In our reading for this week, The Power of Personal Storytelling, Jack Maguire writes about the many benefits that arise from the practice of personal storytelling. The point that intrigued me most was his argument that “storytelling renders our livers more memorable”. This forced me to question what if it means for our lives to be more memorable and how such could benefit our further experiences. Maguire observes that on a basic level, composing a personal story is an act of making order out of the chaos of our memories, thoughts and emotions: “the exercise that our memory gets in recalling, developing, learning, and telling our stories makes it much stronger and more serviceable in every aspect of our living”. This occurs due to the simple fact that storytelling helps us to access our spacial and navigational memory.
The TedxTalk above features Joshua Foer, a freelance journalist and the 2006 U.S.A. Memory Champion, who lives in New Haven, Connecticut and studies the art of trained, disciplined and cultivated memory. In his Ted Talk he illuminates how people with strong memories have taught themselves a skill called collaborative encoding, which is knowing how to associate a visual and spacial image to things we want to remember. He argues that the art of memory is tied to our ability to take information that is lacking in context, significance and meaning and to transform it in some way so that it becomes meaningful in the light of all the other things that we have in our minds. As bad as we may be at remembering names and phone numbers and the word for word instructions, we have really exceptional visual and spacial memories. This is why storytelling helps us to have more memorable lives. The practice helps us to define and regenerate our selves.
“We remember when we pay attention, when we are deeply engaged, when we are able to take a piece of information—an experience—and figure out why it is meaningful to us, why it is significant, why it is colorful, when we are able to transform it in a way so that it makes sense in light of all the other things in our mind” – Joshua Foer
“Story telling is perhaps the most powerful way that human beings organize experience. Some have argued that narrative thinking is the optimum form of thinking for learning and expressing what we know about our selves and about other people… In adulthood narratives provide a form for organizing huge amounts of information and serve a host of powerful psychological and social functions.” – Susan Engel