Saturday, June 18, 2011

Your life is your story-make it a juicy one!

I recently heard Chef Jose Andres, responsible for over half a dozen wildly successful and culturally rich eateries in DC, on an NPR interview. He's a DC-area food superstar known for having the magic touch in the restaurant industry. During his interview, he said, "I don't open restaurants to make money. I open restaurants for the stories. Where are you [and your culture's food] coming from?"

My jaw dropped because I share the same passion for my acupuncture practice. Behind every scar, every surgery, every bout of illness, there is a story. Ask me about the scar on my leg and I can describe the day it happened and the emotions that flooded me when it happened with vivid detail. I'm interested in your story - what happened to you, where are you coming from, and how do these details shape your world now?

The mythologist Joseph Campbell explained that we're all living inside our own stories. We're constantly creating the stories we're living in, complete with heroes and villains. We piece together our perceptions about how we see ourselves, what we believe in, and which causes we root for. And what we believe (what we perceive) informs our actions. 

I'm reminded of a recent article I read about stories being the heart of human motivation. In it, Juma Wood  wrote that "...Joseph Campbell demonstrated that human beings the world over are wired to respond to storytelling. This is because we are emotional, meaning-making creatures first, and what stir us are efforts and opportunities that capture our imagination."  
She goes on to write that "Former CEO of Sony Pictures Peter Guber has written in his new book ‘Tell to Win’ how a lifetime of refining his storytelling ability has accounted for the lion’s share of his success. As he recounts the stories of his life, time and again he returns to the premise that targeting people’s emotions is the best way to move them to action....Once their heart or gut has been engaged, people will formulate sensible reasons to act."

Stories, after all, are what make up our human experience. Stories from ancient texts are what are preached from pulpits, in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. Stories are the visions and mission statements we create for our businesses. Stories are what we vote for - ideas of how our country could be run. Stories are what we make up about every person we meet ("she must be high maintenance" or "he's a napoleon"). Stories are what we love to watch, whether on Glee or the news. Stories, regardless of whether they are factual or not, are how we make meaning out of our existence, including our physical and emotional symptoms. 

I can create a story that I'm a victim because I got's not fair, I have too much to do, I can't afford to be sick, I feel horrible, etc. Or I can create a story that I got sick and it was a gift because it taught me to to remember and respect that life is fragile and fierce at the same time, to slow down, to ask for help.

In the treatment room, when I'm asking about your sleep habits and levels of pain, what I'm really doing is listening to your story. Who are the characters? Who's the hero and who's the villain? How is your story affecting your day-to-day actions? How are you designing your story to unfold? It's your story -life's short so make it juicy!

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