There are at least two sides to every story… and everyone has one, right? In my new role as a ‘storyteller’ I have been exploring how stories play a part in our lives and how the stories we tell ourselves and each other form a basis for how we live, work, and care.
Re-imagining the world through stories
I like being a storyteller, I find stories liberating. They help me imagine a different version of events and see things in a new light. They do not change what’s happened or what I can’t control so much as help me to see what’s possible in the future and what I can take responsibility for. But, because stories are so powerful in their ability to do the very opposite I find I have to keep a check on my ‘inner storyteller’ to make sure I’m not judging a book by its cover or sharing the wrong headline! Every time I feel an “If only” story creeping into my narrative, a feeling of helplessness and deflation washes over me. These stories don’t make me feel very good about the world, or myself. I much prefer “What if” stories, which make me feel passionate, connected to my true values and… to other people. This made me realise something. Stories cannot exist without someone who’s prepared to listen – truly listen – and if we’re all talking at once it can be hard to hear what anyone has to say… In that situation, I’d prefer to listen than to not be heard.
“If only people just saw things the way I did” or “If only we’d done things differently” are the sort of stories I’m used to hearing on a daily basis. I, admittedly, used to tell them to myself on a regular enough basis that I forgot what it was that led me to create this version of the story in the first place. My responsibility for telling stories has really helped me to understand the power of ‘the story you tell yourself’ in everyday conversations with others. The story you choose to share weaves itself in to the tapestry of stories that everyone is telling about the world, whilst we all furiously try to find the thread and tidy up the frayed edges that keep appearing. Unsurprisingly, narratives seem to get tangled up in each other from time to time. This seems to be the case now more than ever – not just in health care but the world as a whole. It’s easy to get distracted by the constant stream of stories we hear, but I’ve found that being mindful of what matters on the most human of levels helps me to find that elusive end of the thread.
Having courage to change the story
If stories can both divide and connect us, for me it’s an obvious choice. This choice lies in the stories I tell about myself and my world every day and the way I choose to listen to stories unfamiliar and, let’s be honest, sometimes outright jarring. For me, it’s time to get curious about how I, and we, can ‘flip the script’ and remember what matters about this beautiful tapestry we are all busily and lovingly weaving, frayed edges and all. Whilst “If only…” stories stare longingly in to the distance, “What if…” stories are brave enough to imagine – whether that’s imagining a better way of working together, living a meaningful life or caring for others in a way that helps them live theirs.
“Out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field…. I’ll meet you there” Rumi
Jenny is a member of the Circus Team who support organisational development through project work.