Why are stories so powerful?
I think it’s because they let us know, through a feeling, that there’s another way—many ways, a multitude of ways!—to experience life. There are an infinite number of ways someone can do, have, be, overcome, rise above to live an intentional life… or not. Either one is that person’s choice, consciously or subconsciously, and ends up being the story of their life. We can learn from all of these stories.
A story widens our lens and broadens our vision to possibility and, with that, comes an open heart.
A story in which someone chooses to rise from the trenches of abuse or poverty or neglect and decides to do things differently than what had been done to them—becoming philanthropic, motivational, brave, forgiving.
Or maybe someone who grew up privileged and gives it all up to experience simplicity and to serve others.
Or maybe someone became blind, moved past the intensity of self-pity, and uses their experience to go on and teach others who were blind.
Or maybe someone identified as a victim of some kind for decades and then finally moves to the other side of that, becoming selfless, grateful, gentle, happy, more productive than consumptive.
Or stories in which people didn’t make it out of the trenches, who stayed stuck like quicksand, who couldn’t quite find a way to turn the light on in the dark to expose what they thought was the boogie man but was really just their own shadow.
We are attracted to stories that make us feel something. We are drawn to stories and songs of triumph, beating all odds, turn ing it all around… stories of the heart. And aren’t we also drawn to stories where people are suffering, downtrodden, at the bottom, on the edge?
Either way, someone else’s story is an opportunity to learn, to expand, to grow as if it were yours. Whether in tragedy or triumph, in bitterness or inspiration, in a nightmare or a dream come true, we can ask ourselves, “What if that were me? What would I do? How do I want to live? What do I want my story to be?”
People come into my clinic all the time and bless me with their stories. And I observe them. I learn from them. I listen to them. And I get to tell mine, too. Both sides listen and learn, tucking away useful little snippets for consideration.
I see my little 200 square foot cinder-block office space as a place of alchemy where stories of despair, heartache, grief, tragedy, and pain can transform into stories of attained goals, breakthroughs, and healings witnessed and celebrated. Joy and gratitude felt and embodied. Validation, support, understanding. Relief. Softening.
But at times there is also, confusion, anxiety, and restlessness about taking responsibility for life and what that looks like, what that means, what’s next.
Einstein said, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” I see this change in my little studio every day I go to work.
I see it in the vitality of the plants. I hear it in the ravens outside, and I see it in the red rock portal to the mighty Colorado River as it’s carried downstream. I see it on people’s faces and in the difference in how they carry themselves from when they walked in to when they walk out.
A few years ago, I had a woman in her 80s come in for a massage. She was borderline interrogating me about my approach and what I would do, her brow furrowed, her lips pursed, her demeanor gruff. Ninety minutes later she looked at me with a relaxed but studious face and sparkly eyes and said, “You look different.”
And with a smile I said, “You look different. Might it be that you feel differently and so you’re seeing differently?”
I love that story.
Something really cool happens when we take the witnessing of a story one step further. Instead of being content with just the insights, we can utilize and apply the energy gained from those insights to become more intentional with who we want to be and how we want to live. Letting the who be the driver for what we do.
When we initiate what we’ve learned from other’s mistakes/hardships/victories/triumphs and we apply it to our own lives by living intentionally, we’re all hands-on-deck in our own life adventure. Every action, thought, and behavior stem from that decision and intention.
Stories are powerful; they stir something in us. They expand us, stretch us, guide us, shape us, turning us onto and tapping us into what’s possible.
Remember that you are the main character. You have the power of being led, inspired, guided and then you get to use that energy to live with a clear intention. Let the gift of a story fuel your inner fire, lighting the way for your own adventure, otherwise known as your life.