There’s a sign in a therapist’s waiting room that reads “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. Whether we realize it or not, a large majority of the inner turmoil we experience is at our own hands. The very physical, heavy ache in your heart when your sister on the other side of the world is crying into the phone, has to be lived through. Your internal dialogue about how you’re a bad sibling who never does enough and is self-centered, on the other hand, should be questioned.
Writing As A Therapeutic Tool
If your thoughts are driving you crazy or making you miserable, they need to be examined. Before we can examine something, we need to be separate from it. One of the reasons why writing is a powerful therapeutic tool is because it creates distance between you and your psycho-emotional experience.
That distance enables increased cognitive reasoning and decision-making because rather than being over-identified with what is hurting/angry/hopeless in you, you are now able to witness and observe it. This puts you back in the seat of power where you can critically assess and separate truth from illusion.
Therapeutic writing also acts as a psychic and emotional purgative. The act of writing an uncensored letter and speaking your mind, or heart, to someone is incredibly cathartic and can help in releasing a sizeable mental load.
How To Use Writing As A Therapeutic Tool
Other than not doing it, there is no way to get this wrong. In order to support your self-healing writing journey, consider the following:
- This is for your eyes only. Writing knowing that no one is going to read it will help you to write uncensored, which is important.
- Let it rip. This is your time to bring out the worst in yourself. Be petty, hyper-critical, enraged, judgmental, soppy, helpless. Let your ego have its day.
- Be consistent. While a once-off writing purge has its place. If you want to work through a traumatic experience or repetitive negative thought loop or emotional state, you’ll need to write regularly. Set a realistic goal and book time in your calendar.
- Review and reflect: Review what you wrote the day before and see what you notice. Do you feel differently about anything? What specific phrases or themes stand out?
- Don’t review and reflect. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, going back and reflecting is not always useful. If you’re looking for a more cathartic, stream-of-consciousness process, you can burn the pages rather than re-read them.
Additional resources to support your therapeutic writing:
The Work by Byron Katie
The NeuroCycle Process Dr. Caroline Leaf
Morning Pages by Julia Cameron