Why this time in history actually IS unique

story activism story as a map storymaking Nov 21, 2023

Perhaps it is the storytelling gene inside all of us that wants to proclaim that this moment in history -- our moment -- is  totally unique.  And yet the dynamics -- one might say the story elements -- are not new.

Generational struggle. Power imbalance. Gender issues. Disparity in access to resources. Racial strife. Aggression and conflict. Control rising to meet perceived chaos. Climate catastrophe. Health crisis. The pendulum swing between the individual and the collective. The list goes on....

These are the stuff of stories from every culture. Our stories tell us we have experienced all of this before.

However, there are two things right now that ARE unique.

The first is that through digital technology we are connected to the rest of the world -- and consequently every story that is happening right now -- in an immediate and personal way.

This means it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer complexity and volume of what is going on. It is easy to lose your inner foundation and sense of self in the face of a deluge of information.

That also means it is easy to get sucked in by simplistic renderings of what's going on, and to live in the "right/wrong" universe and therefore, in the thrall of reaction.

Which makes the second unique thing so important...

Never before have you had so much choice to decide for yourself how to interpret a story.

In fact, the more you know about how stories work, the more choice you have.

Let's take a look at this more specifically.

Stories always have an intention behind them. Your first job is to find out WHY someone is telling a story.

Do they want to connect with you and build a stronger relational field? Do they want to forge a deeper understanding through giving you an insight behind the scenes? Do they want to invite your contribution to something? Do they want to entertain you? Do they want your help understanding an experience they've had? Do they want to persuade you in some way? Are they testing your reaction to see where you stand?

As my colleague Paul Costello often says: "Do you want to let this story live rent free in your head?"

Getting clear on the WHY helps you to have enough distance to first of all maintain curiosity and then to give a measured response, rather than falling into reaction.  It leaves you enough space to decide to open the door for multi-dimensionality.

Give yourself the gift of multi-dimensionality

Nancy Wang and I were discussing just this as we prepare for THE STORY DOJO's Fireside Conversation on December 11. She and I have similar stories around our mothers.

When my sister and I were clearing out my mother's apartment after she died, we found some letters that helped to explain more about our parent's strained relationship. Nancy had a burst of insight around her mother's death, too. She will tell the story she calls Bittersweet during our Fireside Conversation in December.

No person, place or thing is a single story. All of us, all of it, is a StoryField. We are a collection of all the stories -- known and unknown -- we hold about ourselves, others hold about us and we have inherited through our families, our communities, our cultures and our experiences. There's always more to know.

When you entertain more sides of any story you offer the other -- and yourself -- the gift of multi-dimensionality. The world, your world, gets bigger.

In the meantime, have a look at the video of Nancy and I in conversation about our upcoming conversation at the top of this post

Isn't it time to have a brilliant ally on your side?

Subscribe to my newsletter for the latest about the power & practice of story.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.