The trouble with a good conference is that you can’t be at every session, and Storytelling for Health was a good conference. I wish I could have borrowed Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner for a couple of days!
As we mark the 20year anniversary of Harry Potter in print, it’s easy to see the power of a good story told by a good storyteller who in this instance was able to awaken and engage the interest of a generation by telling the story of a boy wizard and his adventures in a way that made us want to listen and hear more.
I see myself as a storylistener rather than a storyteller, so the idea of presenting (along with my colleagues from the 4Rs project from Swansea University Medical School) was exciting with a tinge of ‘will they be interested in the power and potential of learning to listen, rather than telling?’ I think they were; everyone gave everyone the respect of listening which was a noticeable conference theme.
The power of good listening never ceases to amaze me, and there was plenty of material at the conference that was worthy of our attention. We sampled a variety of experience and ideas presented and discussed throughout the two days in various locations. Wandering through Swansea may have challenged some, but if met with curiosity, challenge can take us boldly into whole new worlds.
So much of what I listened to felt good. Many of the projects we heard about were relatively new and show great promise, and for me the keynote by Dan Yashinsky whose ability to tell stories, entertain, encourage, engage and educate was a reminder of how far we could all go with our work. The buzz of chatter over coffee and walking to our next session after this was supercharged, and I think he gave the majority of people an infusion of the benefit of storytelling on health that we all strive to give to others.
My experience and work comes from learning to listen to our own story first by using reflection and reflective practice. The 4Rs is one aspect of that, and relates to how medical students learn reflective practice through writing. I also work with patients, so am privileged to be able to see ‘health relationships’ from different perspectives.
There is a poem by Pablo Neruda called ‘Keeping Quiet’, I encourage you to have a look (and maybe a listen). He considers what might happen if,
‘we count to twelve and we will all keep still’.
We are often told that a major cause of loneliness, depression and poor mental health is not being listened to. Neruda says,
‘If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.’
Herein may lie the power of storytelling for health, and the conference certainly provided the environment for change and new collaborations between medicine and the arts, which could be worth listening to.