Have you ever found yourself trying to make sense of life, figure out the next steps or lost in the mush of a busy, hectic and anxious life? The answer is yes, of course!
And in these moments the last thing we feel like doing is sitting in our mess and really trying to understand it. Yet, that’s exactly what we must do. So, before you spend thousands of dollars on expensive psychotherapists or psychologists, I’ve got a simple solution: Write.
I don’t know what it is, but I know no other way to heal from traumatic events, painful situations or things that piss us off than to write the pain away. That’s right, pick up your pen and write. Talking it out is great, and sure, it helps, but nothing takes the place of entering into the most vulnerable place: our personal story of pain and heartbreak through the written word.
Something happens during the act of writing that seems to ignite a different part of the brain which allows the emotion to flow freely and the pain to have less control. I’m sure people much smarter than I have thought this through and can give some reasons why, but from my own life and the experience of the people I’ve worked with, it really works.
I’m not talking about eloquent words or checking grammar, or even that the writing makes sense, but simply getting the words out of your head and heart and onto paper is all you need to do.
The other reason I know there is something in this is that every time I talk with people about their painful situation, and I suggest they write it down and get the pain on paper, there is instant resistance.
This resistance, I believe, is the pain speaking. It’s your pains way of actually holding firm and being stubborn. It’s your pains way of saying ‘it’s not that bad, we can manage, look how you’re coping‘ that stops people from wanting to write and feel the depth of emotion contained in their story.
In the amazing book Emotional Agility, author Susan David unpacks the power of writing to create a healing circuit-breaker in your life. She cites the amazing work of James Pennebaker where he suggests:
Over the next four days, find a time and place where you won’t be disturbed and write about your deepest emotions and thoughts surrounding the emotional upheaval that has been influencing your life. Set a timer for 20 minutes and write continuously. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Write only for yourself. Really let go and explore the event and how it is affecting you. Deal only with events or situations you can handle right now.
Pennebaker goes onto say:
People who engage in expressive writing report feeling happier and less negative than before writing. Simarlily, reports of depressive symptoms, rumination and general anxiety tend to drop in the weeks and months after writing about the emotional upheaval.
Writing holds a secret key to healing because it’s hard and messy and takes immense courage and bravery. Being willing to write down the emotions you are feeling – isn’t for the faint-hearted. But the benefits sure outweigh the costs.
I suggest to people who have pain, can’t seem to shake a certain situation, are confused with where everything is at – to just start writing…in private, in your own home and by being comfortable.
Get a pen and some paper and start writing down exactly what comes to mind. No sugar-coating the words, no filter, just get the story out. Don’t dissect what you’re writing, just get the story, the emotion, the feelings out onto paper. The time to read back will come, just not now.
Getting my clients into a writing habit is often the place where I begin. The exact process you would work through will vary depending on your situation, but it’s such a critical component to long-term transformation I need to start my clients here.
For now though, take a moment to engage your uncomfortable. Do this over four to five sessions and see what happens.
Let me know, I’d love to hear. firstname.lastname@example.org