Sharing the Burden of Trauma

Healing through Storytelling
Ancestral Healing

Sharing the Burden of Trauma

How Our Ancestors Healed Trauma Through Storytelling and How You Can Too

Storytelling is a very important part of healing that we often overlook. Tribal and indigenous cultures all around the world have traditions of sharing stories, cultural legends, and gatherings where the community meets to share their experiences after a difficult time. Ancestral storytelling is something that was a critical part of ancestral tradition because these stories are where our cultural, tribal, and ancestral memory are passed forward. In order to tell a story we have to speak it or act it, and this expression of the story allows the energy of that story to be shared with others in a mindful and conscious way.

In our modern culture, this idea of sharing our stories of trauma, hardship, and challenge is something that we’ve gotten very far away from. In fact, we’re often taught to not speak about the challenging things or the dark things. There is an idea that if we talk about it, then it might happen again or we might be punished in some way.

This modern cultural programming around silence is really interesting because this mindset is actually the opposite of what happens energetically when we speak about something that has happened to us. When we share our story, we’re bringing the energy of that story up from the shadow, the unconscious, or wherever it’s been buried in our being. We’re bringing it forth to be witnessed and to be heard. When this sharing happens with our own trauma or with atrocities that we’ve witnessed, we shine a light on the darkness. Our conscious choice to share something and make it known in a safe way is an act of bringing what was hidden into a space where it can be consciously observed, understood, and worked with.

When we experience an extreme personal trauma, often it is too much for one person to hold the weight of that trauma alone. When we carry that burden alone, we find ways to bury the trauma or to share it energetically and unconsciously with others. This happens because we often don’t have the resource of community that our tribal ancestors had that could help share that burden or help us lift that burden.

This act of sharing the weight or burden of trauma is something that was done consciously in tribal cultures through the act of storytelling and ritual. When we don’t do something consciously or we don’t have something integrated into our culture to share our experiences, the energy of those experiences often gets shared in other unconscious ways. This is how trauma patterns in ancestral lineages are created.

When we are unable to share and have our traumatic experiences witnessed in a loving and transformational way, there is no opportunity for healing and the burden is passed down to future generations. When we’re able to share our experiences with a group, with our community, with our tribe, that group of people is now sharing the weight of the trauma burden. Witnessing the story of the experience allows the trauma energy created through the traumatic experience to be transformed and uplifted, and that energy is able to release from the individual who experienced the trauma.

In this context, the energy of trauma is spread and shared through a conscious agreement within the tribe. This is meant to temporarily share and then release the burden of the trauma and to promote group learning from the experience. Storytelling then helps future generations not repeat trauma patterns because they have already learned through their ancestors’ experiences. This is how folk tales, fables, and traditional myths that teach different lessons are created. The story is encoded with the energy of the original experience, the lessons learned through the sharing of that experience, and the healing that came from it. The energy contained in an ancestral story becomes a gift of healing as it is passed down from generation to generation.

Generations ago in tribal cultures, storytelling was part of a very integrated healing tradition. It was something that was done regularly during group gatherings and rituals, so there was a constant process of witnessing, releasing, and transforming the trauma experienced by members of the group. We have lost these practices for a very long time in many lineages, and as a result, a buildup of generations of trauma has been passed down to our modern-day selves.

So how do we safely begin sharing our story? I’d like to share a storytelling practice that can assist in your healing. It is important that we share our story in a safe way, and often the safest way to start is to tell your story to yourself. Start by writing your stories of trauma and challenge down or speak the story out loud to yourself when you are alone with the intention of releasing the energies of that experience. Express whatever is coming up for you at a given time and write or speak that story as you remember it and feel it. Even if our story isn’t remembered correctly or fully, the way that we remember something is how our body and our nervous system are informed by the experience. It doesn’t really matter what the story is for you, sharing the story as you remember it with yourself will allow that energy to begin to release. This can be a really powerful exercise to do and it doesn’t even involve sharing with other people.

The more you express your story to yourself, the easier it becomes to share it, and one day you may feel ready to share your story with a safe person in your life, whether that be a friend, family member, counselor, coach, healer, or spiritual advisor. When we share with others we are connected to in a safe and supportive way, we allow the witnessing of our story to transform it. This is a second powerful step we can take in our healing process when we are ready.

Once you get through the process of sharing with others, you might feel called to move this storytelling up to another level. You might decide to share with a support group, in an article or book, as a presentation to a community organization, or any other group that feels right to you.

Sharing the story is important not just for us as individuals, but for the collective as a whole. When we share our story and allow the world to see what has happened to us in a safe and mindful way, the pattern is not allowed to continue in the same way as it has in the past. When we see something as a society, we have the choice to change it. It is only when the story lies hidden and untold that the patterns that created the story in the first place are allowed to persist.