Why The Much Vilified ‘Gossip Sessions’ Of Women May Have Meant Better Mental And Emotional Health!

While at that time gossip did seem tasteless sometimes, some part of me wonders if our and future generations will ever really benefit from the true power of storytelling that these everyday conversations brought.

It was class 3rd, and I had to choose a character for my fancy dress competition. I still remember my mother and me racking our brains for something “different”. We lived in a huge apartment block, where a number of ladies would gather mid-morning on the terrace for chit-chat.

Inspired by these ladies, we zeroed in on the character of a “gossiping lady”. My 2 minute narration consisted of incidents currently happening in the lives of our neighbours, all the while peeling a bowl of peas!

This is why we need stories

Why this reminiscence, one may ask. Sorting through old albums, I came across a pic of mine from thirty years ago when I played this role, which set off a trail of thought as to why people talk about other people.

Is it purely a love for gossip? Or is it some tasteless interest in prying into other people’s lives and sharing details from your own life?

At the core, it’s a need to exchange stories.

As humans, our need to socialise is, in a large part, fulfilled by stories — stories of great people and achievers, stories of fictional people and fantasy lands, and stories of people around us. These stories evoke emotions in us. They introduce us to people we would love to know in our real lives, even if those people are purely fictional. When we listen to stories, our brain reacts exactly the same way as it would if we were physically in that situation.

Stories, hence, become a way of experiencing experiences which we may never in real life face.

Learning about our world, to empathise

And when those stories ARE about people in our real lives, they become relatable. The people in those stories are people you know in flesh and blood. They deepen our sense of emotional response and improve our power to empathise. We also use these stories around us in some ways to validate our own values and reach out to those who are on the same wavelength as us.

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It is also these stories that in a strange, convoluted way define the social order that we are so used to. We are drawn to people who have similar stories to ours, we naturally empathise with them. Think back to your first ‘best’ friends. What were their stories?

Now think back to the last person you spoke to today. Do you know their story? We are wary of people whose stories are very different from ours. They often evoke emotions such as awe, distrust, a feeling of superiority or inferiority, or even fear at times. And often there is a psychological comfort in not being part of some of those stories.

We rarely see such ‘gossiping ladies’ anymore in the urban centres that we live in. And while at that time it did seem tasteless sometimes, some part of me does wonder if our generation and future generations will ever really benefit from the true power and the true benefits of storytelling that these everyday conversations brought to our older generations. Will our generation and future generations ever be able to learn the empathy and emotions that these unplanned, often unstructured ‘storytelling’ sessions brought with them?

Image source: a still from the film Sharmaji Namkeen

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About the Author

Arunima Shekhar

Founder @Tell-A-Tale - I gobble stories and spit out new ones everyday; travel addict, software engineer, storywriter for brands, mentor, Renaissance woman in-the-making. read more...

22 Posts | 167,422 Views

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