The Benefits of Sharing Your Story in a Memoir are many, for both the Storyteller and the Storyteller’s family. From giving the ultimate gift to the people in your life you love and appreciate most, to engaging in an activity that promotes intellectual and emotional health, sharing your story is one of the most valuable ways to spend your time and energy. Read on to learn why.
Who are you and why do you do the things you do? We are all unique, but we are also influenced by the people we descend from. The fact is, our DNA is passed down from generation to generation. Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so forth circulate in our veins. We are like branches on a tree growing in different directions, but stemming from the same roots. The benefits of sharing your story in a memoir are countless.
Knowing where you come from and why you’re here helps you
get where you want to go.
There are great benefits to knowing who you are. Traits are passed on, which is why knowing your family’s unique intergenerational story provides insight into why you look, behave, and even think certain ways. For example, I have a client who was told from Day 1 that with her freckles, dimples, and curly red hair, she is a spitting image of her great-grandmother. Another of my clients, after discovering he had an affinity for piano, learned his grandfather, and his grandfather’s grandfather, were concert pianists. This knowledge had a compelling effect on his life.
Negative traits are passed down as well. Knowing about them presents an opportunity to break the cycle. Many people who are aware of a history of alcoholism in their families steer clear of it. I know firsthand a group of siblings whose father and grandfather were screamers. Together, those siblings broke the cycle and learned to work through differences constructively.
Knowing where you come from and why you’re here helps you get where you want to go. This major benefit introduces the list of 10 Benefits of Sharing Your Story in a Memoir, 5 benefits for the Storyteller, and 5 benefits for the Storyteller’s Family.
Benefits of Sharing Your Story in a Memoir
Benefits of Sharing Your Story to the Storyteller
1. It Feels Good to Give an amazing, deeply heartfelt gift. In fact, according to a recent study by the financial firm Edward Jones, 73% of retirees and 85% of young adults agree that passing on stories, memories, and advice is more important than gifting money.
2. It is Therapeutic in so many ways. Many in healthcare refer to memoirs as Narrative Medicine and Reminiscence Therapy. Storytelling often results in emotional epiphanies, high-level connections as to why life events and relationships developed the way they did, the gift of forgiveness, and a new sense of lightness.
For example, in one LifeStory Memoir, my client relates,
“I had such animosity toward my mother. But I recently forgave her. As time has gone by, these memories would pop into my head and I would realize how angry I felt toward her, but she didn’t know any better. I used to think she hated me and just wouldn’t accept me the way I was, but I realize now that she meant well. I don’t know what her home life was like. I never really asked her those questions. Did she ever fight with her siblings? What role did her mother play? Had she experienced trauma emigrating as a young girl from Russia to New York, where she didn’t speak the English language? Knowing the answers to these questions would have provided more insight.”
From Young in Heart and Mind by Estelle D.
Estelle, a first-generation American growing up in Brooklyn, and her memoir
3. Mental stimulation—Combing through old pictures is a deeply captivating and energizing activity. According to an article in the scientific journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience called “Patterns of brain activity associated with nostalgia: a social-cognitive neuroscience perspective,”
“nostalgia increases positive affect or pleasure…nostalgia is related to motivation and reward seeking (and) is approach-oriented such that it strengthens approach motivation, encourages risk-taking toward reward and promotes the pursuit of one’s important goals.”
Plus, looking through pictures with family members is socially engaging, and fun.
4. Renewed Purpose—Whether writing your memoir or speaking your stories into a recorder or to an interviewer, an important project like this becomes an activity to look forward to. Depending on your story, it can be intense, but the process itself, as well as the progress you make, brings enormous feelings of joy and gratification. Enjoying uninterrupted time and space to speak what’s on your mind at your own pace is a gift.
5. Time Traveling—The storyteller can reread their stories again and again, reliving their life’s highlights, time traveling to their milestone moments, which is a form of memory and cognitive therapy.
An especially nostalgic picture of my client Joe, who grew up in Berlin during WWII, getting messy.
Benefits of Sharing Your Story to the Storyteller’s Family
6. Self-Awareness—As described above, your family’s unique intergenerational story helps you understand yourself. Knowing where you come from helps you get where you want to go.
7. Advice—Your memoir is a priceless opportunity to impart the lessons you’ve learned and the wisdom you’ve gained throughout your years to help the younger generations live their best lives.
8. Joy—Your favorite family stories documented, whether in a book, video, or audiobook, renders them eternal. Now you and your family can experience the joy of revisiting them any time, and introducing them to new generations.
9. New Stories—Reminiscing about the stories you love to tell is like wandering a familiar path, which often leads to other paths you’ve forgotten were there. Telling familiar stories will lead you to other stories you haven’t thought about in years. You will teach your family things they never knew about you, which they will find fascinating and exciting.
10. Family Social—When you let your family into your story, they are amazed by what they learn, which often leads to more questions. This prompts them to come speak with you to learn more, and to spend family time together.
All the positive results and benefits of sharing your story in a memoir actually lead to one final benefit: positive reinforcement. It’s like exercise or meditation: once you begin to experience the benefits, those benefits motivate you to keep going, to perhaps even escalate to the next level. The benefits of sharing your story, for both yourself and your family, are tremendous and vast, as you can see from the ten benefits above.
A Tip for Sharing Your Story
In a previous blog, I discussed the topic: What is a Memoir? My hope is that the blog provides direction for anybody who has been thinking about writing their own memoir. Here is a useful tip for getting started:
Ask yourself what story you want to tell first. Jot down the main “plot” points—a bulleted list will do. Then expand on each plot point until one connects to the next. In this way, you will write a coherent narrative.
Each of us is unique, yet we also carry the DNA of the people we descend from. Knowing your ancestors’ stories—your intergenerational story—teaches you valuable insights about yourself that you might not otherwise know. This includes how you behave and look.
The Storyteller experiences many benefits by sharing their story, including gratitude for the opportunity to give such a meaningful gift. Reminiscing is therapeutic and mentally and emotionally stimulating, which can lead to a sense of renewed purpose.
The Storyteller’s family likewise experiences benefits when their loved one shares their story. Family members gain important insights about themselves and become more self-aware. The wisdom and advice they receive from their elders can be helpful as they travel the road of life. Also, when the Storyteller becomes enthusiastic about sharing their stories, the family engages with each other and strengthens connections.
If you would like help sharing your story or a loved one’s story, or you have already begun but need help moving to the next stage, please reach out to me.
To see examples and learn more about our process, philosophy, and how we can help you, visit my website, LifeStoryMemoir.com.
Richard Squires is a memoir writer living in New Jersey. He has written forty-plus memoirs and published fiction and book reviews in myriad literary journals. His company LifeStory Memoir helps people keep their most treasured family stories alive forever by writing their memoirs.