I only know a few, very lucky people who haven’t survived some form of trauma.
We all have painful experiences, both as children and as adults, and when we carry the energy of these negative emotions with us we can become physically and mentally ill.
Fear, anger, resentment, guilt and shame trap us in toxic patterns, affecting our relationships. These bad feelings keep us from living our best lives and serving our highest good, so it is absolutely essential that we learn to heal ourselves.
There are so many methods that we can utilize on our healing journey, from therapy to exercise, and they are all beneficial, especially when combined. In my experience, the most powerful healing tool is writing.
Be brave, pick up a pen and a notepad, or open a Word doc on your laptop. You need nothing else to begin except a few minutes and the willingness to feel much better.
Writing is a form of meditation. When we write, we sit quietly and focus on our thoughts. Writing is a practice in mindfulness. For people who have trouble sitting still, set a timer and don’t stop writing until it goes off. Start with short bursts of time and work up to longer stretches.
Writing is ritual. Each morning, I write at exactly the same time, in the same place. I make tea and light a candle, creating a sacred space for my words to come through. Often I say a small prayer before I begin, asking the universe to allow me to release my trauma and to transform my story into words that will heal me and those who read what I write.
Routines and rituals make us feel safe, but they also serve an even greater purpose. They connect us to our higher power and when we link up with the universal source of love, creativity and power, that’s when real healing can begin and we can manifest true greatness.
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a brilliant writer. She has endured tragedy and violence the likes of which few of us could ever survive. She also suffers from severe mental illness and chronic pain and she writes poetry as her outlet. She asked me how I am able to write memoir the way I do, laying out all of my heartbreak and humiliation, without having a total breakdown from having to relive it.
“How do you stay strong?” she asked.
The writing is what makes me strong and when I write about my pain and my emotional scars I am not reliving those experiences. I am recreating them, taking absolute control over them and owning them. When we are experiencing trauma, most of the pain comes from feeling powerless in a terrifying situation, but when we go back to write about that situation, we create a safe space that allows us to wrestle that power back. When we write, we become godlike in our ability to create and recreate and we realize that we are never helpless. Ever.
Here are some tips and exercises to help you begin to heal through writing:
Start simple with a gratitude journal. Every morning or evening, jot down a few things that make you happy or that you’re thankful for. As you write, reflect on these positive things and the good emotions they bring up. Even in the darkest times there are always a few hints of light and hope. Turn towards them to find your way.
Understand that people who write therapeutically are not trying to win a Pulitzer Prize. No judging and no self-editing is allowed, period. There are no rules. Misspellings, poor grammar, clichés, all that is fine. No one ever has to read what you write unless the writer gives that permission. The writer is always in control.
Take a traumatic situation and rewrite it as if it were a brief article in the newspaper. Leave out the opinions and emotions and write only the bare facts of the situation. Removing the feelings can often help us see events in a different, less harmful light.
Write about a time when someone harmed you, but write from the other person’s perspective. This will give you the empathy and compassion you may need to forgive this person and move on.
Burn your words. Vent, rant and rave, say mean, horrible, angry things that you could never really say in real life and then take what you’ve written and set it on fire (safely please). Poof. Now all that bad stuff is gone!
Make a timeline of bad events and then connect them to another timeline of great things that would never have happened if not for the bad things. For instance, my fiancé dumped me which led to me going back to school, which led to me discovering my love of writing and creating a new and better life than I would have had with him anyway.
Write letters. Don’t send them. Trust me on this. Don’t send them.
Write a letter to yourself from your (guardian angel, spirit guide, ancestors, anyone on the other side who you feel can lead and assist you). What kind, loving things would they say to you? What advice might they have?
Write a letter to yourself in the past (even the recent past, no rules remember?) and say all the compassionate, loving, encouraging, forgiving things you possibly can, especially if you have been wishing for someone else to say these things to you and they have not.
Take a situation in which you felt victimized and rewrite it to frame it in a way in which you are empowered through the painful events.
Tell your story in a totally different, fictional genre. Make up worlds and characters. Add magic and fantasy if you want. Horror, science fiction, time travel, whatever. Let your imagination run wild and create something truly unique based on your life.
Always remember that when you write you are releasing pain. With each word you write the past is further behind you. You are in control and you are going to be okay.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Victoria Fedden
Editor: Travis May