In 1993, when introducing my "How to Tell Personal Stories" workshop at an Ohio storytelling conference, I shared the story of my son’;s bout with cancer in 1989 for the first time in front of a live audience. Finally, I could tell it with the truth and drama it possessed. Why for the first time?
As a professional speaker, I learned early how powerful it is to share personal stories with my audience. Usually the stories I shared were either humorous and / or motivational accounts of my own experiences. Our listeners are not our therapists, so I do not tell a story that I am still having trouble dealing with. Even though my son’;s history and my experience with it had a positive outcome, at first I could not tell it without bursting into tears. The remembrance of my fears for my son’;s life along with the incredible relief I felt when he went into remission would conjure up heart wrenching feelings. Over time, I settled into telling the story more comfortably.
To my amazement, the telling was not only the therapeutic for me, but to this day, I still have people come up to me and tell me how they remember the story about my son. So many have been touched by cancer, either personally or through friends and family, a true and positive story serves as reassurance. Because I have kept this story alive, others feel a bond with me and have learned that I want to hear their stories too.
My faith is that we, as storytellers, can help others with their own healing by sharing some of our own difficult and heart rending stories, along with encouraging others to tell us their difficult stories. It does not matter how much material wealth we possess, what level of education we have achieved or our ethnic background, we all have similar healing stories and the need to hear them. And, the more we know someone’;s story, the better we understand them.
I urge you to consider telling those stories that may be hard to tell, but will become everlasting healing stories to help others – and ourselves, too! Start by writing your story in a journal for your eyes only. Soon, as you realize how helpful this has been for you, start sharing it with friends and family. In time, you will be able to share it with others who will benefit from your experiences, and you, as a storyteller, can encourage them to share their difficult stories. I find that others are more willing to share their stories once we have shared ours with them.
This is not always an easy process, but it is one of the most rewarding for our listeners and ourselves.