The writing cure
It’s actually the title of a book written by scientists who study the healing powers of expressive writing – the kind of writing you would use a private journal for, where you describe your experiences and express your emotions. It’s a matter of taste, but of all mental health interventions, keeping a journal is one of my favorite. Not only because I personally love to write, but also because as simple as it may seem (sit down and write about your day), it combines several very powerful therapeutic elements. Let’s take a look at what those are.
Because we have to put things into words, writing promotes better awareness of our emotions. When we are searching for the right word to describe what’s on our mind, we are forced to explore the quality of our experiences and if we keep doing this day after day, we can begin to see patterns in our reactions and thoughts. This is all so useful because it gives us a better understanding of ourselves, which is one of the essential ingredients of well-being and personal growth.
When we write about our emotions, we thereby express them and this in itself can have a therapeutic effect. Unexpressed or even suppressed emotions are toxic. Suppressing emotions prolongs recovery from traumatic events and negatively affects our physical health as well. However, some of the emotions we walk around with may feel so private (or even inappropriate) that we can’t bring ourselves to share them with anyone. Writing in a private journal can then be the needed outlet.
Then there is the creativity aspect and satisfaction with your own artistic expression. The satisfaction that comes with being able to capture something volatile and transient, such as emotions, convert it into words, arrange it into paragraphs, frame it in a text. It doesn’t happen every time you write, but when it does, it’s like catching a butterfly with your bare hands (and if you are skillful enough, the butterfly will still be alive).
In the privacy of your own journal, you can do whatever you want – no one is reading it unless you choose to let them. You can say whatever you want however you want it. You find new ways of talking that you’ve never tried before. You find another voice. First it may sound strange and unfamiliar, kind of like hearing yourself on a tape. But then this voice becomes stronger and more confident, until you come to realize that what you are hearing is in fact the voice of your authentic self.
When you go back and re-read what you have written some time ago, it helps you see how rich your experiences actually are. You might discover that there is much more color and variety to your life than you thought. You can see that you are on the move, nothing is standing still, and you can study the quality of the road you are on and the speed you are moving at. Maybe yours is a narrow and winding mountain road. Or maybe it's a straight highway. Writing about it is like getting out of the car to breath in some fresh air, stretch, and pluck the dusty flowers that grow along the roadside.