The Healing Power of Storytelling

In my work with story, I often invite groups to notice their bodies. How does your body respond to stories?  When we tell our personal stories to an attentive listener the senses are activated. Both teller and listener see the meadow, taste the blackberries, hear the grandmother’s excited voice, feel the child’s heart trembling before the bear enclosed within the brambles. This capacity to relive our experiences with one another is a powerful empathic practice that brings healing. When I invite you into my stories, I’m also inviting you to connect to my nervous system. To share my body’s tensions, excitements, terrors, apprehensions, fears, ecstasies, anguish, and relief. When my body feels another person accompanying me in my experience, my nervous system “co-regulates” –fears can be soothed, anxieties calmed, despair lessened. This interpersonal communion is what happens in story sharing and will be a central part of our teaching at our upcoming in-person and online trainings.

As our Surgeon General Vivek Murthy states again and again, we are living in an age of trauma. People are either shut down or overly activated. Both states involve bodies stuck in survival states. One of the most powerful ways we help people come back to regulation–return to safety, well-being, mental awareness, and social engagement—is to exchange lives through story.

In the coming year we will have a number of programs (including free monthly gatherings, online and in-person trainings) to help encourage the healing practice of story sharing. In this age of trauma we hope the practice of exchanging stories can help all of us embody safety, recover our compassionate sensibilities, and begin to imagine a future full of possibilities.

-Mark

For more on the connection between story and the body read Anchored by Deb Dana and The Healing Power of Storytelling by Dr. Annie Brewster