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On Writing – The Healing Power of Emotional Writing

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

Health outcomes


Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor


Improved immune system functioning


Reduced blood pressure


Improved lung function


Improved liver function


Fewer days in hospital


Improved mood/affect


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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