Honoring Your Stories

Gossip and stories

Sharing stories

My wise friend, the late Musetta Giles, had a business card saying “If we can’t hear each other’s stories, nothing can save us.” Someone I barely knew once asked me “What is your story?” then went on to say “Everyone has a story, and that is what makes them who they are. That’s why I like hearing people’s stories.”
Today I hear these stories as part of my job. Hopefully my clients benefit as much from the telling as I do from the hearing.
Though the counseling profession involves a certain amount of diagnostic work, it is critical to see each client as an individual, not a diagnosis. Hence, the stories.
What have I learned from this so far?
The further back the story, the deeper the pain. Research has shown that the most severe trauma reactions are the result of abuse, neglect or other trauma before the age of 2 or 3. That is when a child is deciding whether the world is a safe place. My internship involved working with adopted children who had attachment issues. This is when it became clear to me that it is actually more important at what age a person experienced trauma, than the extent or seriousness of the trauma.
Though stories may follow patterns, all are different, unique. People don’t fit well in pre-ordained categories. Thank goodness. The variety and richness of these stories is also the beauty.
Telling your story (or hearing someone else’s) can help make sense of a chaotic past. Memories may take on a totally different meaning based on their context, i.e. the story. Listeners learn not only about the person, but their family, friends, and larger culture. For both teller and listener, it’s a history lesson in miniature.