Last weekend we celebrated Chinese New Year with our Malaysian friends. It’s become something of a ritual in recent years with the same core group each time.
After a huge, delicious lunch the twelve of us sat round a friend’s living room and started talking. Hours later, when darkness had fallen and dessert had been served, we were still sitting around swapping stories.
The Ancient Ritual of Storytelling
I found myself thinking how, even in the 21st Century, the best times with friends are based on the most ancient and primitive of social activities: storytelling.
Over the hours we’d swapped stories of travel, food and health. We’d spoken of work, relationships, TV programmes and things we’d done. All the stuff that goes to make up normal daily life.
Some of the stories had been educational and informative, especially the travel tales, while others had everyone roaring with laughter and chipping in with similar anecdotes.
The Therapeutic Value of Storytelling
It made me think how important storytelling is. For everything that happens to us, it’s important to have someone to tell it to, to have some sort of audience.
It’s also important to say some things out loud to an audience. Sometimes this cements an experience, it makes it real. It also validates the experience.
Storytelling helps us make sense of our lives.
As anyone who’s ever been in therapy knows, the more you talk about a traumatic event, the less power that event has over you and the more likely you are to recover from it.
The same goes for telling stories about our everyday lives. When I tell the story of a particularly irritating trip to the theatre I tell it so that people laugh. Now that I’ve told the story a couple of times it’s been reduced to an amusing anecdote.
By sharing and listening to other people’s stories you realise that you aren’t alone in your experience of life. People have gone through similar or worse and when you tell your story, they’ll understand.
Storytelling and Relationships
When it came to time to leave we were sad to go. My partner commented, ‘This year felt different. We all seemed to bond. I feel much closer to everyone now.’
I had felt it too. I think it had something to do with the fact that we were in one large circle, rather than speaking in smaller groups of two or three as usually happens at parties. The sense of being one large group had created a communal feeling – a sense of community.
Whatever had happened, something had changed for the better amongst our group of friends. Storytelling had brought us closer together.
Image: Thanks to Frederic Poirot on Flickr.com