Most of us have a personal story that we re-energise regularly by telling others. Sometimes it’s an empowering story but often we repeat tales of our bad luck or flaws or how things aren’t working out for us. Since ‘what we feed, grows’, it makes sense to be telling stories about our character strengths.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says we should tell stories that affirm our identity. He gives the example of the Jews telling the story each Passover of their miraculous Exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago. Whether you believe that the Bible recounts literal truth or symbolic stories, you’ll agree that repeating a tale about overcoming great odds can only be good for one’s sense of worth and ability!
Some families are great at this – over dinner or during road trips or when guests visit they reprise past experiences that were funny or special in some way, and in the process they build a strong sense of family. My childhood wasn’t marked by many of those 'strengthening' stories, although I was aware of a backdrop of stories of lucky escape from wartime terrors.
There is no doubt that what we say about ourselves is the most powerful tool we have. Several therapies, such as Narrative Therapy, pay deliberate attention to this process. I’ve just experienced a modality called Dreamtime Healing Using Holographic Kinetics. Developed by Steve Richards, an indigenous man, it’s a technique in which you revisit decisions made in the past and re-make them, consciously, so that they are empowering and useful. An NLP technique called ‘Rewrite Personal History’ does a similar thing.
It’s important to be proud of our story both at this personal level but also at a cultural and global level. Mythologists talk about our need for ‘a new Human Story’ – a story that affirms us as a co-operative, resourceful, loving species – although naturally we’d need some drama and extraordinary challenges in there to make the story interesting!
What are your thoughts about this? I’d love to know, so please post a comment below.