Saturday, 20 October 2012

Writing as Therapy #writing Guest Post for @McGuireHimself

This is a piece I wrote recently as a guest blog for Patrick McGuire. McGuire offers a webpage that covers a wide variety of interests: jokes, serious commentary, recipes, poems comic and serious. As one reader put it, " is about the life, loves and literature of Patrick McGuire." His blog can be found HERE and hiw Twitter is @McGuireHimself

Why do I write so much and so often? For decades I was unable to express my innermost thoughts and feelings verbally. Initially because I was silenced by those that abused me. The fear of reprisals for speaking out far outweighing the need to "tell". I felt disconnected from the world around me, an island in the vast ocean of life. I started writing about my feelings in my early teens. I wrote to stop my head exploding... There was so much I wanted to say but was unable to give voice to my thoughts. Some of these early attempts at writing are difficult for me to read even now, the raw pain I felt then leaping out of the words to slap me in the face.

Writing as therapy focuses on expressive writing and its value in processing life experience, particularly trauma and change. Use writing to express your  “deepest thoughts and feelings” regarding a particular subject (e.g. illness, recent loss, life upheavals, past trauma etc.).  Writing, more so than speaking out thoughts or feelings aloud, presents us with a slower, solitary mode for reflection. Unlike conversations, we’re less concerned with another person’s reaction. We listen perhaps more intently to our own voices and catch glimpses of subtler stirrings. We own our words in a more definitive and personal way.

Many people use writing as therapy, perhaps without even realising it. Keeping a diary or journal is a common and popular pass time in which secrets are often written down, dreams expressed and desires given life. Blogging is a more recent phenomenon and is yet another form of expressive writing. It's a more public form of "therapy", sharing with the world our hopes, expectations, thoughts and ideas. Using the internet also allows one to be as private or public as one wishes. Identities can be assumed and a sense of safety obtained by "hiding" behind a screen of some sort.

For me, being finally able to give my words wings and letting them fly around the world was hugely empowering. I have much that I have not yet shared, things too painful for my consiousness to process still. Some of these exist in private writings and others exist in my mental journal. One day I hope to give all these memories, fears, hopes and aspirations a life, to cast the pain out along with the words.

I find writing to be as relaxing as meditation. It calms my inner seas and brings my sometimes erratic and painful thoughts to the safety of a secure harbour. There are many forms of writing; there are many styles. We have different ways of expressing ourselves; we also have varied reasons for doing so. But when pen and paper or finger and keyboard make contact, thoughts are released and the mind gets more focused as we are instinctively drawn towards the quiet center of the self.

Anyone can use writing as a means to clear their thoughts, to give order to chaos. Writing is a disciplinary act that can give new insights into yourself and your relationships. It is also completely honest, for what do you gain by lying to yourself? It is a therapy designed for everybody, not just for the disturbed, distressed or dying. Writing is a spiritual journey, it is the soul searching for truth. Writing should flow through you, cleansing and clearing as it progresses.

Use writing to manage your stress. Identify the external reason or reasons for your stress, then link your own contribution to this stress. Pinpoint what is bothering you, what happened or is happening to add to the stress levels. Write about your responses, your feelings and thoughts related to the events. Tell yourself in your own written words why you are distressed, decide what you can do to control the situation. Decide on a way forward. Be honest!

You don't have to devote much time to use writing as therapy, perhaps 10-15 minutes a day is all you will need. If you have the urge to write more then be sure to take breaks, read and read again what you have written before you go on. You can write about how writing makes you feel! Don't let writing become a chore. Relax, walk the dog, dig the garden, tell your partner you love them and don't forget to tell yourself the same. Writing as therapy should be relaxing, not a stress in it's own right.

Writing helped keep me sane (well as sane as was possible given the circumstances), it gave an outlet to the turmoil I felt inside and allowed me to feel some benefit from sharing my experiences, if only with myself.. I can't imagine a life where I would be unable to write, to express myself on screen or paper. I write, therefore I am!


Anonymous said...

I could not agree more! As I am sure you have figured out, I also use writing as therapy. I hope that those reading this latest post of yours will take your advice and see writing as a secure harbour to release those emotions and feelings of harm...bless you!

Beyond the tears said...

Great post about the benefits of writing. By using a journal to write about the problems and solutions discussed in my counseling sessions, a story of transformation evolved. I might have stayed in the traps of trauma had I not written about what I talked about in the privacy of therapy. Cheers!


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