Rachel Naomi Remen is a doctor, teacher and educator, and a pioneer in integrative medicine. She believes that stories can heal us.
She has a peculiar way of looking at stories: she divides them into ‘real’ and ‘not real’. The stories that are not real are the ones told by film-makers, novelists and marketers. According to her, these stories have beginnings and endings.
The real stories, however, have no beginning or end. These stories might have been started a long time ago by the grandmother of your friend, by the mother of someone you’ll never know, by the son of a farmer who passed away long time ago.
When you receive these stories something changes in you. You reach a place of wisdom, you connect, something becomes clear and you feel that you need to pass the wisdom on to someone else.
When I heard about this idea for the first time, I felt that this approach to stories speaks about the difference between stories that entertain us and stories that change us.
The stories that change us create meaning in our life. They reveal and connect with something that we couldn’t see before. They have no beginning or ending, because in a way they don’t belong to us.
We don’t own them, we just share them, and in this generous act we are also changed ourselves.
“Real stories,” as Rachel Remen calls them, reveal something about ourselves that we have been craving. They bring meaning.
When stories only resonate with us on an emotional level, they can easily be forgotten once the next emotion hits us. When stories create meaning the only thing we’re thinking about is who we’re going to tell them to.