A Belfast filmmaker recently described the experience of growing up next door to a police station. Awakened frequently, the family regularly evacuated often returning to blown-out windows, collateral damage in Northern Ireland’s decades-long Troubles.
Did he realize that 25 years later the irony we’d be struck by in his remembered reference that building next door as “the playstation”?
My work centers on helping folks get “unstuck”. I support the journey through career changes and business start-ups.
The method is grounded in their stories.
We come to appreciate that one is not “Sean the accountant” or “Susan the mother of 4”. In their telling and retelling I come to know them as they begin to understand themselves. They describe where they came from, I reflect their stories back. They see themselves in a different light – and often start moving in a new direction.
Not one I choose for them, but one illuminated by the light of their own story-telling process.
Simply put storytelling is the way in which we share the full measure of our experiences.
Stories are delivered not entirely in the words.
And therein lies the magic.
An adolescent’s yarns spun about where they were and what they did reveals important truths, if only in what was left unsaid.
Believe them or not – the onus is on the listener to ‘take what you like and leave the rest’. Even carefully chosen words unconsciously deliver a message at that moment, and a richer one later when compared to other tellings.
Sometimes hard truths and experiences are so painful that while we initially take in the whole story, we describe only part of it to ourselves and others; it is how we are able to live with the pain.
Later, over many years in the retelling, we process the experience in safer times and places. Ultimately, we come to terms with the whole truth, by observing the edits and enhancements over time. The fear we experienced at the moment begins to dissipate.
Remaining silent keeps the experience as raw and the fear alive.
When we devalue storytelling we lose a way to communicate, even with ourselves. And to heal.
How many of us have told the story of a difficult experience many times?
In each retelling, we let go of a piece of shock, pain, or horror and come to terms with it. The episode remains planted in the past, but we continue to grow and learn new ways to cope. In retelling or reframing an experience, we apply new coping skills to the remembered event.
That Belfast filmmaker now tells stories for a living; more importantly, he has come to understand the grievous long term impact of having believed a life of midnight evacuations and shattered windows was “normal”.
He now knows it was not. It was traumatic.
The message to us that day – and the ‘why’ of telling his story, was to remind us that:
Fear is the Enemy of Creativity; Fear is the Thief of Dreams