30 Days of Story: Heal. Grow. Help others do the same.
As reports of the Coronavirus accelerate, Syrian refugees face more hellish conditions, and the Dow shrinks, I so easily forget healing and growth are also powerfully at work in the world. And if I let them, they can do their magic in me too.
Healing and growth. Don’t you want that? Don’t we need that more than ever? Yet if you’re like me when I’m inundated with all the hard headlines the hope of wholeness can feel elusive—so light and fluffy, like pixie-dust.
For 30 days I invite you to join me on a quest. Let’s fact-check our notions about this hope. What if we gained a greater sense of our own story and were more present to others’ stories? Could we actually become more whole in the process, and help others do the same?
I dare you to explore this with me.
While I’m desperate for a reminder and desirous to go deeper with this quest, I will tell you this: I’ve seen story’s power to heal and transform people before. Hundreds of times.
I’ve had the privilege of interviewing incredible people around the world. I directed TV series, documentaries and short films featuring innovative leaders, brilliant fashion-designers and brave refugees. I first started to pay attention to story’s healing and growth powers when I spent a year-and-a-half interviewing sex-trafficking survivors in the US and S.E. Asia.
I started to notice something I couldn’t shake. Often when I’d begin an interview, the woman would be thin voiced, slightly hunched over and stiff. Yet as she shared more and more and recognized her own courage her voice would grow stronger, her posture would straighten and her demeanor would soften. As she became increasingly aware of how resilient she’d been in the face of horror and that her story of pain could help others something got shored-up in her.
Shored-up. That was the only language I had for it. It was both mysterious to me…and clear. Something was being made solid in woman after woman. And I felt so honored to bear witness to it.
I observed this again and again in the many years of interviewing that has followed. It became especially striking while interviewing Iraqi, Syrian and Afghani refugees. Then I happened upon a snatch of neuroscience that told me, Yes! What I observed and simply named as a lay-person as “shored-up” represented true transformation in people’s bodies and brains.
Here’s how Dr. Lissa Rankin describes what happens: “Every time you tell your story and someone else who cares bears witness to it, you turn off the body’s stress responses, flipping off toxic stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and flipping on relaxation responses that release healing hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins. Not only does this turn on the body’s innate self-repair mechanisms and function as preventative medicine—or treatment if you’re sick. It also relaxes your nervous system and helps heal your mind of depression, anxiety , fear , anger , and feelings of disconnection.”
Healing and growth.
Amazing, right? And transformation isn’t simply contained to the sharer. The listener is also affected.
In the midst of producing the TV series on trafficking—with the intense darkness of the topic and the horrific research I’d take in–it was the stories of the survivors that buoyed me. I witnessed that transformation was possible. And I needed that…during that time I was lamenting that my life looked a lot differently than I had hoped and planned. My longing to be married and mother pierced me on a daily basis. Yet, hearing these survivors’ stories stirred healing and hope in me. They offered me an invitation to not lose heart. I was growing stronger too.
Now there were key factors that encouraged this healing and growth. There were certain courageous ways the survivors showed up to the interviews that enabled them to grow as they shared their stories. And there were specific things I did that made them feel safe, seen and celebrated.
During the course of these 30 days we’ll uncover the conditions and components that help us best experience story’s power to heal and grow and help others do the same.
So that’s our quest. And here’s how we’ll approach it:
10 days of discovering our story.
10 days of owning and sharing our story.
10 days of listening to other’s stories.
So who’s in?
I’d love for you to be in…
START HERE: How have you experienced healing and/or growth by hearing another person’s story? I’d love to hear your response.