Stories help us make sense of life

When we transform our negative stories we become agents of positive change

We are entranced by our stories.

The best way to engage a child’s imagination is to tell a story and when our children were young, a favourite family tradition was the bedtime story, one that I would create new each day.

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One year ago, my wife and I shared a bucket list adventure. We flew to the spiritual centre of Australia, Ayers Rock. One morning, we awoke early to catch the sun rising above Uluru, a sacred sandstone formation. As we hiked around the circumference of this monolith, our guide shared the aboriginal history. The Anangu people — using the unique markings of the formation — have taught their children the traditions and values of their culture through their ancestral legends.

Stories help us make sense of our lives. They may either empower or restrain us. Through the power of neuroplasticity and the genius of creativity, we not only bear witness to our life stories, but actively engage in their unfolding narratives. We each must meet the challenges of evolving positively in an ever-changing, unpredictable world to achieve our highest potential and help others achieve theirs.

Together we weave the tapestry of our lives. It is our shared story and a work of art. We are the creators and the creation. We are given the raw materials and circumstances of our lives. As we live our lives and relate to one another, we build upon what others have built and experience a life intricately connected with the rest of the world. Together we weave a tapestry of inconceivable complexity and beauty that continues to exist beyond our individual lives. This is the art of living — OUR work of art.

I chose the specialty of family practice — or it chose me, I simply answered its call — when I became entranced by the stories shared by my patients. As medical students, when we take a history we learn about family relationships, the pivotal points in every life, the triumphs, the tragedies and the disasters and, ultimately, how each person made sense of the unfolding of their lives.

Most people have to rely on reality TV, soap operas and romance novels to be privy to the intimate details of other people’s life stories. With deep listening to these stories, we learn empathy. Understanding the suffering that others endure, we develop compassion.

I have learned from my patients and I have become a part of their stories, aiding them when needed to transform their stories from the negative to the positive, from isolation to belonging, from vulnerability to empowerment. This is the privilege of my profession. The stories of my patients form the heart of my practice.

In upcoming columns, we’ll explore how we each can actively transform our stories and become agents of positive change in our own lives.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in life, see his website at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

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