On Writing – The Healing Power of Emotional Writing
I was working on another post yesterday when I got news through friends from the Boston area of the bombings during the marathon. I was grateful no one I knew was hurt, though they had friends and acquaintances that had been injured. And as I read the updates via twitter, I experienced that sad and powerless feeling of knowing that suffering was happening while I sat in my cozy house, with my two children safely asleep upstairs. Because I have undergone my own personal traumas along the way, and because of my work with vulnerable women, I have found an outlet through writing those emotional experiences which has been, at a minimum, cathartic. Some of those pieces I have shared with others, some are in the book I just wrote, but most are for me and me alone.
For my personal journey, writing about numbing or painful events have brought about shame resilience to a greater degree. It gives me a voice, when all the tapes inside my head scream that I have no voice. It exposes the secrets that keep me in a web of shame, and it is freeing.
I also write about things, especially in the form of poetry, that are too difficult to explain. I went to Thailand a few years ago, and though I loved the beauty and hospitality, I saw some of the sex trafficking I had read about. To be honest, it’s hard to digest stories about trafficked women, but my mind can’t even grasp what it is like for a child as young as five-years-old.
I wrote a poem about a young girl being trafficked, cruelly punished and then set free. It’s gritty and ‘in your face’. I may share it one day, but to write it was healing in itself. It gave me hope in a way.
I don’t believe emotional, also known as expressive, writing needs to be done with the intent that it will be shared. I think it’s valuable to share with a few safe people, but it’s not always beneficial to disclose publicly through something like social media. Yet I say that, and I balance that last statement with the fact that when people write about really personal things they have walked through (and have found a new source of courage), I feel connected to them somehow, and I admire their vulnerability.
Emotional/expressive writing has also been linked to not just emotional healing, but there are numerous other benefits as well which I have included at the bottom of this post. So in the wake of yet another tragedy in America, I will write and have the power to have a voice, even if no one else ever reads it.
This is from an online article in The Advances of Psychiatric Treatment. Click here to read the entire piece.
Longer-term benefits of expressive writing
Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor
Improved immune system functioning
Reduced blood pressure
Improved lung function
Improved liver function
Fewer days in hospital
Feeling of greater psychological well-being
Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations
Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms
Social and behavioural outcomes
Reduced absenteeism from work
Quicker re-employment after job loss
Improved working memory
Improved sporting performance
Higher students’ grade point average
Altered social and linguistic behaviour
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