Story as social medicine – Het verhaal van Springmuis
– By Christine Fenech
When Henk Hofman wrote Het verhaal van Springmuis in collaboration with Ruud Spaargaren en Marius Gosschalk, he intended it to be a way of working with the story on an individual level – a way of developing one’s inner compass. The story, a native American one was shared with non-native American cultures Hyemeyohsts Storm in his classic book Seven Arrows. Henk is now experimenting with the story so that it can be used as a vehicle for social or community medicine, a way of experiencing the story to develop as a collective.
He can only do this because he himself has embodied this story at such a deep level that it has become a way of interpreting the world and as an inner guide – the story itself has become mentor. Through this work, as Henk himself says, he is playing in a field that bridges the space between play and drama. This field takes the experience of the story away from the cognitive mind and thus allowed us as participants to experience the story on a somatic level. Our bodies embodied and understood the story physically. It is a field that opens the group up to that which is emergent.
Using the classical Greek set up of hero and chorus, Henk created dramatic frames or cues that allowed us to experienced various stages of the story not only as individual but also as a collective. The chorus sang, supported, rejected, healed as a communal mind.
I am not sure what the full effect of this work is, but a day later sitting at my desk I can somehow feel that my empathy has been exercised, that I have experienced a great facility of feeling, broadened my repertoire, experienced both discomfort and great tenderness while connected to others. This is for me a new manner of working with stories, and one that has helped me glimpse why the native Americans use the word medicine to describe their stories.
Christine Fenech is an alumnus of the Storytelling Academy and Chief Storyteller.