"Susan, I gave this post a lot of thought. I know what your mean about searching for the positive, even in times of sadness. In my experience with others sometimes that can be at a very slow pace and the person may remain sad or mad for some time before being in a place to find the positive. When I have been with someone who has a profound trauma or loss there is value in them having permission to work through those feelings with the faith and guidance that the positive will come in its own time. What do you think Susan? Great post. Peace Annie"
Actually, Annie, the first assignment Dr. James W. Pennebaker gives to college students and writes about in his book Writing to Heal is to write without thinking about words at all. "Remember that this is the first of four days of emotional writing. For today's work, your goal is to write about your deepest thoughts and feelings about the trauma or emotional upheaval that has been influencing your life the most. In your writing, really let go and explore the event and how it has affected you. For today, it may be beneficial to write about the event itself, how you felt when it was occurring, and how you feel about it now.
"As you write about this event, you might begin to tie it to other parts of your life. For example, how is it related to your childhood and your relationship with your parents and family members? How is it connected to those people you have most loved, feared, or been angry at? How is this upheaval related to your current life? About all, how is this event related to who you were in the past, who you would like to be in the future, and who are are now?
"In today's writing, it is particularly important that you really let go and examine your deepest emotions and thoughts surrounding this upheaval in your life. Remember to write continuously the entire twenty minutes. And never forget that this writing is for you and you alone."
So, I think that the post yesterday--about the importance of positive emotions--was just something that Pennebaker and his research team learned. He believes that dwelling on negative events isn't positive. Over time, that's why he came up with an exercise that take four days--or he recommends that you can write once a week for four weeks.
But, when you're done, he recommends that you move on to other topics. He feels that continuing to dwell on the negative won't make you feel good. However, focusing on the negative for a limited time frame is a critical act of healing.
So, Annie, while it took me years to deal with how angry I was about the treatment I received for this illness, I do see Pennebaker's point. In my case, I used writing to heal as a way to withstand feeling so terribly ill for so long. But, I know people who have had abusive childhoods and it seems that the more they dwell on it, the worse they feel.
You have a much better sense than I do about the value of dealing with this in therapy. But I tend to think that at some point, people have to move on in order to heal. Still, perhaps those readers who have experienced trauma and/or abuse might weigh in with their opinions on this.
Annie, thanks for your thoughts on this topic; I think this is an important discussion.
* * *Dear Readers,
Friday is the the 4th of July and in case you don't live in the United States and don't know this, it's a national holiday. I'll be taking a three-day weekend and returning on Monday. I hope everyone has a happy and healthy weekend!