Essay: Why I Tell Stories
I’m deeply captivated by why humans do what we do, how the brain works, and why it works the way it does. What I believe is that, in humans, it boils down to stories. I’ve been told stories since the moment I was born, I love imagining and creating stories, and will continue to tell stories in a multitude of forms until the day I die.
My mother was a psychology major who focused on special education. As I grew up she taught me to be aware of my feelings, to be compassionate to others, and how to communicate with those who didn’t communicate the same why I did. I also grew up bi-lingual and multicultural, and traveled back and forth between the Middle East and the USA every few years. Because of this, I was forced to quickly relearn the language and culture of the new place, which in turn made me even better at understanding people I couldn’t talk to.
Over the past fifteen years, during my career and studies in interior design, there wasn’t any one person or project that influenced me, rather my entire practice of visual and spatial design shaped my approach to non-verbal communication. As my practice expanded, I found myself increasingly fascinated by how and why people interacted with space, and learned how to better plan and design for people’s performative stories. This turned into a desire to understand how and why people think the way they do, so I took a class in neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience.
By digging into the human brain, and learning how everything is connected, I found the books Deviate by Beau Lotto, Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan, and The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall. Through this research, what I’ve come to realize is that our habits and patterns are rooted inextricably in our pre-historic past, and these un-remembered stories continue to move us to this day. I’ve learned our brains have evolved to remember stories above all else. Humans can re-shape their past through active reimagining of their personal narratives. Humans can remember and repeat five-hundred unrelated numbers through the method of loci (memory palace) and storytelling. Humans love to buy from people that tell them engaging stories. Humans imbibe stories in all forms. Stories captivate us, enchant us, teach us, and most of all, shape us. It doesn’t matter what the medium is, story is the human universal language, and we’re particularly good at making up stories when there are none. In The Storytelling Animal, Gottschall discusses a research study by Heider and Simmel in 1944 where they showed a few geometric shapes animated across a screen and asked participants to tell them what they saw. Only 3 of 114 participants “reported seeing geometric shapes moving across the screen.” Most people “saw soap operas: doors slamming, courtship dances, the foiling of a predator” (105-106).
I am human, everything I do is communicating stories through some kind of media. Talking to a friend over drinks, performing my life through movement and ritual, helping people live and work using spatial practice. I love stories. I love connecting with people. Much like our ancestors who used aural recantations, pictograms, performance, games, etc to tell their stories, I can’t help but use everything available to me to share mine.