I gotta tell you

obvious speaker - May 10, 2014m

We not only have a powerful need to take in stories.  We also have a powerful need to tell them…

That’s obvious enough, but what drives this need?

Well, I think storytelling has been essential to our survival, on various levels.

By sharing complex information through storytelling, our early ancestors survived and thrived, despite their physical limitations.

Even when we use stories to pump up our egos, there’s an element of survival…

When you tell your story, you show that your life counts—that you exist on this earth in some meaningful way.

Storytelling can also serve as an emotional/mental release.  In that way, it’s essential for our psychological health, and so, for our physical health as well.

The Catholic church understood this need when they created the confessional…

…as did the pioneers of psychoanalysis when they created talk therapy.

But to them, storytelling wasn’t just an attempt to purge, but also an attempt to comprehend…

An attempt to comprehend a significant event.  An attempt to comprehend one’s life.

Of course, our storytelling isn’t limited to personal experience…

We may actually spend more energy telling the stories of others…

We share news stories…historical stories…gossip…

We invent stories and then share them.

When a story is particularly meaningful to us, we may share it many times over…

…just as I did with the movie After Hours (see previous post).

I shared that story long before I realized it was about me.  On an unconscious level, I wanted people to see my life.  I wanted to express myself.  So I used that movie.

But this behavior isn’t particular to me…

When someone talks about a story obsessively, I know he’s revealing some aspect of himself to me.

Apparently, the desire to reveal—to express—comes from the psyche.  A desire so strong must be part of our survival mechanism.

But I’m not just talking about myself when I share stories meaningful to me…

…and you aren’t just talking about you.

When I’m telling you about After Hours, or about what happened to me at the car wash this morning, I’m also talking about us

I’m talking about the experience of being human…

…about our experience of discovery in this strange, often bewildering, ultimately unknowable world.

Even the slightest story about the smallest event can speak to the mystery of this life.

So storytelling is also about spiritual survival.  In our stories, we ask and try to answer the question all mythologies have tried to answer: how best to cope with a life—with a world—we can never completely understand.

With all that in mind, I do try to be a good listener…most of the time, anyway…

…even when I’m nearly bored to tears.

If the monologue does get a little tedious, I’ll ask myself, “What is this person really telling me about himself…about herself?”

What is she saying about us?

© 2014, Michael R. Patton
MYTHSTEPS: the low-priced book


About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, and fabulist...A new mythologist, a peace miller, a dream worker...I don't qualify as an illustrator or photographer--I just "make pictures"...I have thirteen books available at amazon... I currently reside in northwest Arkansas, but have lived and worked all over the United States... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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