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Stories: Healing and Sharing

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Stories: Healing and Sharing The story can act to heal those have been injured by personal violence or social injustice. Often traumatic acts are "unspeakable" because those acts are so terrible that it clamps the tongue and subsequently the victim suffers a pain so great that the inexpressibility, the inadequacy of representation, grows and locks the sufferer inside of their suffering. By having their stories told, victims begin to feel empowered again because events where they were once powerless are being re-created. Although events cannot be erased, the act of recollecting and of telling both aid people to process and move beyond pain. Zora Neal Hurston's Mules and Men (year) and Anzald�a's Borderlands (year) are creative and potent cross-cultural examples of such medicinal storytelling, serving to redefine and yet preserve the people they re-represent. Trinh Min-ha's Native Woman Other (year) speaks of the marginalized, woman storyteller, recognizing the power of stories as integral to healing. The complex process of healing differs for everybody, but storytelling holds prescriptive elements that promote people to move beyond their wounds. According to Trinh Minh-ha, "the principle of healing rests on reconciliation, hence the necessity for the family and/or community to participate... witness the recovery" (140). Within narrative, I have identified three functions that heal. The function of sharing connects people. People who have felt powerless also have felt alone, and through the process of sharing, the listener can realize they have had similar experiences to those of the speaker and other the listeners. They are then able to understand and to support each other. A community is built on top of these foundations, one that works together as to move past previous hardships. The function of preservation empowers people to remember who they are. Through folklore and legends people preserve their culture and their spirits. They remember that they come from a world that existed before victimization. ...read more.


For oral cultures like the ones presented in Anzald�a and Hurston the telling of stories is fundamental to preservation of culture and history because until recently many of these stories where not written down. The telling of legends, myths, and history reminds the listeners in the community that they belong to traditions that precede the effects of colonization, and has survived it. Trinh Minh-ha describes the storyteller as "the living memory of her time and her people" (125). Storytelling promotes a sense of identity and grounds people in lessons and values that may help them to persevere through the present and future. Unlike Western society which is constantly focused on current events, the oral societies that create folklore find value that folklore being told and retold. "Yeah, we done heard it Joe, but Ah kin hear it some 'gin. Tell it, Joe" (Hurston 77). African American folklore may rely on the repetition of the stories keeps them alive. The many stories recorded in Hurston's book can be seen as the community's way of preserving the history and the archetypes that exist in their culture. Characters like John Henry, and Ole Massa are symbols that help the people organize their world, spreading and maintaining the values of the community during and after slavery. Eugene Oliver says, "Tell it Cliff. Ah love to hear tales about Ole Massa and John. John sho was one smart nigger" (70). The dynamics between John Henry and Ole Massa are complex than just a slave following the orders of the master because John was intelligent and able. In one of the stories Ole Massa hears John praying to go to heaven because he wants to rest. Ole Massa wants to know if John Henry really wants to die instead of work for him so, he covers himself with a white sheet and pretends that he is God coming to take John to heaven. ...read more.


To run away from or hide from a trauma, a person may feel relief from it, but to maintain that relief they must continue to take actions that avoid the pain. Eventually, they work so hard to avoid feeling or thinking that that avoidance owns them. Constant fear of pain may be the price of silence. Sharing in narrative forms helps people to release their frustrations and take ownership of their emotion, memories, and lives. Stories are a powerful way to share, preserve, and own the past and present. By exchanging stories people are able to learn about each other, assert themselves, share each others burdens, and remember that they are part of something greater than themselves. Storytelling strengthens communities and encourages people to connect with their pasts, their families, and their imaginations. By sharing heroes like John Henry the African American people were able to preserve through slavery because those stories helped them to preserve their values and belief in their abilities. The stories bring joy to the people because they bring them hope for themselves and their community, and remind them that they are a part of something larger. Their culture is preserved through story telling, an important part of healing because it provides people with the identity and the values of their ancestors. For the women living in the American/Mexican borderlands, their mixed heritage has been torn from them because the Spanish influenced stories of the Indian woman were negative and taught people that the Indian women were evil. The Aztec symbols were used to promote shame. In order to reconnect with and preserve the originally powerful Indian woman, the stories must be rediscovered and retold. Stories express the conditions of marginalized people and act as examples of healing through telling. Recollection is a process that empowers the person to become the storyteller, and take control of events where they would not have power otherwise. Whether the story preserves or restores identity, it gives people a tool to support each other and endure the events of their lives. ...read more.

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