Telling your story is touching

This, from “Dangerous Angels” by Francesca Lia Block


‘Think about the word destroy’ the man said. ‘Do you know what it is? De-story. Destroy. Destory. You see. And restore. that’s re-story. Do you know that only two things that have been proven to help survivors of the Holocaust. Massage is one. Telling their story is another. Being touched and touching. Telling your story is touching. It sets you free.’

I’m interested in the re-introduction of the senses to the workplace. Senses and feelings. I’m reminded of a workshop run for us at Sparknow a few years back by Neil Mullarkey One exercise, in trios, involved us only being able to speak, in the improvisation, if we were touching another one of the trio. It turns out you really only have permission to touch another if you are expressing emotions. There is no neutrality in touch.

And Wrexham this week at the Narrative Practitioner Conference, Didier Danthos spoke of story as ‘feeling from your feet’.

Which in turn reminds me of an exercise I heard of which can be conducted in pairs or which you can do for yourself. In response to the question ‘how are you feeling?’ the respondent has a range of emotions to draw on in response. Lets say angry, calm, sad, hurt for example. And then the enquiry follows ‘And where are you feeling it’ at which point the respondent has to locate the feeling within the body.

Which leads me in turn to Rainer Maria Rilke who said, in his Letters to a Young Poet:

‘I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms, or books written in a very foreigh language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.’

As with a koan in the zen tradition, or with study in the koranic tradition, this thought is one to which I can return over and over again, to allow its meaning to sink into me. For today as I link it with the question of feelings and their location, and the question of stories that touch and the need to be touched, I’m thinking of feelings as questions. Inhabiting the question of the feeling, rather than dismissing it, or tripping over it too lightly, might lead one to find the story of the emotion of the feeling.

It might allow memories to surface, as Margaret Atwood has it in the introduction to Cat’s Eye:

‘Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also, and if you knew enough and could mover faster than light you could travel backwards int ime and exist in two places at once…..

.. I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away.’


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