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Story as the Shape of Our Listening

“The Lessons learnt from Listening Teams”

Introduction

            Those of us who use story as a healing art know that “telling” is only half the story. Even though we name our skill “storytelling,” we know the hidden half is the “story-listening.” What good is a story if no one listens?

            This essay will argue that “listening” needs to be given a status equal to the “telling.“  It will explore the agency that belongs to the listener.  By conceptualizing “story” as a force that shapes our listening as much as it shapes our telling, we want to take listening into the center of narrative theory, rather than have it remain only as an afterthought. 

            First, let’s explain our basic term. By “life story” we mean how, through the construction of language, we give an account of our experience, of what happened to us in our lives.  We view “experience” (what happened) and the “story of experience” (the account of what happened) as two related but separate ideas.  Experience may have a natural narrative quality to it as Stephen Crites argues.  But we leave that question to the philosophers. Our attention is focused on how the story we tell shapes the experience that our listeners receive. And we recognize among those listeners the key listener, namely ourselves, and how we hear our own story.

            This reflection is inspired by our research at the Center for Narrative Studies, and the particular method we have discovered for training Listening Teams described in the second part of the paper.

The Stories We Listen Through

            I once did an interview at the Center with an acquaintance I will call Gail who told me about her alcoholic father. Between his binges, he would ignore her, but whenever he came home drunk, he would physically abuse her because she was “slacking off at school.”

            “I was never good enough for him,” she said, tears streaming down her face.

After a harrowing account of her second divorce from an abusive partner, she described what I knew to be true about her adult career, that she was a highly successful manager at a reputable company. When I asked her how she had accomplished so much, she explained,

“There was really no one else they could have picked.  I just fell into those promotions.”

            She shrugged off my suggestion that her talents might have had something to do with it.  As we wrapped up our session, I asked how the interview was for her.

            “I thought this was going to be MY story,” she said.

            “How do you mean?” I stammered.

            “You kept interrupting with all your dumb questions.”

            “But I thought I was merely being curious.”

            “Men!  Why won’t they ever let me have my say?”

            I remember being stunned. I had asked barely half a dozen questions in the space of a ninety-minute interview.

Story as a Listening Frame

            After we tried to talk through our different perceptions of a shared experience, it occurred to me that Gail’s lament about male victimization was not simply part of the story she told. It was the story through which she heard the whole transaction. Her story had also framed and shaped the experience of her listening to herself.

            I was shocked at her accusation.  Yet it forced me to examine what story I was listening out of. I was the professional and caring narrative analyst, asking what I thought were insightful questions. When I heard my curiosity, she heard intrusion and judgment. My surprise exposed my listening frame as much as her complaint revealed hers.

Looking for a Theory

            After this experience, I spent months puzzling over this listening dynamic. How do stories frame out listening? I began researching the literature on listening processes to find out how others had articulated the relationship between the story we tell and the story we hear told.  Apart from a multitude of “How to“ texts that employed the Sender-Receiver model, there was little I could build on.

            I took these questions back with me into my narrative practice and began to imagine the listening as a space or a force field of stories. I wanted to understand how a story was implicated in the listening process as well as being the obvious point of the telling.

            Where I discovered some answers was first of all in group dynamics. The other inspiration was something of a surprise, the theories of music appreciation.

Seeing the Listening Space-Group Story Work

            Anyone who has experienced group therapy will testify to the amazing impact of the opening story, how it clears a pathway for other stories to be shared that are somehow similar or connected.  Those first words shape the space into a particular place of reception in what some writers describe as “colonizing the space.” As the group process develops, later stories will often take their cue from those shared earlier, so that one could almost map a narrative genealogy of what story sprung from what story.

            Sometimes, in the middle of a session, a particular story will break a group open and totally transform the listening space.  For example, one member dares to share his shame about his body, how fat and ugly he feels.  The listening space becomes charged with an energy that turns it into a sanctuary. Others can now feel safe enough to share the story of their own body shame.

            The Twelve Step movement of Alcoholics Anonymous works as a network of such narratives.  The listening space is ready to receive stories of pain and failure, hope and recovery.  Blame or censure does not belong.  The success of these groups, I believe, could as easily be attributed to how consistently their stories shape a receptive listening space, even though all the attention is on the drama of the “drunkalogue.”  What are all these stories of recovery doing to the way the listeners attend to their own experience?  Clearly they are being invited to attend differently. In place of drug-dependent despair, they are asked to hear a story of hope, and the possibility that even their addiction can be overcome.

            Stories are constantly shaping the listening space of group life, charging it with a certain type of receptivity, which makes openings for some types of stories to be shared, and shutting down others.  Group conflict often occurs over whose story is to determine the shape of the listening.  I have witnessed this particularly as a group is forming or accepting a new member who, if she misreads the shape of the listening, will end up being dumped on.

            In intense group therapy where participants come to share their pain and struggle, a participant who refuses to enter into the “pain story” is likely to be heard as challenging the whole listening shape, thereby provoking group pressure to conform.  Stories that don’t fit into the listening shape are not heard, or only heard as threats and disruptions that stop me from “telling MY story,” as Gail had complained to me in the beginning.

            I remember observing an addictions recovery group where the therapist invited the participants to share their struggles with their “addict self.”  Some of the group wanted to share their triumphs over their addictions instead, and the whole session became a battle over what stories would shape the listening, ”Triumphs?” or “Struggles?”

Group life is a listening laboratory in which the web of stories intersect to create a field of influence and reception that largely determines what gets said and what gets heard.

Like Listening to Music

            If any other area of study besides group therapy has researched listening, it is music and theories of music appreciation. They describe listening as a dynamic of expectancy.

            I, like most people, love Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, especially when the instrumental gives way to the choral finale. It is this anticipation of a well-loved and well-listened to piece of music that adds to our enjoyment.  In the same way, I believe we can describe the story that we listen through. There is an anticipation, of sunshine or rain, failure or success, conflict or connection.  Listening to a story is like playing a guessing game of “what comes next?” Like an eager child, it keeps prompting us to ask  “And then what?”

           Songs and stories work on us by allowing us to take an anticipatory stance, and enjoy the unfolding of the plot or the tune according to how we expect it to go. When the unexpected totally disturbs the predictable pattern, a crisis of meaning prompts us to disqualify the experience or challenges us to be open to a new story.

            The music analogy takes us further into praxis.  It we learn to sing a tune by first hearing it sung, then could we not say that we learn to tell a story because we have first heard it told?  If we sing out of our listening, then we tell out of our hearing.  Stories tune the memory, and store emotional imprints that shape the way we hear the world.  Think of how easily that particular song on the radio from our teenage years sweeps us away into an emotional reverie.  Stories act like songs to habituate our listening stance, and tune us to anticipate life through one set of sequences rather than another; for example, that life is a tragedy and not a comedy, or life is a romance and not a farce. In these recurring listening shapes are concealed some of our fundamental orientations to life experience e.g., that life is a gift or a burden.

            Stories act as listening cues.  Their opening gambits-“Once upon a time” or “When I was a little girl in Alabama” or “You’ll never believe this”- are all formulae to cue us to listen in a certain way, to lend our imaginations to the story with a certain economy of attention.

            Just as new tunes evoke old tunes because they recreate a similar melody or mood, we hear a story of today as an evocation of yesterday.  An earlier story will tend to give prior shape to our listening and how we give meaningful attention to present experience.  Storying is always a game of catching up to reality as it is emerging in the here and now rather than as it is remembered.

            Albert Camus, the famous French existentialist, spoke of this when he explained how the story of World War Two first gets to be told in the story form of Word War One since that was the pre-existing shape of “the war story.” When that shape is expanded or broken (by the Holocaust or Hiroshima, for example) the crisis becomes an opportunity for more of reality or a different slice of reality to come to our attention.  That, says Camus, is the role of the artist; to break the old molds and give us new ways of experiencing the real, namely new ways of listening.

Some Hypotheses

            Music appreciation and group therapy provide us with some new ways to describe the dynamics of listening to a story.  But with what conclusions?

             Two things were much clearer to me.  First, storytelling never happens in a vacuum.  And second, no listening space is neutral. The space into which we speak is already shaped by other stories. Now, before I tell a story or deliver a lecture, I imagine the space before me as carrying a valence of reception, one that has already been shaped by previous lectures and stories. My audience is already used to attending to a particular narrative style.  If I want to be heard, I need to somehow accommodate my material to fit the shape of their listening.  I may even hope to change the valence, but I ignore it at my peril.  I now look back on some public lecture disasters in my history and can now articulate what went wrong.  The shape of my telling did not meet the shape of their listening.

            Imagining listening as a space also allows me to see how the story I tell is somehow secondary to the story that shapes the listening.  For no matter what I say, what matters in the end is what the audience thinks they hear.  Proof of this is the odd but familiar occurrence of somebody coming up after a presentation to commend you for saying something that you never said at all.  “I loved the way you compared Homer with Hemingway.” they say, when you thought you were talking about Norman Mailer’s book on Marilyn Munroe.

            If I have enough skill and narrative persuasion, my story may be powerful enough to shift the listening shape of the audience and affect how they hear stories in the future.  But only a handful of stories, I suspect, are capable of doing this comprehensively.  For example, one imagines Jesus’ parables as being so destabilizing of the narrative listening shape that ever after, the disciples are attuned to ironic reversals of openings and closures, of  death through life, of light in darkness, etc.,

            Such conclusions open up other questions.  If listening has a primary agency that we have ignored up till now, what does this have to say about the way we talk about our story work of therapy or ministry or organizational consulting? Might it not incite a different story altogether, especially our story of how we help people?

Listening- Curing the Problem or Feeding the Problem?

            People often come to therapists locked in the prison of what Michael White calls “frozen stories” (Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends  M. White & D. Epston, Norton Publishers, NY 1991) stories of trouble that they long to change but cannot. While we are trained to listen empathetically, we usually consider our presence to be neutral, something which facilitates the personal sharing of the problem.  However, if the primary agency belongs to the listener and not the teller, how does that implicate me in the problem sharing process?  Might not all listening be in some way a silent conspiracy with the teller?

            If we attend to people’s stories with such unqualified empathy that we allow the “trouble” to envelop both the teller and us how do we escape the listening shape that we have thus energized?  If a narrative is totally successful in recruiting its audience, what need is there for change?  Thus, the way we listen might be cementing the person into the very problem from which he seeks to escape.  Listening can feed the problem it is supposed to solve.

            Our listening is a way we hold up anther’s reality.  If the listening shape into which a person speaks fits their story like a glove, the teller feels not only their story is being affirmed but that their version of reality is being validated.  However, that version may be the problem.  If listening is critical to our work, how can we listen in a way that honors the teller’s experience without being colonized by their story?

Colonized by the Victim Story?

            Let’s take an example. Imagine Steve, a middle-aged professional, comes with a story about his mother who was too high on cocaine to feed and change him as a young child.  He is angry at never getting the care he needed. I suspect Steve will fully engage our attention and our empathy.  We will share his outrage towards the abusive parent, and be moved to help him work though the pain. Our empathy, however, may be as shaping of Steve’s story as it is our response to it.

            Our listening stance as professional carers (that’s how we are paid to listen) may be the pre-determining shape that elicits this form of problem story in the first place.  Only by presenting us with a “problem story” can Steve command our attention, activate our listening story as “helper” and constitute us narratively in our helping role.  Steve’s victim story may be as much about the shape of our listening as it is about the shape of his life.

            We can disavow such complicity, but the professional context may also predetermine the listening shape no matter how much we might try to change it.  You go to a doctor with a story of “illness,” to an accountant or consultant with financial or management questions, to a therapist with a “problem.” The shape of the listening is given meaning by the occupational context. Tell the therapist about your flu or your bankruptcy and she will hear it as a psychological issue, not as an invitation to give you Tylenol or help you file your tax form.  Our role as listeners, though a silent one, and the taken for granted context in which we work can constitute the act of telling as much as or even more than the act of telling itself.  The listening context prompts the story well before it becomes our response to it.

            When we ignore the listening aspect of storytelling, we too easily overlook our role in this mysterious dynamic and our narrative complicity in it. For whoever shapes the listening invariably shapes the telling and its meaning.  Such is the undeclared conspiracy of listening.

A Call for Self-Listening

            If we actually believed that our listening counted equally in all our story work, we might ask ourselves what might change in our practices?  First of all, I believe that giving a new primacy to listening would inspire us to more introspection. We might hear ourselves more and try to discover what story we are listening out of.  Only then might we untangle some of the conspiracies hidden in our silences.

            What we have learnt in our work is to try to declare the story of our silence, for we no longer consider our listening position to be so professional as to be unproblematic. Even if I am only the listener, my story (as the professional helper) is being played out nevertheless by the subtle way it is shaping the story that I hear being told to me. (That someone needs my help) When I am telling my own story, the prior stories that have shaped my self-listening will ultimately affect whether I feel you have heard me or not. If you don’t hear “me” the way I hear “me,” I will declare,” You didn’t listen.” But it might simply mean that we are locked into different stories of listening.

            If we can identify the shape of our listening, we can better understand the telling and listening choices we make. We can explore other choices that might do greater justice to the complexity of our lives and the lives of the people who come to consult with us. 

            But how exactly does one do this?  How does anyone become aware of their habitual listening patterns and move to a more conscious choice about what story they want to listen out of. This is not so easily accomplished. The narrative practices we train people in at the Center for Narrative Studies explore ways of doing precisely this. Let me illustrate by another example.

Life-Story Editing work

            I once offered spiritual direction to another therapist whom I will call Adam.  In the life story work that we do at the Center, we often tape and transcribe the sessions so that the client has a text to work from in follow-up.

            Reading the text of all his stories that I had given back to him weeks after our first meeting, I asked him, “Which if any of these stories do you want to continue shaping your life?”

            For him, one incident clearly stood out. Years before, he had counseled a married person caught in a tangled gay relationship. It reminded Adam of his own marital struggles to come to terms with his own bisexuality.  He had overheard himself advise his client to stop living a lie, to choose where the deepest loyalty of his heart lay.  As a result, his client had come out and dramatically changed his life course. For Adam, this “coming out” story was the one that displayed the honesty that he now most wanted his life to embody. He decided to step inside this particular story, to take his own advice, and listen to the rest of his life anchored in this text.

            By telling that story in a deliberate way to his wife and his boss, he chose to make life-changing decisions, to quit his job, to leave his marriage.  He had come to recognize and reject the old story out of which he was listening to his life, the “look good” story.  Now he claimed the new story of “be true” from where he had now chosen to attend to his experience.  By choosing that story in a conscious and deliberate way, he was standing in another place, and hearing his life differently, and thereby building a different life, one that to this day continues to offer a happiness he had never thought possible.

            I believe that we all stand on the ground of hidden stories to look out at the world and to take it in.  If we want to change our lives or choose different paths, life doesn’t necessarily have to change, but the story we stand in and on, does.  If we can recognize the story that is the shape of our listening, that which shapes our telling, then we can move into another place by choosing a different story just as Adam did.

Implications for Our Story Work

            Let me share with you how this listening-awareness has changed our whole narrative approach.

            At the Center for Narrative Studies in Washington DC, we as directors began some years ago to practice narrative therapy, an approach that takes the “story” metaphor and applies it to how people frame meaning in their lives.  It separates people from problems, and treats problems as “problematic stories” rather than inherent symptoms of mental disease.  “The problem is the problem, not the person.”

            Partly because we as directors were engaged in graduate work in literature and writing, we found our attention drifting away from the “therapy” focus of solving problems and more towards listening and appreciating the story as a story.  From a traditional emphasis on problems and solutions, the terms often used by narrative therapists, we had moved to a radical emphasis on listening and “literary appreciation” in our practices.  Responding to this way of listening, clients reported significant life shifts but they reported that it felt nothing like the usual talking cure.  This felt different.  It was the ‘Listening cure’ because they did a minimum of talking and a maximum of listening.

            Over the years, the Center has conducted regular seminars to train Listening Teams where people come to tell us part of their life story and learn to hear themselves and others in a new way.  Using a panel of three listeners who apply specific listening skills in a three-stage process, a Listening Team invites the listening space to declare itself, to speak back.  The exercise allows for people to hear more than just the story they tell.  They hear how they hear their own story.

            The process always manages to defy our best attempts to describe it. You have to experience it for yourself.  But even an incomplete picture may still give readers some hint of what we do and invite further inquiry.  (In the appendix, you will find a copy of the guidelines that we hand to participants.)

Listening Teams

            The process involves a reflecting team of two or three persons who assume three distinct listening positions as they listen and respond to a story.  Each position or stage is focused on three different answers to the question, ”Where is the meaning of a text to be found?” (see Biblical interpretation-An Integrated Approach W. Randolph Tate  Hendrickson 1997)

   Does it reside in the author?

   Does it reside in the text?

   Does it reside with the audience?

            Drawn from contemporary theories of literary criticism, these three responses are best illustrated by walking you through an example.

            Imagine Sandy comes to the Listening Team and tells us of her painful divorce after 18 years of being married to her childhood sweetheart.  She describes her high school romance, of falling madly and absolutely in love, and how she and her husband both loved the outdoors and planting gardens together.  She is both laughing and crying as she tells the story, ”Funny how you never imagine it happening to you,” she keeps repeating like a mantra.  Three years ago, she overheard a phone conversation between her husband and the “other woman.” That was the beginning of the end.

            After sharing her story in one uninterrupted five-minute sequence, Sandy is invited to sit back and listen to the panel share their responses as they go through the three stages.

Listening Teams-Stage One

            The theory that informs the first stage is that the meaning of a story resides with its teller, or that the meaning is to be found within the intention of the author.  In this example, the panel listens from the teller’s perspective, trying to honor what experience/affect she intended to convey as an author. Meaning is deemed to lie behind the text within the experience recreated by the author, a classical literary approach.

            Among the comments played back, Sandy might hear panelists saying things like-

   “I would like to honor Sandy and her story by witnessing to a deep sense of sadness that became my listening experience.  It touches me in my body, around my heart which feels heavy or wrung out.”

   “I imagine that if I were telling this story, I would be intending to evoke this experience of total loss, of rupture, of my life being torn apart.” 

    “This story makes sense to me and connects with my own story in that it stirs up memories of my own bitter divorce years ago.  I feel when I hear this story that I have been there too, and it is a pretty desolate place at times.”

            It is important in stage one of the work to reference the experience rather than the story, to make the distinction that the story evoked an experience but was not the experience. What we are wanting to honor is that experience created through the art of the story.

            After all panelists share in the dialogue, the team checks back in with the teller to ask if they have done justice to the telling, and if they have permission to move to the next step.

Stage Two

            The panel now moves to a perspective from inside the text itself; as to what the words themselves convey.  Meaning is deemed to lie within the text as an experience of language and words, images and rhythm.  It is also heard as a narrative construct, with a beginning, middle and end, character and plot, and point of view.  This critical approach owes its inspiration to what is called the New Criticism.

            A sample of some responses Sandy might hear at the second stage are-

   ”I would like to honor the poetic art that I hear in this piece, particularly the way the narrator keeps repeating words like “madly” and “absolutely” and “never.” It gives the text a high charge of drama, and a sense of everything being at stake here.  This sounds like a high-stakes story.”

   “I was struck by the image of the blossoming tree.  The images of planting and the garden serve as a recurring motif.  There is a high degree of narrative art in the way all these are put together, with the description of the high school romance at the beginning to set up the dramatic tension for the betrayal at the end. This provides the story’s rising arc of action and then, the fall.”

    “The way the narrator ends with the main character all alone, sitting in her garden and crying, and, of all things, weeding- that is such a vivid picture.  I can feel the pathos. The question is almost implied-what can I plant next?  What will grow for me now?”

            The panel pays particular attention to words, and to the narrative structures.  They refer to Sandy as the “character” or the “Narrator.” At the end, they will check in with Sandy to ensure she is comfortable with the process and if there are any surprises in what she is hearing.  Permission is asked to proceed to the final stage.

Stage Three

            The third and final step takes the panel outside the text and into an audience position where they function as a community of interpreters.  Meaning is deemed to lie in front of the text in the way it gets heard or read.  In modern literary theory, this is known as Reader Response theory.

            In stage three, Sandy might hear responses such as-

    ”I would like to share what I hear in this story and stress that this is purely my hearing of it.  It says everything about me and nothing necessarily about the narrator and her intentions.  But this story reminds me so much of the typical love story on the big screen where two lovers fall in love, but when they look back, they remember the feeling of being in love, rather than who they were in love with.  That is the way romance writers often portray it.  I wonder if there are other ways of storying that experience?”

    “It sounds to me like a romance that becomes a tragedy but I’d like to play with the gender politics that I hear, and clearly, here I am reading into and not out of the text. But what would the ex-husband’s story sound like?  Would he simply say, ”I found someone else.”  Why is it only acceptable for the woman to tell the story of being abandoned, bereft and betrayed?  Why couldn’t there be a story of a woman who falls out of love and it’s a comedy, not a tragedy?  Could a woman also say, ”I got bored,” or “He left”, and that be a credible account?

    “What struck me was that though I also hear a classic romantic tragedy, there is this wry humor that keeps erupting in the text and it draws me more into the character because I want to know what it is inside her that allows her to smile through the tears.  It makes me wonder if this is a different story or something within it that wants to subvert a purely tragic telling.  If the story ends with her weeding, what is she getting ready to plant?”

            Sandy as teller receives these stage by stage responses to her story couched in formula similar to the above, but differing according to each of the panelist’s opinions since consensus is not the aim.  She hears echoed back a diverse panel of descriptions of what her story may or may not have been about.  One story becomes many stories.  We invite the teller to monitor her own inner listening processes as she hears the feedback and to share some of this at the check-in periods between each stage.

            When she feels inside herself an inner confirmation about something that she has heard, it is not simply a case of that being right, but rather, that “this is how the story sounds right to me. This is how I hear the story.” This becomes an important clue to revealing the story through which she hears the story she tells.

            When the teller notices inner disturbance, that some comments feel way off or challenging, that is equally useful to note as the clue that this is “not how I hear the story. This is not the story of my listening.” Yet, it may be the story of my listeners.  It may help explain how they hear my story and thus, how people react to me when I tell it, or when I construct my persona through stories like it.

            In Sandy’s case, she might realize, as many clients do, that her pain is cast in the form of a tragedy. “Sandy” plays the character role of the innocent and betrayed victim. Such a narrative frame means she is being invited to attend only to the pain and injustice of the experience. Tragedy will not afford much attention to any agency of the character and her resilience or courage, her determination or her rage and her sense of humor.  Sandy might decide that she wants to hear these other parts of her experience speak as well.  If she does, she comes back to Narrative Room a week later and experiments with another story that will give her access to the comedy and the irony that the victim/divorce /betrayed woman story has edited out. She may even discover room for a new romantic quest.

            With repeated sessions of the Listening Team process, a person comes to see that her story was not simply her experience but the story that dictated how she was going to listen to her life. She now has the power to determine that her life is a lot more than tragedy. One story may colonize the space in which we listen to ourselves, but no one story can ever fully do justice to life’s infinity of experience.  

Feedback

           We have conducted Listening Teams for three years and the feedback has been consistently positive. Participants have told us that they experience “story ejection,” that the heaviness of a trouble story suddenly becomes lighter.  Others testify to its therapeutic effect, without it feeling like therapy.  One client described it as a process where “his voice was recognized and honored like no other experience.”

            Listening to a story in a way not unlike the literary appreciation of a text reveals possibilities that a teller never suspects are in her story.  It achieves this by demonstrating that meaning is never solely determined by the intention of the teller, nor by the interpretative frame of the listener.  Rather, meaning is always a negotiation between the teller, her listeners, and how she listens to others listening to her story as a text.

Some Practical Implications

            This work places us within an alternate story of change. It suggests that change happens not only by changing a story, but by changing the story that is shaping the listening. 

            It suggests that the stories from the great classics of myth and religion work because they subvert or break open, even if only for an instant, our usual window on the world.  A great story e.g., Shakespeare or the Gospels, doesn’t change the world, but it changes how we habitually take the world in.

Some Questions for Reflection

When next you hear yourself telling a story, you might ask yourself-

   How is it also the shape of my listening?

   How is it cueing my listeners to listen to their   world?

   How is it shaping my listening to other stories? 

   What listening conspiracy am I participating in? 

   What kinds of stories do I like to use with people? 

   Does that give me an insight into the story that shapes my own listening?

   Do I notice how, over time, the sorts of stories I use or are interested in have changed? 

   What does that say about the story evolution going on in how I listen to the stories of my world?

Conclusion

            This paper was written to explore a new story about “Storytelling -Story as the shape of our listening” to counter-balance our more traditional emphasis on ‘story as telling.’ It does not pretend to offer this as incontrovertible fact but it comes out of our reflections on our Listening Team practices. It is written in the hope of contributing to a re-imagining of the storytelling process.

            Our story about “storytelling” is like any other story that we tell.  To stay alive, it must keep being enriched and broken open to the crisis of newness and growth.  If “story as telling” is our frozen story, the only story we have to attend to our own processes, then perhaps we need a thawing out. We need a story about storytelling that does greater justice to the silent but powerful role we are called upon to play in holding up the reality of others, as listeners. ”They have ears to hear but they cannot hear” is the Gospel accusation that still echoes through time, inviting us as storytellers to listen to the story of our listening. 

 Please only use this article with permission.

THE CENTER FOR NARRATIVE STUDIES

  “Shaping the stories that are shaping us.”

(USA) Ph:240 476 1123