A Bit About My Story-Work
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Story-Work is a term that I use to describe the eclectic project work that I do with people & communities. To be honest, It's quite a broad term. My work can range from simple storytelling projects to more complex problem solving and evaluation processes. The common denominator in everything I do is the use of conversation, reflection and storytelling and to tell those stories in creative ways. What is clear and precise is, that by using reflective personal stories, I can help people, communities and organisations achieve several positive outcomes. My StoryWork projects are co-production projects. That is to say, people who have had the experience of the subject help me to make things that help other people. For example, My Suicide, A different Story project (funded by the NHS) to look at ways of helping to reduce male suicide. So, I have spent 6 months living amongst and sharing stories with men who were once suicidal. We looked at their story and the ways they have changed their lives. I am now in the process of putting their stories, ideas, words of advice of suicidal people and their ideas for systems change together in a series of blogs, films and most importantly a beautiful photo story journal book. It is hoped that men who are experiencing mental health issues will learn from those who have already walked in their shoes.
A Brief History of Stories
Stories are an essential ingredient for the survival of our species. Since our first-day, history has been busy recording our tragedies and loves. We tell tales of achievements, of heroes, villains, madness and lust. We can find pieces of ourselves in another's story, even in fiction we can find ourselves. Every culture has its David and Goliath, its vampires and witches. Stories share a reflection of our own and somebody's truth. Our past is our key to the door of our tomorrow, we shouldn't dismiss our own story so much.
We have always found a way to leave our mark on the world and it is the story of us that most prevails. We connect with the human story over time and space. we all know the pain of tragedy, of loss, the joy of love, to fall and to overcome, to have and to want. It is the telling of these stories that help us to grow and overcome. Freud knew this, so did Jung. In the early part of the twenty century in an age like all ages of love and war, these scientists of stories started to explore. Over time talking therapies were born.
“Storytelling is about connecting to other people, it is about helping people to see what you see. ”
— Michael Margolis
My history with Stories
I have a long history with stories at times they have saved my life, kept me mentally well or returned me to a place of sanity. The stories I was in love with as a child has influenced my passions and desires of today and those to come tomorrow. My passion for travel, my wanderlust can be traced right back to my deep love of TinTin books as a kid. Yes, stories are powerful.
I really became a witness to the power that storytelling has during my professional days working as a therapist. I witnessed people turn their lives around from the ledge of insanity to one of positive, movement and hope. They did this through first telling their story as it stood that day, we then went on a history trip to see how they ended up here feeling this way and from there made choices and took actions to rewrite the story to come tomorrow.
We operate unconsciously most of the time, we are reactors to external and sometimes internal stimuli. The whole human species does it. The story that drives these unconscious actions is not really our story it is more a collection of other peoples stories, masquerading as our own. We are the product of our communities words, fears, doubts, beliefs, rules, education and labels. Together with communities, we build things helpful, inspiring, informative things, These things are often films,, books, zines, magazines, newspapers. People often get well and stay well through both the telling and sharing of the story combined with having a purpose greater than themselves.
A few years ago I worked with a group of older adults widowed and living in grief. Together we told our stories, shared memories, laughed, cried and eventually moved closer to accepting this loss, we turned these stories into a little book a book about letting go and learning to love past grief, a book to be passed back along their Journey to others who will come this way. It was quite a beautiful experience really.
How I use Stories in Professional & Organisational Work
I see Organisations, Systems, Towns, Cities like I see people or more relevant to how I see families. They operate the same, have issues in the same way and can be helped in the same way that people and families are helped through story work. Some of the things I do with Organisations is to help them tell their real and authentic story. This may be as simple as putting their already reflected and collected stories together and making something out of those or it may be a full package where I build a project that sets out to find and collect their community of interests story as well.