Hello, hello. I’m going to try something different today…I’m going to start with a story…so listen carefully my lovelies.
Once there was a very young girl with very wide-eyes who lived in a land which had once been very beautiful and free but had over time become enmeshed in a war. The adults didn’t seem to notice or even mind very much and the girl stayed quiet looking around with her wide eyes wondering why the adults were going about their business while the fighting continued around them and people died. Another girl living on the other side of the vast land had not been so lucky. Her eyes had darkened many years earlier when in the midst of one of those daily battles her elder brother had landed at her feet, his blood sprayed onto her, spreading through the fabric of her dress straight through to her skin.
And then one day the wide-eyed girl found herself caught dead center in the middle of the battle zone, too and in front of her very eyes 17 of village children were shot dead and landed at her feet. She could contain her anger no more and she rose up in rage at the adults who had refused to protect the children. She stood up, took the deepest breath she could muster and tears streaming down her face, she found the highest mountain in the land and climbed steadfastly to the top. There she met the girl from the far side of the land and together, they told their stories and shed their tears and bared their hearts and screamed their anger at the adults until the news spread through the land…where it was heard far and wide. And the other children began to hear the anguish coming from the top of the mountain and from all across the land the other children climbed the mountain to join them.
As you probably know, this is essentially a true story and a lot of the details in it unfolded this past weekend in Washington and across the county when young people like Emma Gonzalez, Edna Chavez and David and Lauren Hogg told their personal stories as part of their efforts to effect change. While this of this was happening I was a few miles away at the Psychotherapist Networking Symposium integrating amazing stories and lessons from Tony Robbins, Ester Perel, the Gottmans, Harriet Lerner, Irvin Yolam, Jack Kornfield and scores of lesser known but amazing presenters including Noa Baum with whom u told an all day storytelling workshop. It was four days of exploring the human psyche and personal growth which is the basis of all change. One thing I heard over and over again in different words depending on the person delivering the message was the transformative power of telling our stories and the importance of self-disclosure.
By the middle of the weekend I had already planned to do this week’s show on the Power of Story because as was said over and over again, stories have the power to help us reflect on our past, to connect with others, to express and share and create resonate emotions. Stories empower, engage and heal and help us to imagine and fight for our future. Stories can help us on the path to shifting our identities. And stories can move us to action.
And then on Sunday morning as the conference was drawing to an end, I watched the incredible speeches from the youth organizers of the March for our Lives, and from the young survivors of the Parkland shooting and I heard the cry and anger the anger and the heartbreak of so many other kids who joined in to demand change. And how did they start, by telling their heart-breaking personal stories, tears streaming down their faces. They may never have been told about the power of Story…Perhaps they got that in an English class somewhere. But they showed us what it looks like and they illustrated how powerful it can be. They were an example of how tapping into the power of story is to foster a new insight in oneself and in one’s listeners. How it is a vehicle for inspiring growth and a way of creating connection. So I sat in my hotel room and in that conference space, hearing that telling your personal story is powerful, and especially when it’s done, by the way, with self-disclosure and heart and honesty. And then I experienced it through hearing the stories of young people who don’t have 250 years of clinical experience or theoretical knowledge, but have 11 or 15 or 16 years of experience they should not be having. And they told their stories so that we as the adults might wake up and hear and be able to respond to their call, to their cry, to their story.
Over the weekend, the psychotherapists underlined over and over again how exposing and sharing is the antidote to shame and disease. That is true for us as individuals and that is true for us as a society. Through the telling of story we see ourselves reflected in each other and so one person’s story, while it might not be your story, can wake up feelings and reactions and empathy and connection you might not otherwise have felt and that’s what we saw happened this past weekend.
When we hear the stories of another person or we share our story with someone else and they see themselves in us, it has the amazing impact of helping us realize that we are not so all alone. And feeling not alone allows us a kind of connection that makes life and the hard parts of it, even death, just the tiniest bit easier to face. Or it allows us to recognize the impact that experience has had on us so we can band together to effect change.
On Friday of the conference weekend as a part of Noa Baum’s workshop on Storytelling, I became convinced and I had the experience, that being a listener of someone else’s story is actually an active role. That as listeners we hear, we feel and we change. I know that hearing those stories, the next day on Youtube changed me and that experience of being changed as a listener was beautifully captured by Michael Tallon’s piece, which he posted on Facebook and then later on Medium called “These Magic Kids” and Michael said, “Today has been a day of awakening for me as I suppose it has been for many of my age contemporaries. As a 51-year-old man I don’t cry much, but wow! Have I been a weepy mess all day?”
He shared how he was changed and he shared some of his understanding. And he was motivated to write this piece that then got more attention and he was able to contribute to the change in the world by sharing his perspective. He went on to say:
“These Magic Kids can see what their own two eyes that our society is grossly unjust and so when the camera focuses on David Hogg, we shouldn’t be surprised that this smart-dressed white boy says, ‘talk to the children of color’ as he did yesterday in an interview with Axios. We shouldn’t be surprised when he says, ‘our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to’. They see how badly we’ve screwed up a free society for their entire lives and they are in their own beautiful way, calling bullshit.”
By the way, I will have links to as many of these speeches as I can in my show notes and please go and watch them for yourself because the story these kids tell their stories and while I think the words are important and I want to share them with you, seeing and feeling them tell the stories themselves is so much more powerful.
Back to the psychotherapy networking symposium session with Irvin Yalom who has 65 years of impactful therapy with people and is an amazing model of self-disclosure, and a stand for telling one’s own truth as a practice for healing. He made the point that story is especially important when you are the holder of memories, which we discovered was deeply and profoundly true for Edna Chavez, who as a spokesperson for the Southern California Youth Empowerment Association, I believe it’s called and one of their youth leaders, spoke up on that platform in DC and cried through her story of learning to duck bullets before she learned to read. And losing her brother, who was also her hero…telling the story, tears streaming down her face as she described, watching the melanin fade from her brother’s face. She, at 16 years old is the holder of memories and so her story is critical. As Irv Yalom pointed out, her story needs to be told. He also shared how he often asks people he works with when they first experienced death. Because as he said, like most things that make us shake in our boots, and death is the ultimate and we can generally face those things more easily with others when we’re connected. Hence the importance of stories and I have to guess that that group of survivors, those kids must’ve been buoyed from working together and hearing each other’s stories. And I am sure they were scared and also brave and this point that Irv makes couldn’t be better illustrated than in the 2 and a half minutes of powerful personal storytelling and especially that intense four-minute silence on national TV that Emma Gonzalez had the raw guts to share… along with transparent emotion. Talk about, as I mentioned in an earlier episode, episode #15, the Power of PAUSE.
So this episode is about gun violence. Yes. And it’s about the desire for change to gun laws. But really what it’s about is the power of our personal stories and how the kids in our world are rising up and showing us how it’s done. Let’s let these kids not only influence us, not only by inspiring us to do what we can to change the laws that put all of us at risk, but also as an example of the influence and the impact and the necessity of finding our vulnerable stories. Finding our truth and taking a risk and showing up and getting on a platform because as these kids have illustrated, it’s not only important and powerful, it’s necessary! And I want to just put in a word for the fact that your story, no matter what your story is, your story matters.
So let’s celebrate them. Let’s amplify their voices and let’s not stop there. Let’s continue to go in and find the stories that we need to share that the world needs us to tell and I can tell you that personally, I will be looking to tell more and more stories and I will be exploring Noa Baum’s amazing work of integrating traditional storytelling styles and classic tales with personal narratives. So look for more of that. It’s risky, it’s challenging. I would put out the call for you to think about what story you have that needs telling because anything you’re moved to say, any story you’re inclined to tell, is an act of generosity. And it’s an invitation to be a mirror for another’s pain and joy and growth. And it can be a catalyst for bringing people together to enact change.
Now, at the time of recording this episode, March 28th, I don’t know how the story is going to end. Some people believe the kids will keep on crying and sharing and yelling and that it will still fall on deaf ears. And others imagine a different ending. So here’s the way I’d like it to go.
The children called down from the mountain-top, holding each other in their pain and allowing the tears to land on their clothes were the blood had fallen. More and more of them joined the calling. And people started to wake up and they too shared their pain and their tears and their stories and others began to see perhaps for the first time the bullets flying through the air. Others closed their eyes to it and told her it was her imagination or considered that perhaps she had been telling a lie. But before long more of adults heard the kids yelling and crying from top of the mountain and their hearts melted. And they began to realize they had been sleeping and they began to see their own pain and sadness and shed their own tears, and they began to recognize that the kids needed their help. So they rose up above their shame and embarrassment and their sorrow that it had not been them, but the children who had risked their lives and found the courage and the strength to climb that mountain. One by one, the adults spoke up too, and they joined the kids on the mountain and they hugged and kissed them and begged for their forgiveness. And then together they descended from the mountain and spread the word together around the need to save the land from the unconsciousness of war and bullets. And together they gathered the guns and the bullets and threw them into the ocean where they sunk to the bottom where they remained buried in the sand for ever more.
I’m going to leave it there for now and I want to thank you for being here. If you’re a new listener, I appreciate your coming to the show and to listening in. And if you’re someone who’s been here for many weeks, thank you so much for your time and attention. It is a rare commodity and a precious commodity and I appreciate you being with me on this journey.
Make sure you’re subscribed to the show on iTunes or on your favorite platform because next week we have the amazing and incredible (and very synergistic to this topic) KC Baker. KC’s commitment is to supporting women in unleashing the brilliance of their voices…so you can see how synergistic and perfectly timed is her appearance. Do you call it an appearance if it’s a podcast? I don’t know, I think I have the wrong word. But how synergistic and important and perfectly timed it will be to have KC with us next week. So tune back in.
If you have a chance, please do leave a review on iTunes. It really does help. And I always love to get any feedback you’re willing to share. Even if it’s just, hey Lisa, I’m listening!!! You can send me an email at hey at Lisa BL dot com. We’ll see you next week. And for now, stay strong and tell your story.
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