© 2009 Marica

073 – Medical storycatchers

Science can explain us, but it can’t save us … Story can.
— Mary K. Sandford

As I was paying for my son’s visit with the doctor this morning my attention was grabbed by the wall of files behind the receptionist. I see it every time we visit the doctor’s surgery and yet today something seemed different about it.

“Gosh, the number of files you have there seems to be growing,” I commented.

As I looked at the files I thought about all the people represented on that wall – including all my family. I realised that every file housed a story – a unique story relating to each person’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Housed on those shelves, in those files, were stories of joy, sadness, fear, hope, possibilities, frustrations, unhappiness, love, hate, and a myriad other human emotions associated with the process of living and dying.

It made me realise how intensely intimate the doctor-patient relationship is although it appears to be so matter of fact – so cold and clinical if you like. We reveal to our doctors things we may never tell another soul. We reveal intimate details about the functioning of our bodies and our minds. We talk about life issues – work, family, love. We tend to be honest even when we’d rather not be. Our doctors make us face things we would rather avoid. When we try to hide things they manage to work it all out. They may not always have the answers we are looking for, or they may have the answers we don’t want to hear. Doctors ask lots of questions. They listen. They observe. They take notes. They record data. They order tests. They write letters. They seek second opinions. They look for patterns. They put all this information in a file and a story begins to emerge. It is not always immediately obvious – it may takes weeks, months or even years. Our medical story is a part of who we are as human beings.

This morning as I looked at all those files I realised doctors are a kind of medical storycatcher.

Storycatchers come whenever we are in crisis to remind us who we are. Storycatchers entice our best tales out of us: they turn with a leading question, a waiting ear, and their full attention. In return, we speak … we write … and we are heard. Storycatchers invite the stories we most need to come forward. (p. xii)

Baldwin, C. (2005). Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story. Novato, California: New World Library.

Our stories are everywhere – a bit here, a bit there. Science alone is not enough. It only explains part of our story. Storycatchers play a vital role in helping to capture our lived experience, our unique perspective of life, and what gives life meaning. We all leave our imprint in some shape or form for future generations to connect with whether we realise it or not. As Christina Baldwin writes:

Every person is born into life as a blank page – and every person leaves life as a full book. Our lives are our story, and our story is our life. (p.ix)

36.    Every day be still. Connect to your inner being. Listen and be guided by it.
39.    Every day trust that there is a bigger picture. You are a part of it even if you may not know what it is.
42.    Every day celebrate. Who you are. What you have achieved. Things that matter to you.

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