Building empathetic narratives around real/embodied/virtual spaces

Session Hosts: Michelle Bach-Coulibaly, Dan Archer, Anne Stadler
Reporter: Anne Stadler

Amber Rinera
Jim Cynqler
Amalia Alarcón Morris
Marla Choukett
Vanessa Vancour
Mitch Fantin
Samantha Shotzbarger
Kathryn Langstaff
Jerry Millhon
Margaret Stanitan
Sean O’Connor
Sheetal Agorwal
Marissa Grass
Thomas Schmidt
Michelle Bach

We started in a large circle with each host offering her/his suggestion re what we focus on:
MIchelle: I want to offer authentic embodied experience expressing what’s going on inside of us, no editing, open hearted, listening.
Dan: Hope that we’ll offer practical tools that help people enter a space they might not normally be.
Anne: I suggest we cultivate a spirit of Yes, appreciate what everyone offers. Play and open space for unknown to emerge.

Michelle invited everyone to introduce themselves via a Call and Response process. We stood in a circle. Each of us in turn called out our full name. The circle responded with shouting a response that reflected the persons’ offering. Each person did this four times, expressing all the moods he/she felt, then the Caller role moved to the next person.

What’s a story from the community that illustrates a real example of building empathic narrative?
Steve: In my community a tragedy occurred: a young girl was strangled accidently, A large community gathering came together over a meal: so that young people and olders could have a conversation and process that allowed the youth share their needs and feelings re what had happened. In the course of it, everyone benefitted from creating a collective narrative through empathic conversation.

People are comfortable and feel they “belong” when they break bread together (share a meal).
Elected officials (and others) respond to peoples’ needs when they’re telling their personal stories. Data is not enough to move people, they need the hook of personal stories.
Empathy is the most powerful tool for helping people connect to different ways of thinking & different perceptions. You are thinking & feeling simultaneously.
Inviting vulnerability is important. There are places such as Listening Posts, audio, and Smart Phone apps that invite intimacy and encourage vulnerability.
Pay attention to creating a safe space in which you invite the person to tell his/her story.

Q What is the emergent quality at play? When you are in a real environment, how do you remain in that vulnerable generative space?

Michelle offered a game to quickly invite empathic connection & communication:
Pick a partner (dyads) Each in turn, in two minutes, tell your partner the story of “What was a powerful experience that changed your life?” Then share that story with the whole circle by BEING the person (“Hello. I am Jim….etc) (That was hilarious in at least one instance when Dan “became” his partner, a woman, who told the story of giving birth to her baby and how it transformed her life.)

Jerry: How do you recreate the intimacy of the playing we did when you are sourcing for the story?
–let your heart lead your curiousity to learn the person’s experience
–Notice cues of intimacy
–your eyes are the camera
–feel the story coming up through your body (resonance?)
–feel the realization as if you were living it for the first time.
— show it physically via dramatic reconstruction in real space (a la Dan’s 3 D)

Playing allowed us to transcend our shyness and open space within ourselves.

How do we create the space where people go over the threshold of shyness?
Dan: In the virtual: Tell a personal story people can identify with. Set it in a real space. Then reveal the story(s) happening within that space. Show rather than tell.

Example of a video game that is empathic: That Dragon Cancer.

Key words describing the essentials (contributed by participants at end):
“I am because we are”
safe container
feeling someone’s story come up through your body
Connect with self/other/whole circle via opening space
empathic narratives are third person becoming first person
Connecting occurs from the heart and gut not the brain

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