Writing as Therapy

As writers, we feel the constant need to create.  This need comes naturally. We love to create characters…ideas… new worlds. We write because we have to, because nothing else makes us feel whole. All stories need to come from somewhere and each of us have our own unique way of telling them. The urge to write, to put our thoughts on paper, is like an involuntary, almost compulsive, act that takes control of our emotions.

Writing, for most of us, is an escape.  Often, it can serve as a form of therapy. As I told my mother over a year ago, if my family didn’t have so many demons, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. Writers write because it gives us a sense of security and ability. For some of us, it  frees demons we’ve been suppressing and allows us that possibility of moving on.

In most beginner writing workshops, we’re all taught to write what we know, and I believe this should be the case with all writers. Not only does it feel good to get inner demons down  on paper, but usually, those personal and honest feelings make the best writing. Writing is a powerful tool that can soothe and heal even the most troubled person, and it’s the ability to be completely and brutally honest that can be the most therapeutic and possibly result in a great piece of work.

Writing has actually been proved to heal, which takes the term ‘writing as therapy’ to a whole different level. According to Chris Woolston of CNN.com, Writing therapy is a term that “describes a form of expressive therapy that uses the act of writing and processing the written word as therapy. Writing therapy posits that writing one’s feelings gradually eases pain and strengthens the immune system. Writing therapeutically can take place individually or in a group and it can be administered in person with a therapist or remotely through mailing or the Internet.”

In another article on CNN.com, James Pennebaker, Ph.d, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas and leader or co-leader of many of the studies, said “Dozens of studies have found that most people, from grade-schoolers to nursing-home residents, med students to prisoners, feel happier and healthier after writing about deeply traumatic memories.”

Writing Therapy is considered a healing form, developed and researched by Pennebaker and his teams at Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin since 1975. During that time he tested thousands of individuals and found the key to healing a wide variety of illnesses by using words to affect health. He explored the nature of self-disclosure, confession, inhibition, trauma and other disease-related conditions.

As Pennebaker writes in the Preface to his book, Opening Up, The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions (1990, Guilford Press):

“…writing or talking about your experiences may improve both your physical and mental health. I am not selling a miracle cure. Rather, recent studies from around the world are uncovering some exciting findings that may help you in your coping.”

Perhaps this is the very reason I write best when I have so many pent-up emotions and why it’s such a liberating process being able to get those feelings on the paper. Why spill our deepest secrets to a therapist when we can confide in our pieces of paper or laptops? It’ll be up to us to either keep those thoughts private or share them with the world. The control is in the writer’s hands. But readers respond to honest emotions and can relate to them. Writers shouldn’t restrict themselves from showing work because it’s too personal. Getting our story read can be just as therapeutic as the process of writing it.

So I give my readers something to think about: Do all writers write as their own form of therapy? Why do we feel that need to write when we have something we really want to say? Do all writers base their story ideas on real life experiences?

Until next time,

Write on!

The Accidental Blogger

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing on Writing

2 responses to “Writing as Therapy

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article because it touched upon several points that resonated with me, particularly viewing writing as a personal therapy.
    I use to write religiously, even if in my personal journal, trailing my feelings, back then of darker days and troubling times.
    Somehow, putting my thoughts and feelings on paper released both physical and psychological tension that has collected over the years, like one who enjoys collecting antiques. Each feeling and thought was priceless and beloved, no matter how difficult it was at times to write them and read them again. I knew that they lead to a path of acceptance of myself, as whole as perfect, when most of my adolescence was seeped in fear and shame.
    All my feelings, both of pain and joy surfaced and it allowed me to express the writer in me, whether imperfect as I may have been. I was able to embrace a writer, who was chipping away at her pain and learning to see growth through them.
    Now, I may not write as much, however, those precious moments of self reflection and acceptance have carried me through some troubling waters. These days, the waters are much calmer and I can stay afloat with grace rather than rage in pools of fear, self loathing and doubt.
    These days, I write with my hand, arms, legs, and whole body. For me, I write through my movement, both as a yoga instructor and Thai Yoga Therapist. I express my words through my bodily moments and have the amazing opportunities to share it with people who are in tuned with their own body’s language.
    It all started though with a simple journal and pencil. So there the story of me began!!!

  2. The Accidental Blogger

    Sony, thank you so much for sharing!

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