The Benefits of Storytelling

Having worked in the field of higher education and counseling for the better part of 25 years, I’ve learned a few things here and there. The most important is my style of connecting with people. It is little wonder that my love of writing and publishing books first came when I realized I had a special gift of storytelling. As a counselor, higher education administrator, and autism mom and advocate, I have learned this special art form and discovered how powerful it can be.

My students and staff have come to know me as the storyteller. Church friends and fellow ministers often joke about how I have a story about almost everything under the sun. My only response to them is that I have had a lot happen in my brief 40+ years of life. Everyone’s favorite story so far seems to be the one where I believed I was Mexican the first 10 years of my life only to be rudely awakened one summer and discovering I was actually full-blooded Filipino. Another crowd pleaser was the time when I was 22 years old I thought I should learn how to ski only to injure myself before even getting on the ski lift (which, by the way, I still do NOT know how to ski and that is the end of that story).

Have you ever wondered why listening to a well-told story helps you to remember? Or even better, why we are hooked on stories when a person is telling them from first hand experience? I believe it is because stories, both good and bad experiences from them, bring us together. Through stories we share a connection. There’s more to listening to and loving a good story. Actually, as human beings, we actually can feel a story. According to Jeremy Adam Smith’s article The Science of the Story (see full article at http://www.dailygood.org/story/1308/the-science-of-the-story-jeremy-adam-smith), experiencing a story can alter our neurochemical processes and stories can be powerful enough to shape human behavior.11001823_585385718263256_3114437338239748662_n

Our very bodies can tell us that we are reacting to a story in many ways. Take for example a thrilling chapter (or several) from the latest book in The Last Prophet book series by Claire Gager (ahem… yours truly). If you ended up reading a chapter where the archangels are in a heated battle with demons, and you can visualize all that you are reading, chances are your brain will release oxytocin and your body will feel the equivalent of an adrenaline rush. In the same way, you can also experience great sadness from a tragedy that occurs. You may sympathize with the main characters who have just lost someone they love dearly, and a part of their experience as fictitious characters touches something in you that makes you tear up.

Stories are powerful, and they have the ability to alter our mood in both good and bad ways. I choose to focus on the lesson to be learned from a story I have to share. The stories we tell ourselves can also change the way we view our lives. Human beings are social creatures. We were not created to live in isolation. This is why stories are important. When we share stories with one another, we are sharing a part of ourselves and opening ourselves up to others to let them into our world as well. Doing this brings that connection I spoke of earlier.

How many times have you heard someone tell of a recent incident that occurred (a story), and you found yourself saying, “Hey, that happened to me too!” That, my friend, is a connection made. You have just shared something and discovered a commonality between the two of you. Or, do you remember a time when someone shared a tragedy that happened (another story), and you felt so badly for them you even teared up a little and sat with them until you both stopped crying? Again, another connection made, and possibly a new friend made. Sharing and telling a story draws us closer to others, and can lift us up (or knock us down). What we choose to tell in our story is within our control, and we can control what we send out into the Universe.

What kinds of stories do you have to share? What stories affect you most? Comment in the space provided.

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