Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Writing to Heal: Another Look (Part 1)

Although I've written before about James W. Pennebaker's book, Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval, I've been rereading it because of a new book I'm working on.

And, once again I am struck by how much I agree with Dr. Pennebaker concerning writing about trauma or emotional upheaval in a positive way rather than continuing to dwell on the negative.

Here's what Dr. Pennebaker has to say about this important facet of healing: "Traumatic experiences have the potential to touch every part of our lives in good and bad ways. After a tragedy, for example, people often report that they come away with a stronger sense of social connections, and a rediscovered sense of meaning in their lives. Analysis of various writing samples consistently finds that those people who can express positive emotions while writing about tragic events tend to benefit more from expressive writing."

He continues, "After you've experienced a trauma, people often want you to be happy because your pain is difficult for them to deal with. If you could put on a cheerful upbeat face, they would be more comfortable. But, clearly, such false happiness is not true positive emotion. In this chapter, you will find a number of exercises that may be helpful in encouraging you to draw on some of your deeper reservoir of love, meaning, and contentment. No false grins or cheerfulness is expected (or wanted).

(to be continued)
FYI...Scientific Blogging has an interesting article on the importance of writing things down.
P.S. The graphic is of a woman writing a letter, but I liked it so well that I'm using it anyway.


Wendy Love said...

Hi Susan,
This is interesting. I liked the 'false happiness is not a true positive emotion' phrase. I will continue to watch for more on this topic because you have got my attention!
Wendy Love

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendy,
I'll write more about it next week. But, just to explain it a bit, Pennebaker believes it's really important to write honestly about a trauma or emotional upheaval.

But, if you're going to continue to write about it, he thinks it's important to find new ways to write about it or a different perspective so that you don't continue to dwell on the same story written the same way over and over.

And his research has proven that people who use positive words when written about trauma or upheaveal are more able to heal themselves through writing than those who don't.


Peter Crane said...

Thank you for your information on James W. Pennebaker's book. I found it very helpful.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Peter,
You're welcome. I'll write more about toward the end of next week.