Overcoming Blocks to Easy Storytelling
What's usual or natural with storytelling?
We are all (with some exceptions where physical, chemical or genetic damage has occurred) born highly intelligent, creative, loving, co-operative human beings. We have an enormous capacity for rational thought and easy clear communication with our fellow human beings. Storytelling has been a part of our human culture for as long as we have been able to speak and it's ingrained in our consciousness. It's easy unless someone deliberately makes it hard or if something gets in the way - a block.
What is a block?
Blocks are patterns of confused thoughts and feelings that get in the way of our clear and creative communication.
For example:- some one who was suddenly struck from behind for whispering in class might feel fearful when whispering a quiet part in a story or if some else is looking and listening over their shoulder; or - someone who was always told, "Don't shout! Good girls don't shout!" might feel confused, sad, and/or angry when trying to be angry or shout in a story.
How do you recognise a block?
If you notice a 'negative' emotion when you are thinking about, preparing for, telling a story, or reviewing storytime then that is a sign of a block. Some blocks stop us from telling completely. Some just make it harder. Make a note of when it occurs and what seems to trigger it.
Why does it occur?
Sometime, most likely, but not necessarily, when you were young, you were hurt by a criticism, an attack or an oppressive act. You were not given adequate opportunity to heal the hurt by expressing the feelings that came up - anger, fear, sadness, embarrassment etc. - and now these same feelings keep coming up when a similar event occurs. (It's the replaying of an old 'tape' or pattern in your mind.)
How do you change it?
Arrange some time with a colleague or friend - someone who will respect your efforts to overcome the block (preferably someone who is also working on eliminating a block.) Choose a place where you wont be interrupted and where it is safe for you to be talking and expressing feelings.
Swap time (eg 30 mins each) talking about what happens each time the block occurs and what you think happened in the original hurt. When the feelings come up don't push them back down - express them for as long as they continue (or for as long as it's your turn.) This might mean crying and feeling sad and hurt, being angry, shaking and feeling scared, sweating and feeling embarrassed. Keep doing this until the block is gone or reduced enough for you to understand what has happened and to manage the current task. Join a Co-counselling class or support group to learn how to do it well and to get good support for continuing.
Hard to Find Blocks
What if you can't notice or remember a particular incident but still know that there is some thing making storytelling hard?
Sometimes the memory of an incident is occluded or covered over with other confused thoughts and feelings and is not easy to remember. The best thing to do here is to start telling your life's stories both in your sessions with your colleague or friend and in your general story times. Watch for times that seem significant, that catch in your throat, or that evoke 'negative' feelings. Then work on those times even if they don't seem to be connected with storytelling, performing, public speaking etc. They will be in some way. Sometimes it's a general oppression rather then a specific hurt eg class or sex-role conditioning or classism. These can be discharged and contradicted in the same way.
Another good way is to notice what sort of stories you usually pick to tell. A lot of my stories are about small people beating large people, animals, giants etc. or about intelligence or trickiness overcoming brawn. We often pick stories that are about the hurts we have received in the past. You might have guessed by now that I'm not exactly of giant stature and wasn't as a child either. This can be true to for current hurts. If, for example, one is still grieving for a loved one - telling stories about death and lost love can be really useful. Realising this can also be a really good guide to what to work on.
Changing the story
We can change the way we think and react to the world by changing what happens in our stories. Want to have a happy ending? Give yourself one in the story. Want to give free expression to your creativity and intelligence? Tell stories where the main character (you in disguise) is like that.
Overcoming Blocks Workshop
If you would like to be part of a group or workshop that works on overcoming blocks in this way, I'm more than happy to facilitate one for you and a group of your friends and/or colleagues.
We are born intelligent, creative, co-operative and flexible people who love to perform. The only thing that gets in the way is distress.
We can elliminate the distress or blocks to our natural creativity with the support of friends of colleagues.
Swap time when one person talks about times when it was hard to be expressive and creative and the other person listens with love and support.
Tell your life story and spend more time with those times in your life that feel difficult to talk about.
Notice the type of stories you usually tell.
Change the story of your life.
© 1998 Daryll Bellingham. One copy of the above notes are available for your personal use for developing your storytelling skills. If you would like to copy, distribute or publish them whole or in part please seek my permission.