Today on Day By Day Writer, I’m delighted to host a guest post from Linda Joy Myers, author of The Power of Memoir–How to Write Your Healing Story.
Before we get to Linda’s post, a quick reminder that today is the last day to enter the contest for a copy of Bonnie Hearns Hill’s young adult book Aries Rising. Just click through to the Win a Copy of Aries Rising post and leave a question for Bonnie. Whoever submits Bonnie’s favorite question will win a copy of the book.
And not to Linda’s guest post:
Writing Helps to Heal the Heart: Finding Light in the Darkness
Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D.
Author of The Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story
From the beginning, we are stories. All of us enter the world in the middle of other people’s stories, and from that first breath, we weave our own tales, stitching them into the tapestries of others’ lives—family, friends, community.
Some of these stories have magic woven into them, special moments that are studded with beauty, hope, and joy, like a spring day when everything is fresh and shining.
But also woven through our lives are the darker colors of trouble, sorrow, loss, regret, jealousy, and pain. Things are fine if we are able to bounce back from the painful parts of our lives, but sometimes we get stuck in the darkness and need someone to bring us a light. Or sometimes, we have to figure out how to find the light in ourselves again to make our way back out. Writing can help to provide that light.
For the last 10 years there has been a lot of research done about the healing power of writing. Many of you may already have been writing in a journal, and this is good. The only caution is not to get stuck in the dark cave of writing obsessively about painful things. Another result of the studies shows that writing stories, putting ourselves into the body and mind of who we were in the past, helps us to integrate events in a new way, and helps us find that light again. Part of the process of finding the light is to remind ourselves of happier times.
Make a list of happier events, memories when you were carefree, or got a present you really like, or your best friend invited you over; when your parents, or caretakers made you feel special. When someone said they liked you or gave you a flower. When your pet snuggled up and purred or licked your face. When you stepped out into the day and it welcomed you with sun on your face and a sense that everything would be all right.
These positive lists are very important. We know that when the darkness comes, it can blot out our good memories sometimes, and writing is a way to remember the better times. If in the past we had moments of joy, now we need to hold onto hope and a vision that helps bring back those times. This is not magical thinking, it is creative thinking and visualization.
Now, take out your computer or journal and write one or more of these stories about happiness and pleasure using “sensual details.” This means color, texture, smell, sounds, and even dialogue that bring the scene to life. Remember how big or small you were, remember where you were—the setting of your story and what was around you. Bring the scene to life and as you write inhabit that moment fully.
A Window in the Cave
To help heal the bad stuff, make a list of the things that have happened that you are angry about or that still hurt you. Make the lists and put them aside for another time; or, if you’re ready, choose one thing from the list and write about it for ten minutes—set a timer. Put it aside and write about something positive, or go out and do something you enjoy.
Piece by piece you can enter those darker places and witness them from the vantage point of who you are now, from the person you are now with a more advanced perspective on your life. Alice Miller, a well-known Swiss psychiatrist, talks about the concept of witnessing. When we’re witnessed, truly seen for who we are and were, we have a chance to heal and become more whole. Therapists, good friends, family, and teachers can do this witnessing. Another way to get witnessed is to witness ourselves, and this happens when we write. Essentially, we’re witnessing ourselves when we write, becoming both the “I” character in the story, and the narrator. The narrator witnesses us at a younger age, and writes from that perspective. This is part of an integrative and healing process that really works! Many writers I’ve worked with have been surprised at the power of this technique.
It has been proven that writing helps to heal the brain, it changes nerve patterns and rearranges our circuits. Creativity and imagination, if guided toward positive actions and expression, are also healing paths to help bring the light into your heart and soul.
Writing allows us a path into the places that need our attention, and offers us a way to become whole, to become all of who we really are!
Be brave—write your story!