“Being heard meets a deep-seated human need for connection. The simple yet critically important act of being acknowledged, being listened to – truly being heard – changes everything. It changes the person being listened to and therefore everything connected to that person”. Center for Digital Storytelling
We hear our first stories at home. We then use these stories to form our personal narrative. After this, we go off into the world where we continue to build those narratives. Our personal stories are then further formed based on the narratives around us and about us (i.e. what our family, friends or society might say about our gender, our class, our age, our skin, our size, etc.). So, in the end we are defined by two stories – the story we tell ourselves and the story that other people might tell about us. And, depending on what those stories are, they can either support or damage our belief in ourselves (and thus our ability to respond appropriately to our life and life’s challenges).
One of the wonderful things about peer support groups is the power that they have to positively challenge, shape and transform our stories (the ones we formulate about ourselves and those that others formulate about us). Through a peer support group participants can share and use their individual and collective stories to support each other. By sharing and listening to each other’s stories group participants may experience the following four benefits.
The top four benefits of using a peer support group to tell your story:
- Members can become empowered through the telling of their stories. For some participants it might be the first time that they get to share their story, or decide how their story is told. It can be very empowering when participants get to share their stories in a safe and supportive group format. They might feel heard, or fully listened to, for the first time.
- Members can get meaning from their stories. The group can provide a space for participants to reflect upon and make meaning from their stories (or life experiences).
- Members can realize that they are not alone in their stories. When participants hear other people’s stories, it can sometimes validate our own. This might let them know that they are not alone in their experiences (i.e. others share similar stories).
- Members can reshape their stories to support their well-being. If a participant’s personal narrative (or story) is damaging, the group can help them to properly assemble, challenge, and reshape those stories, in a way that better supports their well-being.