The Healing Power of Therapeutic Writing and Poetry

Writing is therapeutic! In fact, James Pennebaker, PhD., a psychologist and researcher, has conducted studies that show enhancement in immune system functioning and emotional wellbeing when research participants write about difficult or traumatic events in their lives.

http://vimeo.com/27712584

You may have questions about what type of writing would be most helpful for you and how to get started. Would it be journaling, writing poetry, free-writing, meditation and writing, morning pages (see The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron), etc. Then there is the question of what to do with your writing—keep it to yourself, start a blog, try to get it published, show it to friends, put it in a drawer, rip it up when you are frustrated, or join a group?

Your needs, interests, inclinations, and tastes are pivotal. For instance, you notice one day, that you have been writing poetry on the margins of scrap paper that you find in your pockets when doing the laundry, or someone gives you a classy blank journal book for your birthday. Then there could be alchemy and synchronicity—you see an event or group that “speaks” to you and is even happening on an evening or day you can make it. You venture into the visual attic, basement, or garage of your present or past and discover there is a pen and paper waiting for you there inviting you to write.

My own experience helping people use writing for healing tells me that it works best when there is no initial concern about editing or showing your creation to the world in print. In fact, the first step is to free up the censors, critics, and mind chatter so that the words you need to speak onto the page can get there. I think of therapeutic writing as raw and fresh. Crafting and editing can be an important, but different part of the process. Sometimes creation bubbles up in a perfectly formed finished product, but if not, what is initially created is the mortar and bricks of healing because it is your authentic and freed-up voice, which sometimes delivers a gift, a surprise, a glimpse of something important.

Turning to poetry, poetry gives rhythm to silence, light to darkness. In poetry we find the magic of metaphor, compactness of expression, use of the five senses, and simplicity or complexity of meaning in a few lines. For example, here’s a poetic description of day breaking: As the sun begins with a bowing/ down and a floating up,/ light, a ballerina, pli

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