Writing as a healing tool
If there was ever a time when writing could help us heal from trauma and challenge, this could be it.
Even though COVID 19 and it's repercussions have become very familiar to us, the anxiety continues. Will it spread, what about this horrid Delta variant that is so much worse, when will I get my vaccine, why are we letting sick mariners bring their boat to within coo-ee of our largest city ... it is relentless, every day, every night on the news there is more.
'Healing writing' helps us make sense of why we feel the way we do. It encourages us to explore our emotions and thoughts and is not so much about what we write but how we write it. The way we write it can vary: in a journal, as a poem, a song, a prose story. Doesn't matter. You choose, because the writing you do, is just for you, no one else. That's part of the healing. You aren't writing to please or impress anyone, you're not writing to sell or publicise. You are writing for you, to express your emotions and to make sense of life.
Healing writing, also known as 'expressive writing', can take the form of a story with a beginning, middle and end. Tell the events and link your feelings to them. For example, say you attended a large gathering, perhaps a birthday party, last weekend. Lots of people. The scene was happy, band was playing, and you were having a great time until you heard whispers that someone at the party had recently returned from New South Wales and may have been at a COVID 'place of interest' in Sydney. The realisation that you may have been exposed to the virus occurred to you when the band started playing the Van Halen song 'Runnin' with the Devil'. So: the event was the song, what was the feeling that went with it?
The first important thing about healing writing is to let it all hang out and get it out, no matter how it comes. Don't worry about spelling, grammar and all that horseradish. Set the timer for ten minutes and keep moving, don't stop. Sentences may be full or fragmentary, or you might just have thoughts scattering the page like buckshot. That's all OK.
The second is to focus on details: for example, delve into that moment at the party when you heard the song and the COVID scary news. What were you doing? Maybe you were standing in your uncomfortable red stiletto shoes that you bought specially for more than you earn in a month, holding a cold glass of a sweet cocktail that had run over the side and your fingers were sticky ... you get the picture?
The third is 'the big reveal': what have you learned about yourself? Not to buy too-expensive shoes? Not to drink sickly-sweet cocktails? Not to go to any more big parties for a while? Probably of most importance would be your reaction to the COVID fright at the party: how did you respond (fear, anger, denial, feeling foolish because you spent so much money on those damn shoes and the party has turned into a horror show, or booze-inspired bravado?), and why did you respond in that way? Identifying why you responded the way you did helps you make sense of it, learn from it, and find a way forward. Writing about it can also help us forgive ourselves. We're only human after all.
After you've written for ten minutes, you may find that your blood pressure has lowered, you're more relaxed and in control, your mind unburdened, less emotionally charged and overwhelmed. You feel better.
Now I'm not saying that expressive writing cures all ills, not at all, and sometimes we need to access more appropriate help to support us as we move through a tough time. I do know that this type of writing can improve overall wellbeing and help settle the anxious mind and spirit.
There's something about translating an emotional experience into words. It can turn a negative into a positive. Try writing for ten or fifteen minutes for three or four days in a row: set aside the time, say 4pm to 4.15pm or whatever works, stick with it, see what happens.
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