Connecting local responses around the world
It is very interesting and inspiring for me how Storytelling has become a trending topic within The Constellation community at different levels.
I discovered Storytelling some 20 years ago when I was trying to build confidence in myself and also to different women's groups around me (in particular, HIV+ women).
I had never thought of the importance of the stories my dad used to tell me when I was a child, but then, all of a sudden, as important things usually come into our lives, magically, the storytelling appeared in my life as a tool, as a magical tool to dig inside myself/ourselves and make meaning of our experiences living with HIV.
I am not a storyteller, but I could feel in my bones what stories could do for us. When we joined together around a story, we were able to connect with our own experiences in a more profound level. And that allowed us also to connect with each other, as we felt the thread of the story intertwined with our own story-threads. And by the end of our session, we felt as if we had been bathing together in the same refreshing waters.
Then I had the immense privilege of bringing storytelling to another level with a project around life narratives with 20 HIV+ women. It was not now about a meaningful story touching our souls with that magical language that allows us to go deeper into our experiences. The project was about narratives, about a woman having the space to go inside and recall the stories of her own life, being listened to so that she could also hear herself and make meaning of the things that 'happened to her'.
Through this project, I learnt the magic of listening, the powerful impact that listening has in the listener as well as in the person listened to. Listening is not a passive attitude, by the contrary, it is full of energy, the energy required to establish a real connection.
And then, having these 20 women stories together one could see there a clear image of a 'certain community', we could see the common threads that could be followed to understand a whole collective story of a time and a space in which HIV+ women faced the impact of the epidemic, their pain and joy, and loses. All the lessons learnt and their knowledge about health, illness, stigma, support... So much wisdom in every story.
And I instinctively felt that it was something that would fit within SALT-CLCP; I did not see where and how but I could feel it. So at first, I thought of it in terms of searching for more depth of the individual stories but apparently, it was not the time and the issue remained dormant in me until little by little, the perseverance of Rituu and Marlou, together with the audiovisual curiosity of Jessica and David, added to Phil's quality of a real digger of meaning in the stories, and many other contributions... all that has been ripening and arises again now demanding to be recollected. So we need to find out how.
I remember my first post in Ning, which in reality was not mine. It was Rituu allowing me the space to narrate my experience with HIV diagnose. She was curious, made questions, she listened, and then she gave back what was a little story of my experience. And my learning here was that when you tell a story of your experience you are acknowledging yourself for what you have done. In my responding to Rituu's questions I became aware of what I have done in that situation. I could see my story as separate from me and so I could appreciate aspects of myself that I have not been aware of. One does things spontaneously, maybe as part of one's previous story but many times not being fully appreciative of what has been done. Telling the story allows for making sense of it. I could see strengths in myself that I had not paid attention to.
For me, storytelling is very much linked to the Appreciation that we include in the SALT attitude! Once I was able to appreciate my strengths I am able to put them into action whenever required. I don't need to wait for outside appreciation in order to use them. They belong to me.
In this way, storytelling/life narratives applied to the communities using SALT/CLCP to jointly address a challenge would be the natural way of becoming aware of their strengths, of developing appreciation and ownership of their common experience. A community that has dreamed a common dream deserves to document their process in a 'common story', maybe a story of stories, that is incorporated by the community as their own understanding of what they have experienced together. In this sense, we could call this story 'a report with soul'.
A report is a 'depersonalized' story; as if the things that are reported were not connected with people anymore. As if the experiences had been deprived of the soul. And we need to bring that soul back in order to recover a way of documenting that is complete, so that reports become human again; so they become stories.
And this brings me to my current curiosity, which is how can we in the Constellation contribute to communities telling their collective stories so that they can appreciate themselves and they can continue using their strengths freely and creatively.
My departing point for this is that I think of the community as a living organism, as a person made up of many persons. And being a person, maybe we can address this as we would do for an individual narrative. We need to build trust, self-confidence, listening, and space for them to be able to recognize what they did and so be able to appreciate their strengths by themselves. We need to find a way to provide the space for attentive listening so that they can find their own words. Taking ownership of their stories will allow them to transmit those stories to others in the community, those who were not part of it before, young people, others who may come after... They will come up with a common identity, no matter how diverse they are.
And that is my little story about storytelling and my dream of the communities in the world.