“The difference between a victim and a survivor is the meaning made from the trauma.” – Louise DeSalvo Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives.
Whilst writing is an excellent self-healing tool you can use on your own, it is also vital to seek expert psychological support from a trained professional such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist. Many therapists recommend storytelling and journalling as a self-therapeutic tool – but writing about a trauma without knowing how to write about it is asking for trouble, with the risk of re-traumatising yourself all over again. Louise de Salvo gives these guidelines your writing-as-a-way-of-healing should follow in order for it to be effective:
- Your writing must contain concrete, authentic, explicit details of events, set within a logical narrative/story.
- Then, you need to link your feelings back to the details/events.
- It is important to balance negative and positive words in describing your feelings.
- Remember to reveal the insights you achieved through your painful experience(s).
- Whether you’re writing a daily, private journal, a public blog or an actual book you want to publish, you need to tell a complete, richly detailed, coherent story.
And while De Salvo notes the incredible healing success people have experienced by writing in this prescribed way, she reinforces the validity of this approach by including medical and scientific proof about what happens when we write like this. Part of the research included measuring the brain activity of test subjects while they wrote about their painful experiences in three different ways:
- Writing only about the concrete facts of their story. eg. I walked to the shops late that afternoon to buy bread and milk. I was tired and my head hurt. I didn’t have enough money to pay. I had lost my job because I was too sick to go to work.
- Writing only about the emotions of their story. eg. I felt humiliated, helpless and hopeless. I felt terrified I would never be able to afford all the treatment I needed.
- Linking the emotions to the events/facts. eg. When I walked to the shops that afternoon, my heart was heavy with sadness and fear because my boss asked me to hand in my resignation. He said he was losing money what with me being off from work so much. This left me feeling useless and hopelessly discouraged. The nausea, constant physical weakness and the constant headaches made me afraid… afraid the treatment wasn’t working and I was closer to dying. Actually, I’m not just afraid – I’m terrified. And now I don’t even have enough money to pay for something as simple as bread and milk! I feel angry that life has thrown this unfair curveball at me! Saying that I am grateful and humbled that my sister has – with her kind and humble heart heart – offered to step in to help me financially every step of the way. This gives me hope, and my heart feels lighter.
“Creativity is a basic human response to trauma and a natural emergency defense system.” Louise de Salvo
Has anyone ever given you the advice to journal your way through your BC journey? How did it feel to pour your heart out on paper: exhilarating? Scary? Liberating? Please tell us – either in the Comments box below, or join us on Twitter or Facebook. Our follow-up post will look at the medical and scientific evidence to support why writing is just what the doctor ordered! (PS. This gives you the perfect excuse to splurge (a little) at Typo!)