Sharing our stories

The power of sharing your story

As a journalist who gathers people’s stories for a living, there is a special moment I look for in an interview – a moment of empathy, of resonance, that comes with the storytelling. It’s how I know I’m on the right track.

Finding the story is like finding the grain in the wood

I interviewed a furniture designer and sculptor recently for a lifestyle magazine. It was when he began talking about living close to nature and going with the grain of the wood in his work, rather than fighting against it … and how that shapes you in a good way over time. He talked about simply removing the unnecessary, to find the ‘story’ in the piece he is creating. He also talked about clarity of finish and quality, and how important they were to him.

It was as if he was talking about my writing and I knew exactly what he meant. And I felt myself starting to buzz with a kind of excitement, a relate-ability.

I have been lucky enough to meet many passionate people who are on fire for a certain path, and this is always my favourite point in an interview – it’s usually when someone starts talking about their passion and where their inspiration comes from. I feel this energy suffusing them, and it starts to affect me in the same way. I start to get lit up too.

Resonance: the healing metaphor

Our energy starts to resonate at the same frequency; the boundaries that separate us are lowered just for that moment. I get a sense of what it is like to be them.

I studied transpersonal counselling some years back. In defining the counsellor-client relationship and what makes it work, resonance is cited as the ‘healing metaphor’ (Larson). The counsellor is so tuned in to the client that they start to operate at the same frequency; they feel what the client is feeling. It’s the same with good interviewing and journalism. It’s what gives you an understanding of the interior life of a person, what their world is like.

Aiming to heal through storytelling: a refugee project

A few years ago, I worked on a project with the writers Eva Sallis (now Hornung) and Sonja Dechian. Eva had set up a not-for-profit organisation called Australians Against Racism (AAR) in response to the Howard Government’s handling of refugees arriving by boat, and the scaremongering that was going on in Australia about the shores of our country being ‘attacked’ or at least over-run by these desperate people arriving by boat without visas. (Two governments later, and nothing much has changed!).

One of AAR’s projects was to run a competition in schools for children to interview an immigrant and tell their story. The idea was that if you listened to someone’s story about how they came to be in Australia (and let’s face it, Australia is a country of immigrants!), the empathy you would feel for them would not allow for racism, fear or hatred to continue… It was a project that we felt would bring down the barriers between people.

The best of these stories were gathered together in the books Dark Dreams: Australian Refugee Stories and No Place Like Home (Wakefield Press).

Joseph Campbell said: “At such moments, you realize that you and the other are, in fact, one. It’s a big realization. Survival is the second law of life. The first is that we are all one.”