Three things I know about Stories.
They create power, incite insurrections, cause trauma, offer healing, feed despair, nourish hope. I am a warrior in the war of stories, mapping their lethal power so as to disarm and expose them, and to foster a new ethics of narrative accountability.
From 30+ years of work with new leaders from Northern Ireland/Ireland, South Africa, Israel/Palestine and USA, I know first hand the power of old stories of hatred and new stories of possibility. My family being Half Welsh, Half Irish and exported to Australia after famine, my culture’s imperative is to cherish the stories.
2. Stories are never innocent.
Pervasive, persuasive, sometimes perverse and always dangerous, stories have replaced our reliance on facts. Whose stories get told, heard and enacted, are expressions and enactments of power. Equally, whose stories are censored, silenced or falsified bear the masks of oppression. Stories hold up our world because we story our lives into a meaning, and meaning shapes our choices & actions, our identity & community.
The public stories fed to us every day by governments, media, churches and corporations have turned out to be mostly lies. Yet the chance to unleash story power to inspire positive social change has never been more possible or more necessary. After 30+ years in the field, Its time to make Narrative Change as crucial at Climate Change, and foster a renewed narrative ethics that treasures honesty over expediency, trust over trust funds, and need over greed.
3. But Stories are not enough.
As the tools of intolerant ideologies, they blind us to the larger view we need right now. We require Maps to stop stories narrowing worlds into the prisons of only what is believable and what is tellable. Stories transmit inner human experience but their distortion of the singular into the emblematic means we are seduced into making “policy by anecdote” and laws from exceptions.
The world of big data shows us that we can no longer impose one story pattern on evidence that wants to emerge into something quite different. The new challenge is to find new ways to get out of, get above our stories, get to see where they are taking us, and determining if we want to go there or not. That is why stories need maps. We used to think all we needed to get along was dialog and negotiation. But when we have lost our way, the new narrative skill is navigation. We need to know where we are, where we came from, and how far we are from where we need to go.
4. Stories need to be harvested.
My own included. We have even invented a new Non Profit we are calling “Save Our Story Inc,” dedicated to cherishing the stories that are most in danger of being lost. The dangerous memories of history still haunt us, to remind us that today is ours more by choice than by chance. We must change the world by changing the stories and to do that, we must preserve those stories that remind us that there was once, and still remains a different way.
And boy do we have work to do! Not just the Middle East, Ukraine, but the economy, climate change, poverty, the environment, the economy, energy, immigration, health care, education. If ever there was a time for a new story, new leadership, that time is NOW. I am eager to meet other story-inspired people out there to help create a movement for change where WE shape the stories that shape us, not the other way around. that is why we founded storywise.com to do 25 years ago. Consider yourself invited to connect here.
Specialties: Leadership Training, Personal/Group Narrative Coaching, Narrative Room Listening Laboratory, Living Stories Process, Public Speaking, Story Coaching, Mentoring, Narrative Design, Group and Conference Planning, Executive Retreats, Speech writing, Web Publishing, Narrative Tours of Washington DC, Group Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Guidance Groups, Social Media, Life Stage mapping, peace education,