The Power of Storytelling

There is a lot of good advice out there about increasing resilience. Here, I want to focus on the remarkable benefits of sharing your story. Emotional, autobiographical storytelling can be a path to truly owning your story. Further, by “giving it away,” you can use your own journey as a means to help others on theirs.

It is not just the telling or writing it down, but knowing that what you write will be read by others and the hope that by sharing in a public way, someone else might be inspired or helped by your story. Surprisingly, the evidence from many studies suggests that it is not necessary to “keep” a journal, as people say. Even writing on just one or two days, if you really put yourself into it, that can have significant psychological benefits.

Here are some of the benefits that seem most important.

1) Realizing that sharing your story can help others

Stories can be very healing and many people benefit from getting the opportunity to pass on their wisdom to others. This can be especially powerful for people who do not always feel that they have the chance to help others. Resilience is strengthened by recognizing that we are all experts in our own lives and we all have something to share with others. Another piece of this is starting to understand that words can have power—positive power—on others. As mentioned above, this is an under-appreciated benefit of narrative and storytelling. In appreciation of how important it is for people to be able to pass on their own stories, here are some quotes from some of the people we have talked to:

“I wanted to help people have a voice.”

“I thought, well, if anyone reads this at all, maybe it will make a difference in their life, or make them think, ‘Well, you know, I never really thought about honesty that way.’”

“Words can touch people, and it all depends on how you want to touch them. Good or bad.”

2) Finding your voice

Another well-known benefit of storytelling is finding your own voice. What does it mean to “find your voice”? It means learning how to express yourself and learning how to think about what has happened in your life in a way that makes sense. Developing and organizing your story often means imposing a traditional story structure on the events of your life. Sure, in some sense it may be true that many of the events of our lives are random and unconnected. From a psychological point of view, however, it does not help to think about them that way. It helps to think about your life as a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It helps to think about how the various events—even the bad ones—have been part of a journey toward the person you want to become. Writing it down or telling it to someone else can help you impose that organization on it, help you identify key events, and even help you just rehearse and remember the details in a way that helps you become the author of your own life.

3) Re-affirming your values

Sometimes you learn things about yourself from the act of writing or storytelling. It can be a way to clarify what is important. Many of the people we have spoken to have mentioned that pausing to tell your story can be a good reminder of your priorities. It is so easy to get swept up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle. Taking some time to focus on values can be beneficial.

4) Finding peace, finding hope

What’s the difference between someone who has achieved resilience and someone who has not? One important difference is a sense of well-being. People who have found their voice, shared their story, and reaffirmed their values often find a sense of peace and a hopefulness that they did not have before.

Credit: Sherry Hamby (2013)

You can share your story on the Rape is a Crime Platform. Simply click the link here Share your Story