The Transformative Power of Story

Getting Ready to Fly SouthThe last couple of weeks have brought to our attention a large number of posts about the transformative power of story. We would like to share a few of those.

We begin with a theme that has been sounded in my therapy practice, in Native blogs, and in recent Native generated performance: the increasingly synthetic environment in which we live. “How do we,” my patients and students ask. “Make our way through a territory increasingly lacking connection to other people or the natural world?” “How do we tell stories that bridge the gulf between ourselves and others?”

Jay Taber, in his post, “Journey to Authenticity,” wrote:

In the largely synthetic reality we inhabit as residents of a consumer culture, it is often difficult to find refuge from the commercial onslaught, but it is essential that we create such spaces if we are to begin our journey to authenticity. Taking time to think may seem like an obvious point of departure for this journey, but without a peaceful space to consider reliable guides — absent the intrusion of imbecilic pseudo adventures — the first step is never taken. Rejecting counterfeit society positions us to begin our journey, but it does not get us underway to a healthier mindset; the work that encompasses requires embracing genuine relationships that only reveal themselves one step at a time.

Storytelling and other forms of Narrative work offers one framework for relationship building. Deep, true, stories offer us bridges to ourselves and one another. Oddly, even writing about the task can be fraught with difficulty. Oppressive language can creep into our est writing. Terms like “imbecilic” which one one hand convey an experience of vacuousness, may also subtly mirror the culture’s disdain for persons with cognitive disabilities. Yet, write we must.

Tomorrow’s Youth Organization works with young people in the Middle East. Increasingly they are drawn to storytelling as a medium of connection. Their work is strongly influenced by the arts and Narrative Therapy. In a recent blog post, they wrote about the power of story:

A starving person will likely tell you that what they want most is for the ache of hunger to go away but in reality their desire is actually for something much deeper – healing nourishment. They want to live – hunger is just the voice to that deeper desire…..The same thing applies to stories. We may not even know why we are starving so much for authenticity but it is for more than stopping the hunger for connection. It is for the healing nourishment of what a story offers to a person – the hope of new life….Although we are individuals, our stories are all connected and related. One story prompts another story, and each story works as a whole system that includes the place, time, people, history, culture, and religion. There is no better place to explore the individual and cultural sources of narrative than at a multicultural center like Tomorrow’s Youth Organization.

Of course, there are many demands on us to be silent. Persons who are Autistic often find themselves silenced by demands they have “quiet hands”. Now, The Loud Hands Project  offers Autistic persons a new means of expression. The project:

(which is being run as a project of ASAN) demonstrates a pretty good idea of what it could mean to have Loud Hands. The project description defines Loud Hands as “autism acceptance, neurodiversity, Autistic pride, community, and culture, disability rights and resistance, and resilience.” Essentially, efforts that work counter to the silencing and discrediting that comes with a culture that denies Autistics the ability to communicate in ways that are natural to us.

The Loud Hands Project (LHP) is planning on being a transmedia project, spearheaded by Julia Bascom. The current focus is on putting together a written anthology that will serve basically as a foundation document. Submission guidelines/call for submissions for the written anthology went live on January 8th. They include a number of prompts on what it means to be Autistic and aspects of Autistic culture, but they welcome submissions that aren’t answering the prompts while still reflecting “questions about neurodiversity, Autistic pride and culture, disability rights and resistance, and resilience (known collectively as having loud hands.)”

Finally, BloomBars  announced the presentation of a new play:

Burning Her Name – An original stage play, written and directed by DC Women’s Theatre that tells the story of 6 women spending the afternoon in an outpatient alcohol rehab facility….The women will slowly reveal secrets about themselves that will tear down stereotypes and assumptions made about each other.

Maybe that’s the way of story. We begin to speak to one another. We make time and space to compare notes. We begin to form well crafted stories from our fractured narratives and to notice the places where our lives intersect with others in healing ways. Maybe, over time, and with some nurturing, deep, rich stories arise and empathy and connection begin to replace isolation. That seems to me a journey worth taking.

One thought on “The Transformative Power of Story

  1. Hello Michael,
    Would it be possible to re-publish this particular blog article at ‘Therapeutic Storytelling’ (I’m the editor), part of the All Things Healing online community (

    I would provide a link back to your blog and a short bio on you if you could supply one along with a small headshot photo of yourself.

    Many thanks,

    Michael Williams

    Therapeutic Storytelling

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