The Emotions And Catharsis of Telling Our Tales by Alan D. Bergman


The Emotions And Catharsis of Telling Our Tales


                       Alan D. Bergman 

Not unlike a plumber unclogging a stuffed pipe, recalling our past and telling or writing our stories can release a floodgate of emotions that have long been blocked within us. As a professional biographer/personal historian, I have witnessed how summoning the details of our lives from our memory banks, or even learning missing information about our own or our forefathers’ and foremothers’ life stories, can bring us both joy and pain.

One biography client was Robert, an 88-year-old gentleman who hired me to capture and preserve his life story. As part of the process, I conducted genealogical research, learning that his father, Giuseppe, immigrated from Naples to the Port of Philadelphia. He traveled to these shores on the S.S. America, arriving on March 4, 1921. I somewhat nonchalantly mentioned to Robert what I had learned about his dad's journey to the U.S. I was shocked when the response was an audible gasp followed by sobbing. The revelation about his father’s journey must have been like finding a missing piece of himself. All his adult life, he had always wondered how, when, and exactly from where his dad came to this country.

The laughter was so hard that it turned to tears when I interviewed one client about his 1950s youth in Cleveland. He was describing his high school fraternity and the age-appropriate hi-jinx he and his buddies pulled as frat members. Unlocking that piece of his past was an unexpectedly joyous experience. His endorphins flowed freely, as the neuroscience of laughter has taught us.

During an interview with another client, I asked about her three adult children, having no idea she was completely estranged from them all. As she talked about the circumstances leading to each estrangement, the anguish on her face became increasingly apparent. It was February in New York, yet sweat appeared on her brow. Her insistence on including this aspect of her life in her biography speaks volumes to her commitment to honesty and authenticity in capturing her whole story.

Moments like these highlight the profound trust and connection that can develop between a biographer and a client. Together, we take a path to create a legacy that reflects the entirety of their life, both the joys and the struggles. Bringing the past to the forefront can be a richly gratifying and rewarding experience. In fact, this was labeled by Sigmund Freud as Cathartic Emotional Release (CER).

Perhaps best of all, preserving these stories for the next generations prevents them from being lost to history forever.


Alan D. Bergman is a personal historian-biographer. He is a baby boomer and the founder of Life Stories Preserved LLC. Alan can be reached via e-mail at: or through the website

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