Writing Heals… If You’re Honest, and If You Let It.
Therapists tell clients to journal all the time. They also tell their clients to write down affirmations, lists of accomplishments, and lists of positive things about themselves. That writing is therapeutic is pretty much undisputed. Here’s the thing, though. It only works if you’re honest and if you really listen to yourself.
There are a couple of different ways I can imagine using writing for therapy, but keep in mind, I’m not a therapist. I’m a writer. So most of the dribble that comes from my fingers henceforth will be stuff that I’ve found that works for me, or stuff that I think would work for me under the right circumstances. If you feel like you need to write to help you sort out mental health issues, you should definitely see a counselor and get some professional guidance.
Write what you are really feeling. If you’re writing for therapy, you should be writing with yourself as your audience. Write with the idea that nobody else will ever read it. If you’re anxious about that kind of thing, take security measures. Lock up a paper journal, or password protect a digital one. You want the blank page or the blank screen to be the safe place. The place where all of your thoughts, even the ones that make you cringe, can come out.
If you’re troubled, write it all out in stream-of-consciousness style. Write exactly what comes into your head. Don’t judge it—that’s for later. Say whatever you are feeling. This process is a conversation with yourself. Its beauty, though, lies in the fact that because you’re having a conversation with yourself, you can only really have one side of it at a time.
Don’t get me wrong, your mind will try to have both sides of the conversation at the same time, but all you have to do to curtail that is concentrate. Concentrate on writing the words that are in your head only. If a judgement comes in, write that down, too, but then get right back on writing down every other thought. It will take some practice to get really good, like anything else, but that’s the key. Focus on what you’re writing, not the implications of what you’re writing.
After you’ve said everything there is to say, shut the door. Close the journal or the laptop and do something else for a while. If it’s me, I’d do some exercising. After your mind’s been on other things for a bit, go back and read what you’ve read. If you were really honest while you wrote it, you may be surprised by what you find. That’s okay. It’s where the second part of the therapy process—listening to yourself so that you can let your writing heal you—comes in.
Listening to Yourself
It’s really important to go back to your writing later with fresh eyes. When you’re in the depths of despair, you have a certain outlook, and that will come through in your writing if you are honest. After you’ve had some time away from those feelings, go back and look at what you wrote. Read it as though you’re reading someone else’s feelings. It’s time to be on the other side of the conversation now.
As you read the things you wrote, try to imagine why you felt that way. Ask yourself if those feelings are really valid, or if they’re manifestations of anxiety, fear, depression, or something else. Does what you wrote make sense? Is there a logical connection between what happened and how you perceived it? How might another person see the things you wrote?
By doing this, you can gain real some real introspection. I’ve found out a lot of things about myself through writing. And not all of them have been comfortable. In fact, I’m willing to admit that there have been plenty of times when I have found out that I’m exactly what I hate the most in others.
Facing the Truth
Here’s the thing, though. I’d rather know than not know. There are so many people out there who just stay blissfully unaware of what absolute assholes they are. I’ve gotten to the point where I know I can handle facing my faults. I’ve failed enough times in my life. I’ve disappointed people time and time again. I’ve said terrible things. I’ve thought even worse things. And I’ve tried to face all of those things as honestly as possible. I might not have fixed them all, yet, but at least I know they’re there. That’s more than I can say for a lot of schmucks out there.
Knowing yourself more is never a bad thing. If you know yourself, you can set yourself up for success. You can work around your weaknesses and use your strengths to capitalize on your growth. Unless, of course, you’re not interested in growing. In which case, I got no time for you. Go watch some fuckin’ cat videos or something. (See—that’s what happens when I write what just pops into my head. That’s why I don’t usually do it here on the blog.)
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with Thoughts for Thursday!