Legends and stories have always been an important part of human experiences. The psychologist B. P. McAdams has spent many years studying personal narratives, the stories we tell about our lives. He believes that these personal narratives are critical to our self-image and our ability to function as successful adults. In his recent book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that myths and folk stories are critical elements of cultural change. He describes how the African American folk story of Brer Rabbit helped Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders develop a strategy for dealing with the racist political structure of the old South. Outsmarting the power structure rather than confronting them directly eventually won the civil rights movement.

Dyslexics do not have shared narratives. Our differences are invisible. This makes it very difficult to find other dyslexics and support each other. Furthermore, dyslexia often involves a great deal of shame. Because of our failures, we grow up feeling broken and inferior. Instead of looking for help, we try not to be seen. I spent most of my school career trying to be small and invisible. This made it less likely that I would be called upon to give an answer for that which I did not know. Finally, many of our successes have occurred because we did not do things in the "correct way." We cut corners or colored outside the lines.

It is ironic that, although we are excellent storytellers and have strong narrative intelligence, we hide our stories. I believe we need myths and tall tales more than other groups. First, because of our narrative intelligence, we enjoy these tales and on an emotional level find them very useful. Furthermore, they help shift our self-esteem. They are a very real way of turning shame into pride. Finally, they help bind us into a more cohesive group, which allows us to support and learn from each other.

So, we find ourselves in a rather unusual situation. How do you build a system of myths and folk tales? These usually grow naturally out of the culture. We have made an excellent start. There are hundreds of stories of successful dyslexics. Our website has many. However, although these are important, they are not enough. Yet, it is important for dyslexics to know there is hope. These stories are often very similar. The dyslexic struggles, works hard, and finally succeeds. I'm all for working hard, but we need more diversity. What I know about dyslexics is that we are a group of incredibly dynamic and resourceful people. We think and live outside the box. Most of our stories do not reflect this. They don't have our own dyslexic stamp on them. I am not sure how to find that unique stamp. Maybe you will. However, it involves using our unique abilities to solve problems in creative and unusual ways. I believe this could set the stage for some fascinating and entertaining stories.

I would ask other dyslexics to send me your stories. You can handwrite them, type them, send me a wave file, or draw me pictures. When in your life have you had to color outside the lines? These stories may be edgy and provocative. But I hope they will also be funny and help start important dialogues. Next month I will submit one of my stories. Is titled the "Ides of March" and it involves an unusual use of a bowling ball.

Be well and make a bit of noise,

Dr. Michael Ryan

 

 

 

Dr. Michael Ryan

Telling Stories Out of School