I have been an avid reader from childhood; stories have always been important to me, and stories leave an impact on all of us every day. They can make our lives good, or they can serve as sources of danger. They also affect my view of the world and the artistic vision of my photography. But why are stories powerful?
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Stories Animate our Lives
The work of stories is to animate life. They help us see things as real or tangible or see what is possible or what to avoid in life. They work with people, and they also work on people.
We are born into stories from the moment our mothers hold us in their arms.
Why? Because there is a story of how you came to be. Two people fell in love, consummated their love, and then you were created. As parents, they will share this story of their lives with all who listen. And repeat it to you on your birthday, if your parents are like mine.
Stories help us relate to one another and the world around us. Human life depends on shared connections, and we use stories to make sense of ourselves. And as we listen to the stories that others share with us, we gain a deeper understanding of what they are like because we can visualize what they have been through.
The stories we grow up with influence our view of the world around us. We do not have the power to control what is told to us in childhood, but we can choose when we get older.
Stories Also Instigate
We typically share stories with a friend, family, or group when we share them. Today we can read electronically through computers, tablets, and phones on a whim. Take a moment and reflect on how often we share our stories to sites such as Facebook or Instagram?
Stories are more prevalent now than they have ever been!
But let me bring you to another point after stories animate, they instigate.
According to renowned sociologist Arthur W. Frank, “Contemporary sociologists argue that stories mobilize social movements, and stories send nations off to war.”
The power within stories stirs our emotions and can motivate us to do things we never imagined! We need look no further than history for examples. Narratives do not need to be in a book to be powerful. They come in all forms from speeches, visual media, conversations, music, text, etc.
Fredrick Douglas spoke out against slavery and moved a nation. Martin Luther King stood up, told his story, and made life better for African Americans. The compassion of Mother Theresa still inspires us to follow her example to help others.
When I need courage, I often think of the powerful characters I have engaged within literature and find encouragement.
Stories have power, but we also have to be careful about what kind of stories we believe in.
Stories Tell a “Truth” But Are Open to Interpretation
For stories to be compelling, they have to present us with some kind of truth to believe in. For example, there has to be a relatable conflict with a character in order for us to relate to them. Even fantasy tales have elements that help us to engage and suspend our everyday beliefs to accept the story that is being presented.
We share the desire to live a better life with Cinderella. With that connection to how she feels trapped, we are delighted to believe in her fairy godmother when she arrives. How many times has this story been retold over the centuries?
Every narrative we engage with poses a question about a conflict. The conflict revolves around possible outcomes that force us to review our own lives.
Life and story imitate one another, and through that connection, we have experiences. But what we choose to do with those experiences is a variable that can’t be controlled.
And since the experience is unique to everyone, that gives stories the power to be dangerous. Once a story is shared, it is a wild creation that can never be reigned back in. The “truth” presented within a story is open to interpretation. If someone chooses to interpret what they have been told and change it, we have no power over it anymore.
Once again, history gives us countless examples of negative stories that have affected others. Dictators are master storytellers who create and share their “truths” with others. These types of leaders can cause irreparable harm.
We are all influenced by stories from the time we are born. I simply caution what stories you ingest and pause to reflect how and why you interpret them the way you do.
The “truth” within a story has the most power over us because it stirs our emotions. The conflict makes us think about what could have happened or what possibilities we have for changes in the story of our lives.
What Story Do You Tell Yourself?
We tell ourselves stories. I’m a perfect example of this because I constantly talk to myself as I work. If my dog could speak, he could share some exciting things about me. Yet, there have been several periods in my life when the story I was telling myself was harmful. How many times do we tell ourselves things such as, “I’m not good enough and never will be?” “I’m too fat, I’m too skinny, I never finish anything, so why should I try?”
It isn’t just dictators who are master storytellers. We all are in our own way.
But the beauty of narrative is that we can change it to be positive if we choose to take action. And you never know what kind of story or what form it will be in that motivates us to start on a new journey filled with excitement, better health, or a path to joy!
My Story and My Journey
I have barely even scratched the surface of how stories affect us. However, the theory of the power of story has been nagging at me for several years now. I can say that what instigated this drive to understand it better came from reviewing my life’s experiences up to this point and thinking about where I want to go in the future.
Many negative things in my past led me to tell horrible stories to my mind for too long.
But I have become aware and mindful of my influences, and my curiosity has set me on a new journey. One that inspired the creation of the book dress and brought a team of artistic women together to explore stories through art. You can read more about how we came to become friends here.
For nearly five years, I have been struggling to find my voice and my passion for why I create. You would think it would have been obvious, but it wasn’t. I laugh at myself now, but sometimes we deny the most interesting parts of who we are as individuals.
The uplifting narratives of my new circle of friends have given me the power to step up and step out of my comfort zone.
dCome back often because we three have been incredibly busy for the past year, and we have a lot to share with you! I will give you a hint I have been digging into some fascinating research of oral history, folk and fairy tales, and even ballads! All in all, I hope you join me on this new endeavor because you may find it inspires you too.
Until then, take the time to look at how stories are influential in your life as well. You may find that something may encourage you too.
Photography: Sabrina L. Greene Photography
Hair and Makeup: Fab Flawless Hair and Makeup Artistry | Hair Stylist: Morgan F.
Gown Design/Model: White Knight Cosplay
Venue Host: Sherill’s Inn at Hickory Nut Gap