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Susan Ann Darley: What’s Your Story? Digging Deep Can Prove Transformative

Looking beyond the surface can change our experiences now and help shape our future

“If we each knew one another’s stories there could never be one single war.” — Anonymous

Alexis, my granddaughter, recently called and asked me what it was like when I was growing up. I told her about the milkman walking into our unlocked home twice a week whether anyone was home or not. I explained how the pace was slower, and I certainly had more freedom than today’s kids who attend arranged playdates instead of running around the neighborhood until 10 at night.

As I looked back, however, I realized that there had always been an underlying, strained politeness that masked real feelings. The elephant in the living room was huge.

By contrast, we now live in the age of the 30-second elevator pitch, sound bites and speed dating. Also by contrast, what was once swept under the rug is being exposed.

Our stories are evolving along with us. They’re authentic — filled with honesty and depth. When they’re not, we immediately distrust the storyteller, whether spoken by a friend, read in a novel or seen in a movie.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on “The Transformation of Storytelling” hosted by the Brooks Institute and presented by Santa Barbara resident and story coach Patrick Horton, Ph.D.

The focus was on creating and communicating stories with energy and drive. Stories that go to an uncomfortable depth revealing conflict, truth and hope — if not, ultimately, resolve.

These are the stories that connect us to our core issues. They show us that we’re not alone but interconnected. Our experiences may look different, but at a deep level we identify with the story’s emotional heart.

Within the story we realize that “the preferred course of action is not going to work and at this point we don’t know what will. There’s risk, danger and sometimes free-floating anxiety,” according to Horton. These stories give us permission to shed the old way of doing life — letting go of control, even momentarily losing a sense of trust. Suspended and stranded until an inward force propels us forward, yet still questioning, “Will it work?”

Then, ultimately, the main character discovers his or her power for the first time or takes it back as inner demons disintegrate. Witnessing the transformation, we walk away with a renewed sense of hope and belief that on a personal level it’s possible to move from victim to victor in our own lives.

What’s your story? Not the politically correct one but the cathartic, life-changing one. In order to find it, Horton says, “You have to determine what you need as opposed to what you want. Instead of filling the hole in your gut, leave it behind.”

The stories I shared with Alexis were tepid surface stories appropriate for her school assignment and age. My personal story is partly in a screenplay and fully in the hands of one or two intimate friends. It is acknowledged, revealed and protected. It is shared openly when I sense it can help another. It’s my journey that was once filled with struggle, conflict and tears. Today, I realize it was my touchstone that led me to inner peace, compassion for myself and others.

“Story is our lens and filter,” Horton explains. “It is story that determines how we remember and understand our past, how we experience and engage in our present, and how we shape our future.”

Transformation. The world is in the throes of it — individually and collectively. We’re moving from surface living to the heart of life.

We need your story.

Susan Ann Darley is a creativity coach and writer who works with artists, creatives and entrepreneurs to discover, use and market their talents. She offers a free 30-minute coaching session. Follow her on Twitter: @Coach7700. For more information, click here, e-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 805.845.3036.

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