The Power of Narrative

The Power of Narrative

Consider, for a moment, the whole sum of all human experience. Don’t worry if you can’t; I think it might actually be impossible to conceptualize. To truly do so, you’d have to live within the memories of everyone who’s ever existed; sharing their hardships and their triumphs, their pain and their glory. If, somehow, you could live through all of those experiences, you’d probably be the most powerful human being ever, humble from loss, strengthened from success, ready for anything.

We can’t literally live each others lives, so instead we rely on the power of narrative. Have you ever watched a show with a scene so sad, so poignant, it made you cry? When this happens, you’re experiencing real emotion; the real emotions you might experience if it was your own loss, albeit at a smaller scale. Or maybe you’ve read a book, and in that book there was a quote so powerful you never forgot it; maybe the quote started to change your way of looking at things, to shape your life. This is the power of narrative; when we hear stories that resonate with us, they can literally transform our lives.

Why does this work? There are a plethora of different answers, but one of the most profound is that a well-told story allows us to empathize deeply, to literally take the place of the characters in the story as though we were experiencing their reality. In some sense, this is like living a whole new life. A well-told story literally feels real to us because we experience the emotions of the narrator or the characters, and through this experience – linguistic, emotional, rational – we can begin to contextualize our own lives in a different way.

You can hire event speakers through us here at Talent Bureau, but what you get is so much more than a speaker – you get a story. Not a fictional one, either, but a grand narrative told by someone who’s literally been through the trials and tribulations. You might hear early successes and pitfalls, lessons learned that were later applied, and those in the audience will be learning the lessons along with the speaker, because they’ll have placed themselves inside the universe of the story. That unlocks a new type of perception about their own world, because in order to become fully engaged in the narrative, they have to be able to imagine it fully.

There are notions that explore the underlying psychological power of narrative; some who believe it was one of the most important tools that allowed us to develop into modern day humans, others who believe that through stories, we touch on feelings and tropes that exist beyond the linguistic, deep in the recesses of the mind, archetypes and core narratives that imbue us with morality. While I can’t speak on any of that, here’s something I do know: I love a good story. Everyone does. And when I hear one, I can go into the next day stronger than before.