Storytelling: Making Sense Out of Important Life Events

Dr. Jackie Black

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Did you know that most of us are naturally predisposed to hear, remember, and tell stories?

And our stories have themes: family history, births, deaths, education, food and recipes, grandparents, journeys, romance, military (war) stories and many more.

So where does one begin to tell one’s stories or start writing them down?

How does one start to review a long and often multi-faceted life? What things are important to include? What events and experiences can be omitted?

The first step…

is to identify your goal. Don’t be limited by the themes I just mentioned. Storytelling is fun, creative, healing, transforming, connecting, and anything else it becomes for you, the storyteller!

Storytelling is the way you can make sense out of events, experiences and relationships, observe how people interacted, or didn’t, and deepen your understanding of who you are and perhaps why you think, or believe or react the way you do.

Storytelling can be a way to provide a presence and guidance to children when a parent is terminally ill and won’t live to see his or her children through the milestones of life. It is a fun and engaging way to bring back to life, if you will, relatives that have long since died and weave a tapestry of family history that connects children to their heritage.

The second step…

is to decide if you are going to use a tape recorder or write your stories. If you are writing, I suggest you use a journal-like booklet or a 3-ring binder if you are using a computer.

The third step…

is to choose a format or structure to begin the process. You can change this format anytime. It is only a place to start.

You can begin by asking and answering questions that will evoke feelings. Or, you can begin by describing people and events in your life. You can follow your life chronologically or frame your story event by event. Don’t focus on order, grammar, or spelling. This is not a writing project!

Before you do any writing or taping, start by drawing a timeline (in the center of a piece of paper, draw a straight line from one end of a piece of paper to the other) with your birth date at the left margin and the present date at the right margin.

Vertically along the line write a word or a phrase describing important events or experiences and include an approximate date if you can.

The fourth step…

is to start asking and answering a few simple questions:

  • Happiness is. . .

  • Who am I mad at. . .

  • I used to be scared of. . .

  • I am sad because. . .

  • Loneliness feels like. . .

  • I need. . .

  • I wish. . .

    If feeling questions aren’t for you, consider these as a place to start:

  • Who was my best friend in childhood?

  • Now?

  • Who was my hero (heroine) and why?

  • Who was an important or special adult in my life (this can be a teacher, clergy, the parent of a friend…)?

  • Describe your family as if you were creating a family tree.

  • If you could be anyone in the world who would it be?

  • How did my family handle money?

    The possibilities are infinite. Don’t get bogged down in the format or structure. Any and all questions will lead you to where you are going. Trust the process and take good care along the way.

    Remember, only YOU can make it happen!

    Copyright Dr. Jackie Black 1999-2005

    If you like this article, please read more about Dr.Jackie’s relationship dating advice and help for issues and problems .

    This article may be re-published with appropriate attribution to the author including name, web site, email address and telephone number.

    Dr. Jackie is an internationally recognized relationship expert, educator and coach. Advice and coaching about personal relationships is Dr. Jackie's passion. Her goal is to inspire and support single men, single women and couples through the challenges and pitfalls of dating, loving and building lasting, committed relationships in today's fast-paced world. Dr. Jackie's Relationship Coaching Programs and Groups, her Blog, downloadable PodCasts and her Internet streaming radio show are jam-packed with valuable dating tips and strategies.

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