Written by Caitlyn P
When I was little, my mom would read me stories before I went to bed, but my favorite nights were the ones when she would make up her own stories and tell them to me, about a little girl with my name who went on adventures with mermaids or bears or her team of stuffed animals. Those stories were created for me and kept by me, but what I really remember now is the experience of being a listener.
Humans are natural storytellers. Since early civilizations, people have sat around fires and tell each other stories about how the world was formed, where humans came from, and what their purpose was in the world. In many ways, we still do this today. And the reason we tell stories today is perhaps the same reason we’ve always told stories. Whether it’s a quick sentence summarizing an experience or a full-blown retelling of an incident, there’s something very human in the act of sharing a story with another person.
When we tell a story, as well as when we listen to one, we are engaging in a sort of connection with one or two or several other people. In an article about the importance of stories, Dr. Kirsti A. Dyer points out that storytelling is one of the oldest healing arts, practiced by grieving individuals to cope with loss or illness, and that stories told by others can provide hope.
Media Psychologist Dr. Pamela Rutledge, in an article on the psychology of storytelling, points to evidence that storytelling helps us get in touch with a deeper part of ourselves and, through mythology and symbolism, broadens our understanding of universal truths and patterns in the way we experience life.
Dyer also says that stories can also inspire others to share their own experiences. The thing about experience is that, as humans, we all see and feel and know things that we can show to others through the stories we tell them, and even if the listener has never seen or felt or known those same things, they will be able to connect to at least a small part of what is being told to them. And isn’t connection what we’re all looking for?
Some days, when I realize how fast life moves us from one story to the next, I’m hit with a wave of nostalgia for the made-up stories my mom used to tell me, mainly those shared moments that make up a part of the history of who I am and who I am becoming. I have more experiences now, and more of my own stories—tales of grief, of hope, of the patterns in human life. And partly because I’m a writer, but also partly because I’m just human, I share them.