Each time I facilitate a storytelling workshop or photo-voice project, there is a moment when I’m overwhelmed by the trust someone extends to me and others in the workshop through the sharing of a moving personal story.
It is not just the content of the story, but also the gift of trust – given without hesitation or expectation – that hits you between the eyes and clenches your heart. I wait for and relish these moments.
A while ago, I facilitated a photo-voice project with four young women on behalf of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, a social service agency that supports people dealing with abusive partners.
The aim of the project was to explore the signs of abusive relationships through pictures and personal reflections.
At the orientation session none of the participants indicated a they had experienced an abusive relationship. However, by the end of the one-day session all four had revealed they had been touched by abuse, either as the child of an abused parent or by an abusive partner.
The “moment of trust” came near the end of the day when one of the women slid the index card she was writing on across the table.
It read: “ … this symbolizes my journey from being a woman that was broken, with lots of emotional scars, feeling dirty and not worthy of love to becoming a woman who escaped domestic violence and is able to recognize the signs of abuse. Now I have the courage to say, do not touch me.”
In that moment I could feel the aching grip of tears on my throat like the grip of an abuser. I knew that I would never experience what this young woman had, but I would carry her story with me for the rest of my life.
Trust is one of the most important things to achieve when facilitating the storytelling process. It reveals itself each and every time without fail, but it always astonishes me with its power to move me.
Perhaps some would frame this as, “trust is something that is earned”, but I believe it is more complex . It requires faith in the process. As the facilitator I must believe the process has integrity and meaning before the members of the group can believe.
At the same time, storytellers need to be able to build trusting relationships with the other members of the story sharing circle. This enables them to tell their stories with authenticity and openness. The circle is a place where active story-listening is practiced; where stories are honoured; where stories feed other stories; where we see ourselves reflected in others’ lives. But more than anything else, when we engage in telling a personal story we must trust in the power of the story to move people.
Trust begets trust.
Please watch this photo-voice video “Signs of Abuse” and see how the “moment of trust” affects you.
To see how this work fits into the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region campaign developed by James Howe of communicate & Howe! read James’s case study.