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The Power of Stories to Unite and Divide

Embracing Our Collective Stories: Reflections on Identity, Belonging, and Shared Memory

Mark Yettica-Paulson's Friday Reflections

Hi folks and welcome to my latest reflection for last Friday 3 May, which I shared on my Linkedin page

Last week I had the honour of being a panelist at Welcoming Australia’s 2024 Symposium. The theme was, “What Brings Us Together?” which made me think about the power of stories to bring us together and/or keep us apart.

I believe the stories we tell ourselves and others can drive us towards understanding, appreciation and a shared sense of identity and belonging.

Reflecting on ANZAC Day and National Reconciliation Week 2024

Between ANZAC Day and National Reconciliation Week I will be reflecting on stories and how they hold memory, kinship, values, and sacred cores.

Stories are powerful at reminding us about who we are, where we’ve come from, and what we value from our journey. At an individual level we tell stories to ourselves and others about our highs and lows that have shaped us and made us who we are now. Collectively, we tell ourselves and others about our collective highs and lows to acknowledge the formative journey of our collective identity and belonging.

You can always feel it when you’ve heard a great story that captures your heart and mind. That feeling is often reduced to saying, “that story resonates with me.” I think what we are really saying is, “that story has caused something to come alive and move for me.” One of the roles of our collective stories is to bring us together in a shared sense of identity and belonging. The collective stories allow us all to “resonate” or “come alive and move”. These types of stories are the ones that we tell over and over to ensure that we remember together. They serve the purpose of giving us shared experience and shared memory that ‘brings us together.’

Strategies for Embracing Collective Narratives

Our collective stories should allow us all to rejoice and recoil together. We should rejoice in our success and be proud of what we’ve achieved together. We should recoil from the parts of our stories that are embarrassing and shameful. We’ve all inherited the stories that have made us who we are now. They should bring us together in pride and pain as we rejoice and recoil together.

I encourage you to think about three ways our collective stories can bring us together:

1. Share together. When we share stories together, we can appreciate different dimensions of our stories. We can acknowledge and honour the different perspectives and impacts of our stories.

2. Listen together. When we listen to stories together, we collectively acknowledge and embrace our stories. We honour the storytellers and share in the collective privilege and responsibility to ‘carry’ our stories together.

3. Remember together. When we remember stories together, we collectively honour the memory of our stories. Through our traditions, rituals and ceremonies together we keep our memory together.

Collective stories can bring us together. If we share, listen and remember together we can resonate, come alive and move together by carrying our stories together.

Be encouraged and encourage others.

Mark Yettica-Paulson