Jane (a false name but real story) tells me that one of the happiest days in her life was the day she came home to find her house gone. She'd gone away for the weekend with her son, and upon returning home... home wasn't there.
While she was gone, something in the house had exploded and it had burned to the ground. She wrote,
"I stopped at the mailbox, and then pulled into my driveway, and.....my house was gone. While we were gone, on the first morning at 3 am after the day we left, the house had exploded it had been in the papers, and many people had tried to reach us, but this was not possible.Jane used this story to illustrate how sometimes, when bad things happen, they put our lives in perspective. What could be seen as bad experiences can turn into wonderful outcomes.
The firemen had risked their lives to save us, thinking we were in the house. The entire neighborhood had gathered at 3 am ...horrified
When i got out of the car ...shocked, a neighbor told me what had happened, and he showed me tons of photographs of the house in flames. i asked him if my son could stay with him for about half an hour, and that I wanted to be alone. I walked into the ruins, and even if this was strictly forbidden, and there was the refrigerator, and it had melted to the floor.
And then I started crying...sobbing. Why? Because I knew at that moment that I was the luckiest person in the entire world, and that moment didn't pass."
Imagine trying to argue that point without such a powerful story.
It's amazing how a story can affect the way you think about something, or change the way you think. About ten years ago, I became interested in the "World of Story" and the Science and Art of story. After giving some feedback on a freinds novel, I asked him for feedback on a novel I was working on. I liked his feedback and he suggested that I take a workshop with screenwriting trainer Robert McKee, who had just written a book, Story Structure.
When I took the course, I was amazed at how he'd made a science of Story creation and enhancement. I asked him if he'd ever spoken to psychologists, because I thought a lot of his ideas applied to psychology. "No. I'm a screenwriter," he replied. Well that got me started thinking about how story concepts could be applied to psychology. After all, psychologists elicit stories from their patients, with the goal of helping them to re-write those life stories in a healthier, happier way.
I started thinking about all the fields that use stories, besides writers writing novels and screenplays-- lawyers talking to juries, ministers preaching, teachers, marketers, researchers, public speakers... and I concluded that the story business was one of the two or three biggest businesses in the world.
After talking to a number of the leaders in some of these fields-- leaders on the use of story in those fields-- it became clear to me that there had never been a meeting that brought together experts from all the different worlds of story. I organized that meeting and held it in 2002. I'll be holding the sixth annual Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story on January 19-22, 2007, in Palm Springs, California.
I've come to believe that as humans evolved, their protohuman ancestors, telling stories around the campfire, of hunts and close calls with death, grunting and gesturing, were actually, through the story telling, helping to form our brains the way they are today-- able to use language, visualize, use metaphors... We are very much the creation of our stories.
We live our lives, perceiving our existence through the eyes of the stories we have adopted or that have been given to us by our culture, our family, our community. We build our dreams within the stories we are living. We connect to others when we find that their stories mesh with ours.
Sharing our stories is a way to explore new opportunities to connect with each other, to expand our own repetoire of stories.
Understanding how stories work is a way to look within our selves and our relationships and understand some of the reasons we think, feel and do the things we do. If you are a professional, there's a good chance that using stories and understanding how they function in your work will help you work better.
I've used individual story analysis to help coach politicians identify the stories in their lives that define and illustrate who they are, what they stand for, their values, achievements and how they've faced adversity and challenges. Then I coach them on how to use the stories in their stump speeches. The same approach can be just as powerful for advocating for causes, for selling products, for getting people to think about new ideas in new ways.
Since this is a social networking media website, this article doesn't have to end here. You can tell some of the ways you use stories, or you can share a story and how it has touched your life or defines who you are.