Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's the Story, Morning Glory

I was listening to a snippet of a CBC Ideas radio show today Paul Kennedy Aging by the Book on the topic Narrative Gerontology. The idea is that the richer you tell your life story the more resilient you are in old age. I checked Wikipedia and created a new entry when I found nothing there. The program and my subsequent research gave me some interesting ideas for the creative non-fiction class that I have been trying to get off the ground as part of a journalism minor in the English and Creative Writing department at the local University. People tell stories naturally and great story tellers are always in demand. We can learn how to tell better stories, for the entertainment and illumination of others but also for personal transformation and to provide closure for ourselves and others. Some authors studying aging determined that we sometimes begin writing the final chapters of our life stories long before they are due in response to social pressures, expectations of retirement, diminished physical capacity. They called this "foreclosure and suggested that this resulted in unnecessary unhappiness and depression. As I thought about these stories I was reminded of an older story in this blog Secret, Sacred and Cover Stories. I'll have to think about this some more and see what emerges. One of the most well regarded self-help/mutual aid organizations, Alcoholics Anonymous employs the therapeutic effects of story telling. The fourth and fifth steps involve the development of a personal moral written inventory which is then shared aloud with another person. The amounts to the story of a persons life to that point. For alcoholics, the therapy comes from the recognition of the way that their emotions and attitudes had been infected by the disease of alcoholism. The act of writing down the personal inventory, detailing the way that fear, resentment and sex (three issues if left unresolved were considered to be the most likely to return an alcoholic to active drinking) was essential to the change of character necessary for recovery. The act of telling that story to another person provided additional therapeutic punch and allowed the individual to hear themselves tell their story aloud. Seeing your story on paper and hearing spoke provides the transformational power. Transformation and transformational learning theory (Merzirov, 19xx) Information and communication technologies provide a potent means of amplifying this already powerful effect. If a picture paints a thousand words, then a 5 minute YouTube video paints 10,000 words. Applying digital multimedia to the personal story telling amplifies immensely. Whereas in the past the creation of audiovisual artifacts required costly equipment and extensive training, current multimedia is much more accessible. Everyone has a smartphone which has the capacity to create audio and visual materials and to share them in an instant.

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