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The Importance of Storytelling: What Stories Are You Listening To?
by Ted Kuntz


Editor's Note from Michael Williams: This article was first published in Ted Kuntz's newsletter "Peace Begins With Me" (March 2013). We hope you enjoy it and will be inspired to read more about Ted's peace education work and interest in story.

The people of the Hopi First Nations understood the power of stories. They had a strong oral tradition and used storytelling as the means to transfer wisdom from one generation to the next.

Carefully embedded within each story were the values, skills and knowledge the elders deemed necessary to navigate the challenges of life successfully.

In my journey to create peace and joy in my life I too have come to recognize the power of stories - both the stories I tell myself, and the stories I allow to be told to me.

I've learned that by carefully managing the stories in my life I can create the experience of peace and joy at will. The secret to living joyfully is to recognize my role as a storyteller and to take full responsibility for the stories I tell myself and allow to be told to me. This month's message is about the stories I allow to be told to me.

A number of years ago I came across an article in a parent magazine. The title of the article was - "Who Tells the Stories Our Children Hear?" The author, Michael Warren, explained the power of storytelling and reminded parents that it was common for parents and grandparents to sit with a child and tell them a story. The act of storytelling was both an act of intimacy and an opportunity to teach something valuable to the child.

Warren then asked the question - "Who is the primary storyteller of children today?" The answer in most homes is obvious - the television and the computer. The problem, Warren explains, is we have given away the responsibility for storytelling to people we don't know and who often don't share our values. Warren implores parents to take back the responsibility of storytelling.

What is meant by 'storytelling'? The fact is, in our efforts to understand this complex world we are given short cuts as a way of filtering information and determining what needs to be paid attention to and what is irrelevant. Stories are a way of making sense of the world. We are constantly presented with stories about who is good and who is not, what is safe and unsafe, what is important and unimportant, and who is to be believed and who not to believe.

When I was a child I was told stories about who were going to heaven and who were going to hell. Those with the religion I was raised with were all meant for heaven while the others, no matter how well intended or kind, were unfortunately meant for Hell. Today the stories have more to do with who is good and who is evil. Any one who is on the side of democracy/capitalism is good and those who live in the Middle East or have a different form of government are evil.

If one were to simply accept the stories delivered via the major media one would spend much of their time living in fear of the number of terrorists to have suddenly arisen in the last decade. Witness the justification to manufacture hundreds of fighter jets and drones, build permanent military bases through out the world, and declare endless wars. The truth is 'terrorism' is just a story. We are twice as likely to die from a peanut allergy than at the hands of a terrorist.

I believe we are wise to be more discerning about the stories we tell ourselves and those we allow to be told to us. By far the majority of humans are not dangerous or evil. My first hand experience informs me most individuals are kind, considerate, and loving. Our greatest sin might be that we've become too invested in this consumer world and the need to get ahead financially. However, I've experienced over and over again the love, generosity and kindness of others.

Many years ago I unplugged my television because the stories it offered did not reflect the world as I know it. I unsubscribed to my national newspaper and I permitted my own first hand experience to be more credible and valid than the stories that were being told via the mass media.

Some individuals I share my strategy with fear they will become uniformed if they dare to disconnect from the mass media storytellers. I remind them of the words of Mark Twain - "If you don't read the newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read the newspapers you are misinformed."

We might be wise to adopt the advice of Albert Einstein who said - "If you want your children to be intelligent, tell them fairy tales." The Hopi declared - "He who tells the stories, rules the world."

© Ted Kuntz, 2013



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About the Author

Ted Kuntz is a gifted psychotherapist and the author of the best-selling book, Peace Begins With Me. Ted has a Master's Degree in Counselling Psychology and more than 25 years experience as a clinician and a consultant. Much of the wisdom that Ted shares in his counselling, workshops, and consultations didn't come from his formal training. Rather, it came from his personal journey as the father of a child with severe disabilities. Ted's journey with his son Joshua taught Ted how to make peace with life and to take full advantage of the gifts and opportunities life offers. Learn more about Ted and his work at PeaceBeginsWithMe.com.



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