Storytelling in Small Groups

or Personal Reflection

Healing through Sharing Stories: Past, Present, and Future 

How do you feel after someone has listened from his or her heart to you share a story that is meaningful to you?

by David Tillman

As a chaplain, I have witnessed personal healing from people who trusted me to listen to their life stories. Even at the most difficult times in life, I have been with people who were comforted by sharing their stories or a story about a loved one who was near death and/or dealing with life’s challenges. 

My personal experiences of healing and insight often came at times when people listened to my stories from their hearts. They just listened. They gave no feedback or suggestions. They just listened to me. It was as if through sharing my stories, I became aware of a deeper side of who I was and gained insights to what I needed to do. I experienced by the simple act of sharing my stories with others that I began to release some of the negative energy and influences these stories have had on my life, some for over sixty years.  

By sharing my stories, and listening to others’ stories, I feel more connected to God, to others, and to my soul. I learned that my stories are like so many other people’s stories. Stories of anger, fear, joy, and sadness. Learning that my stories are not as unique as I had once thought they were, I began to feel less attached to my stories. Stories that often would play over and over in my mind. Stories that would keep me from doing what I really wanted or needed to do, often out of fear of the future or anger from the past. My life has opened up to being more accepting of what is and less judgmental of what my stories tell me how things should be. 

Our lives are lived by the influences of our past experiences, interactions with others, beliefs, and cultural worldviews. We often live our lives imagining the future. This acknowledges and gives us hope for what is yet to be. At any given moment, our choices are formed from our past experiences, thoughts, and beliefs. Our choices, leading to action, create new experiences that we remember as stories once they have been experienced.

Our attachment to our stories, and stories others have told us, often moves us from being in present moment. The present moment is all we have. We are never not in the present moment. Our bodies, emotions, and soul live in the present moment. Our minds, however, can get easily distracted and often will be drawn to our stories from the past or to the future of fear or hope. Our minds are often preoccupied with our stories, rather than being present in the moment. 

One way to begin to reshape how we hear and make sense of our stories is to share them with others or write them down. In the process of sharing our story, we take it from our mind and the emotions attached to it, into a different space. I believe, and have experienced, that by sharing our stories with others, we can begin to heal and transform ourselves and the world we share.

When a trusted person has taken the time to listen to me share my story, I have felt the healing presence of God, or Creator, bring new awareness and comfort to me. This has worked best for me when the person listening does not interrupt me to share his or her opinion, offer suggestions to fix me or the situation, or share one of his or her own stories that were triggered in his or her own mind. Think about how you felt when a person listened to you without judgement or feedback and accepted you just as you are. What a gift that is!

Bringing and acknowledging the energy and emotions of the past story into the present moment can often release some of the negative emotions that can keep us emotionally stuck. My hope is that by sharing stories with others or journaling, we can begin to release the emotional grip these stories hold on us. We can then live more fully in the present moment.

I, with the help of others, have created a series of different storytelling reflections and questions that will hopefully encourage storytelling, healing, and transformation. This can be done in a small group, with a partner/friend/therapist, or by journaling by oneself. 

© 2021, Dr. Michael Obsatz and David Tillman, all rights reserved,
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