Writing Toward Wellness-A Personal Journey
by Claudia Mosby
A few years ago I happened upon a thought-provoking quote by e.e. cummings in which he said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
Writing has often been the medium through which I’ve made that leap toward courage and it can be a profoundly powerful tool used to separate the wheat from the chaff of our identity, allowing us to discover who it is we are intended to become.
My personal passion for writing began when I first picked up a pencil. As a child, I kept a diary and recognized early the comfort and insight writing brought me. Much later, my writing became more infrequent: consistent when I was under stress, less so when life was running smoothly.
Regardless of frequency, having a non-judgmental page upon which we can explore our thoughts and feelings can be deeply relieving. In fact, for the past twenty-five years both academic and clinical researchers have been investigating the relationship between expressive writing and wellness and have established the case for a clear link between the two.
While early research focused on the benefits of expressive narrative as applied to unresolved trauma, in more recent years scientists have considered the benefits of such writing as applied to many of life’s complexities. We are all confronted at some point with an unexpected ‘Big Lump’ that we wonder how we will get through, around, over or past. Demonstrably, writing is one such vehicle to help transport us to the other side.
Whether our upheaval is separation or divorce, death of a loved one, interpersonal conflict, our own or another’s health crisis, caregiving, financial hardship, spiritual alienation, work adjustments or some other loss that has us concerned—we can effectively use expressive narrative to give structure and containment to our experience as we move through it.
Fiction writers and poets especially will be interested to know the tools used in expressive writing are familiar ones. We tell stories, whether fictional or autobiographical, to convey complex ideas and emotions in an organized way. Building a coherent narrative—including one around an aspect of our own life story—requires attention to the characters involved, the setting, plot (in short, the event/experience + consequences + meaning) and point of view.
The operative word is “build;” If we already have an explanation, we’re not likely to receive the health benefits of writing. When we write about troubling, unresolved experiences, we exorcise on paper some of their emotional power and in so doing begin to re-write the self-dialogue that replays in our minds. If we’re stuck retelling the same story again and again from the same perspective, we might question whether it has truly been resolved.
While expressive writing is NOT a cure-all (nothing is), there is a solid body of research supporting its efficacy in producing measurable changes in physical and mental health.
On Saturday, March 16 from 9-1 p.m. at Unity in Redding (1852 Buenaventura Blvd. #6), Claudia Mosby will be facilitating a workshop using these methods. Participants will be introduced to the research behind expressive writing, its key biological and psychological benefits, and the suggested guidelines for a beneficial writing experience as they engage in hands-on writing practice. Using “left brain” logical and “right brain” imaginative, as well as sensory and intuitive writing techniques, participants will use writing for greater personal insight and growth. Pre-registration is requested but not required. For more information, please visit the Writing InsideOut website, Facebook page or contact Claudia Mosby at 355-6827.