My post of weekly quotes earlier this week, The Cats Are Up in the Chimney Again, evoked so many stories of other mishaps and mischievous-ness of our feline friends. One quote that I hadn’t included at the time…
People meeting for the first time suddenly relax if they find they both have cats. And plunge into anecdote
– Charlotte Gray…
….proved to be among the truest of all. Within a few hours I was hearing stories of cats found in the dryer, in the sock drawer, hiding behind books on the bookshelf. Much shared laughter, much bonding in the commiserating.
All this reminded me of another quote that I’m quoting only from memory:
Stories are more important than food.
– Ursula le Guin
Stories are another resource for recovering resilience, and their power cannot be underestimated. Stories, whether they evoke the bonding of shared laughter or the bonding of shared commiseration, connect people to each other more deeply than the words themselves, and sometimes provide nourishment for the spirit more sustaining than physical food.
Below are my off-the-top guidelines for sharing stories with others in ways that will provide genuine support when we need it the most. May they be useful to you and yours.
1. Find the common ground.
Which people can quickly do around pets and raising children and travel disasters. Even for the harder challenges, a cancer diagnosis or death of a love one, people find deep support, validation, encouragement in the common ground of our common humanity. Finding understanding and compassion in a natural circle of friends or in a well-led support group, with people who share similar trials and troubles, can be a tremendous resource for resilience.
2. Create the safety.
Share your story with those who have earned the right to hear it.
Becoming vulnerable with others requires a fair amount of safety and trust; testing that safety and trust first is good self-care. Trusting one’s intuition can be supported by telling stories first with you already trust to hold in you unconditional positive regard first, and expanding the circle outward from there.
3. Take turns.
Everyone has a story; some folks need to feel a lot of welcoming to feel safe enough to share their story. This can be encouraged by:
4. Listen deeply.
Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.
– Sue Patton Thoele
Taking time, taking turns, the rhythm of the conversation creates its own resonance that evokes the neurochemistry of bonding and connection; we feel held, we feel loved.
5. Find the gift in the mistake
Sharing stories with others helps us put the entire mini-catastrophe into a larger perspective. We often find some silver lining after all, and have gratitude for the experience as well as for the sharing.
P.S. Sharing stories, important as they are, while sharing some good food, is not such a bad idea either.