What Powerful Results Can You Gain From Telling Your Story?

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

A new family invited us to have dinner at their home recently. Because we didn’t know each other well, they asked us questions about our life in North Africa.

Their genuine questions invited us to share our story.

Afterwards, we mentioned to them that it had been a long time since we had told our story to someone. It felt good!

We all have stories to tell—fun and not-so-fun stories from our daily lives, encouraging testimonies of changed lives, tough stories of loss and grief that have built up over the course of years, and sometimes, traumatic stories and crisis experiences that we have been forced to walk through.

Whatever story we carry, there are multiple benefits of telling it to others.

1. The Power of Release

Our story feels bottled up and capped inside us before being told. For some of us, especially when we have something exciting or difficult to share, we feel like we might “explode” emotionally and physically if it doesn’t come out! When we finally have an opportunity to tell our story, the bottle is uncapped. Our story is released. It’s powerful and freeing!

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There is an actual physical release when we tell our story. The body’s stress response, including stress hormones like cortisol, are shut off. In place of these stress-filled responses, healing hormones like dopamine and endorphins are released. In addition, telling one’s story relaxes the entire nervous system.

Stories are told in the body. Experiencing a story alters our neurochemical processes, and stories are a powerful force in shaping human behavior.
— Berkeley news, "The Science of the Story"

It simply feels good—physically, emotionally, and mentally—to share our story! For those who like to process verbally, this release may be felt even more strongly than for internal processors.

When my son scored a goal for his university soccer team, for example, he couldn’t wait to facetime with us so that he could share the big news! At other times, when our family was going through tough seasons of confusion and doubt, finally having the opportunity to share our story with a trained debriefer brought much-needed relief to our minds, emotions and body . . . even allowing me to sleep better at night.

2. The Power of Being Heard

Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone needs his story to be “heard.” This can happen in a relaxed conversation with our spouse while doing dishes after dinner, with a trusted friend over a cup of afternoon tea, or with a trained debriefer during a time set apart just for you to unravel what may feel like a messy or tangled “ball of yarn.”

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Before telling our story, we can feel alone in our silence, especially when going through something difficult. These feelings can seem overwhelming, lonely, and dark. Sometimes, our story can even become warped and distorted in the dark and lonely silence of our mind where our imaginations can run wild.

When we finally have a chance to tell our story, there is real power when the silence and darkness are broken. Our story is brought into the light, and we often see that there is more to it than we originally thought. In the light, we see and hear things that we didn’t know were there.

Something powerful and freeing happens when our story is finally “heard” by a caring and empathetic listener—someone who truly cares about the person and what his story means to him—rather than just someone who listens to feed his own curiosity.

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Being “heard” in this way is healing to the soul. When we feel that our story has finally been “heard,” there is usually an emotional release deep inside of us.

3. The Power of Fresh Perspective/Clarity

Once in a while, we can feel "stuck" at certain places in our journey. Wise and gentle questions and reflections can help us to untie those knots and to continue to walk through our narrative in a healthy and clarifying manner.

While we were recently sharing a difficult story with a trusted friend, he stopped us and asked us a pointed question.

“What are some of the positive points of this story?”

“Positive?” we thought. “This is a horrible situation. There is nothing positive in this.” He went on to reflect back to us some of the encouraging things that he had heard us say in the midst of the tough story. It was shocking to us, because we honestly had not seen anything encouraging and had not heard anything positive.

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Our story was knotted, and we were stuck in a place of self-pity and negativity. His question helped us to untie that knot and to catch a glimpse of hope and clarity in our narrative.

While we tell our story, it’s not only the listener who hears our story . . . but, we actually hear our OWN voices tell our OWN story!  As we hear ourselves tell our own story, we can begin to connect dots that we didn’t even know were there. We can begin to notice patterns and themes that we didn’t see before. Noticing the different angles and perspectives allows us to draw conclusions and to learn life lessons. We begin to make sense of our story. We begin to see hope and light.

My Own Journey

I recently shared a significant and difficult part of my journey with two trusted friends. I  saw all of these benefits of telling my story—the power of release, the power of being “heard,” and the power of fresh perspective and clarity.

There were all kinds of feelings wrapped up in the narrative—good and bad, laughter and tears. I could feel the physical and emotional release as I shared.

My friends listened intently with their facial expressions, their body language, their thoughtful questions, their gentle reflections, and their tears. I knew that I had been “heard” as a person, and my story was valued.

As I talked, I heard my own voice and my own story. By the end of the time, I saw things differently and had fresh perspective. I realized that this story wasn’t an isolated story. Rather, it was a part of my bigger story, a thread tied to many other threads in my messy ball of yarn called “life.” It wasn’t until I told that one story that I could begin to see clearly where I had been, where I was, and where I needed to go next.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone needs to tell their story. What about you? Do you need to tell your story?

Rankin, Lissa M.D. “The Healing Power of Telling Your Story.” Psychology Today, 27 Nov. 2012.

Smith, Jeremy Adam, and Berkeley Blog. “The Science of the Story.” Berkeley News, 25 Aug. 2016.