through words or images to other minds. We see them outside of us, on paper or on screen, never under the skin. But we do feel stories. We know in our gut when we’re hearing a good one—and science is starting to explain why. Experiencing a story alters our neurochemical processes, and stories are a powerful force in shaping human behavior.
. – Jeremy Adam Smith, The Science of the Story
This week, while experiencing a particularly difficult situation, I found myself on the phone with a friend. We took turns telling stories about what was happening in our lives at this time and then exchanging words or deep understanding and empathy. As I shared about a struggle with relationship, the conversation shifting from the present to the past and I found myself transported into my friend’s incredible world of love and loss and understanding.
We both recognized the power of how friends respond to us during our very personal struggles, how each individual has their own particular response based largely on their own life stories as they bring those into expressions of understanding and how they offer suggestions or perspective.
But in this exchange, first and foremost, I noticed how I could not help myself from being in her story, a story of years ago seemed to be happening for me right in that moment. Thought she was in the main character, I could not help but feel myself in that role, living the story she was speaking. I was in awe and then tears as she continued through story.
And then, I recognized this to be the most memorable part of the conversation for me. I cannot truly remember words or advice or morals to the story which I know came before and after the telling of the tale. But I remember the emotion, detail and overall my personal experience of the story, which I learned from, creating my own personal interpretation and understanding.
Storytelling is a integral process in nature-based healing. The sharing of a story when one goes on a solo walk or wilderness quest is imperative to the integration of how to move forward in life. The hearing of what problems arouse on the Quest and how an individual rose to the occasion to solve that problem or meet that challenge, engages a part of us that FEELS and becoming present in the experience of all of ourselves. Yes, we hear it and experience through mirror neurons, yes, we grow emotional and our limbic system comes alive, but most of all we experience a bond with each other, the story becomes one of the collective. Through the sharing of stories we understanding others and even more, we understand ourselves more clearly. As the story ends, all the ways it continues to live in us begins. Storytelling teaches us to survive in this world, learning ways to solve problems and care for each other, revealing to us how to live our purpose in this world– learning the story of how to be compassionate, heroic, loving, mature, intentional, and a member of a community.
I am ready to learn from you story.