I have been writing about an approach to processing our emotional experiences, chronic emotional challenges and using a proven way to release the emotions you feel about an event, a relationship, or a loss. In this post, I want to simply deepen our understanding of what is Writing Therapy?
What is Writing Therapy?
The best definition of Writing Therapy is the purposeful and intentional use of reflective writing to further mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and wellness it is an effective means of providing focus and clarity to issues, concerns, conflicts, and confusions.
Dr. James Pennebaker, a research psychologist in Austin, Texas, was the first person to conduct clinical trials on the health benefits of personal writing as a tool for healing and recovery and the physical effects of expressive writing. His work applies the scientific method to analyse the effects of expressive writing on physical and psychological health. His own experience with Writing Therapy inspires us all who are trying to make sense of our life, to make it a habit of processing the upsetting life events we experience. Here is what he wrote about his own experience.
“In writing about upsetting events, for example, I often came to a new understanding of the emotional events themselves. Problems that had seemed overwhelming became more circumscribed and manageable after I saw them on paper. In some way, writing about my haunting experiences helped to resolve them. Once the issues were resolved, I no longer thought about them.” (Pennebaker 1990, p. 89)
This can happen for you as well.
Product and Process Writing
To further clarify what Writing Therapy is we need to understand the nature of therapeutic journal writing, it is important from the outset to distinguish between ‘product’ and ‘process’ writing. Product writing is intended to produce a finished item, perhaps a poem, story or memoir. Process writing, on the other hand, is about the act of writing and recording itself. Therapeutic journal writing in this context is process writing.
In its most basic sense, this means that the outcome will not be measured by anyone other than the writer. Indeed, journal writing will often not be read or seen by anyone other than the writer, and it will not be crafted or edited into a ‘finished’ piece, or product, at this stage. This may be permission enough for some people to begin journal writing, having freed their thoughts and feelings from potent and limiting earlier preconceptions about what writing ‘should’ be.
Quieting the Critics
In Writing Therapy, every writer is the authority of their own writing. In this kind of work, the writer will always write the right thing. It is impossible to get it wrong.Writers are the authority of themselves and their own experience, knowledge, thoughts, feelings, memories and dreams. There is no one to tell you that you are doing it wrong, that isn’t the way I remember it, or be critical of what you chose to write about. Freedom from judgemental voices, and those who would want to not validate our therapeutic writing do not exist, and if they do it is because we allow them into our emotional world.
You are Free to write whatever you want, feel whatever you want, say whatever you want, and to express to people, friends or family, whatever you want with no external consequences.
What form does it Writing Therapy take?
This personal, therapeutic writing could all be called “journal” or “diary” writing. These terms mean different things in different contexts; Journal or diary can be used as an umbrella term to include many different forms of personal writing, such as personal poetry; metaphor exploration and expression; genre story; personal experience story; unsent letters; dream exploration; dialogues with parts of the body, such as a cancer tumour or an aching tooth; and dialogues with significant fictional, metaphorical figures such as my internal critic (yourself), or my child self.
There is a great deal of evidence from the field of Mental Health and Psychology that writing to heal is an effective way to process emotional, upsetting events and relationships, and has so many benefits that making a decision to Write to Heal is an approach you can use to become emotionally healthy.
In the next post, I will share with you the benefits of using writing as a way to be emotionally well.
Until Next Time,