The Art Of Storytelling
by Michael Berman
The nervousness you feel before going
on is your performance energy. That is what will get you up
on stage and into your story. And if you do not feel it, your
performance will probably fall flat. The energy you feel is
an instinctive reaction to stress. The body knows something
is about to happen and is preparing for action. However, the
emotional content is entirely conscious. Research shows that
physiologically, fear, anger, excitement are all identical.
The body is reacting in the same way. Your mind determines
how you react to those stimuli and your emotions are under
your control. With some practice, you can control whether
it is fear or excitement running through your head before
If you suffer badly from nerves, the Zen concept of No-Self
as an approach to the problem can prove to be helpful - "There
is no teller... only the tale." In this way you disappear
for yourself as well as for the listeners. And if you have
disappeared then there is no one to be nervous for.
An alternative approach is to make use of a Talking Stick
(an American Indian tradition) which you pick up when you
tell and hand to others when they tell. It helps to connect
you to those legions over the centuries who have told stories
and to remind you that you that you have an ancient responsibility
to both audience and story. This carries you well beyond the
awareness of nervousness. The nervousness is still there but
now it is harnessed to bringing out the life in that story.
The idea is to make your focus the responsibility to your
audience and your story rather than focusing on yourself.
Let go of yourself and think about the people you are telling
the story to. Pay attention to them and you won't be thinking
of yourself and you won't be nervous.
Guided visualisation can also be an effective
tool. Sitting in some quiet place, imagine as clearly as possible
that you are preparing to perform - employing all your senses
- the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings associated with
these pre-performance moments. Be as specific and detailed
in your imaging as possible. When you have placed yourself
as fully as possible into the pre-performance context, imagine
yourself feeling completely confident--fearless. Imagine how
great it would be to feel that way, rather than scared. Then
continue on with the imagined performance: you present your
material--solidly, and with confidence. Imagine the smoothness
and grace with which you will make your presentation. Imagine
your heart keeping a steady pace instead of racing. Imagine
your breath deep and full, not shallow and shaky. In other
words, paint an accurate and detailed mental image of every
step of the process - the way you've experienced it so many
times before - but with a successful outcome. Once you have
experienced success in non-ordinary reality in this way, it
becomes that much easier to achieve in this reality
Slowing down your breathing can help to control nervousness
too. If you must focus on yourself, then focus on your breath.
Breathing is the most important thing for life. If you are
nervous, if you are scared, or feel anyway you don't want
to feel, then think about your breath and control it. Deep
breaths - in through your nose - out through your mouth. Once
you have your breath under control, you can do anything.
One way to practise storytelling with others is to pick a
partner and sit facing each other, close enough to have your
knees touching. Have other partners on either side of you
so you are in two long lines all up close against each other,
and all facing your respective partners. One person in each
pair starts the story and after thirty seconds to a minute
say, 'and', and then 'throw' the story to the person opposite
to continue. That person makes up the next short segment,
says 'and' and then passes the story back to the first person
again. The story unfolds by being passed backwards and forwards
this way between the same two partners.
Before everyone starts they are told that the story that is
to unfold between each pair is to be about a journey. Two
people who a very fond of each other go their separate ways
and on their respective journeys. Many things happen during
the course of their journeys that stretch their resourcefulness
and help them grow in wisdom. Then circumstances happen such
that they find each other again and share the experiences
they had along the way.
This article is taken from the book COPING
WITH CONFLICT: Wisdom tales, for teachers, trainers and therapists.
|Michael Berman is currently a research student at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and working part-time as a teacher at Oxford House College in London. Publications include A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom and The Power of Metaphor for Crown House Publishing and The Shaman and the Storyteller for Superscript. Michael has been involved in TESOL for over thirty years and has given presentations at Conferences in Austria, Azerbaijan, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and the Ukraine.
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