Monday, August 17, 2009

Telling Our Untold Stories

Years ago I read Dr. James W. Pennebaker's first book, Opening Up: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others, and interviewed him for my book, The Mommy Guide. The following quote made a huge impact.
"We don't need to talk to others to tell our untold stories. Nonetheless, our untold thoughts and feelings should, in some way, be verbalized. Whether we talk into a tape recorder or write on a magic pad, translating our thoughts into language is psychologically physically beneficial. When people write about major upheavals, they begin to organize and understand them. Writing about the thoughts and feelings associated with traumas, then, forces individuals to bring together the many facets of overwhelmingly complicated events. Once people can distill complex experienced into more understandable packages, they can begin to move beyond the trauma."
But, there is another side to Dr. Pennebaker's research that I feel is equally important, and one that I think most people either don't understand or don't follow. What he writes is this:
"Writing resolves traumas that stand in the way of important tasks. Following major upheavals, people tend to obsess about them. In thinking about the traumas, and even in trying not to think about them, individuals use a great deal of their thinking capacity. Hence, they become forgetful and cannot sustain their attention on large new tasks. Writing about traumas helps to organize the traumas, thereby freeing the mind to deal with other tasks."
What this means to me, and what I think Dr. Pennebaker believes is that it's important to move on from trauma in order to heal. Any thoughts?

10 comments:

iHanna said...

I'm waiting for a post on journaling #2 (but I think you should do like you said and only write about things that is important to you and not your readers here), because i'm such a sucker for diary writing. this post and what this guy is saying is really interesting for a diary writer, don't you agree? we tend to write about lots of things in our life, but maybe even avoiding the traumas and reasons for them in our private writing, it's so difficult and causes pain even when writing about it? i know that is true for me. I wish i know what to write to solve my own issues! :-)

Great quotes, thanks for sharing them.

Tamara (TC) said...

Susan,

I agree that moving on from trauma is needed for true healing. I find journaling does exactly what your post says which is to help me organize my thoughts so that I can better understand what I am feeling.

This was interesting. My husband HATES to journal. He was talking to his therapist about it and his therapist said that journaling can actually be detrimental to some people because they spend time writing things that make them feel worse.

I had never heard this and has always believed that journaling could be beneficial to everyone.

Hope that you are enjoying your summer and your garden. My first attempt at gardening was a failure but I haven't given up.

Hugs,
Tamara

Wellness Writer said...

Dear iHanna,
So glad to hear from you. It's been so long. And, thanks for reminding me that I didn't finish writing that post about journaling.

I'm not sure if there's a difference between writing a diary and writing about trauma, but I'll try to research it, and let you know.

For myself, I find it's really important to write about things that are bothering me because it enables me to figure them out.

And when I was so sick for so many years, it seemed like I wrote about it forever, because I was working on a book--before I started writing my blog.

But, now, I feel like all of that is in the past and while I occasionally write about it to make a point or because someone asks me to write about a related topic, it doesn't make me feel good to drudge up the past.

Thanks so much for commenting on this and offering your point of view. Hope you're doing well!

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tamara,
So good to hear from you. I've dropped by your blog a number of times, but you still weren't blogging. Perhaps you are now, and I'll check again.

In Pennebaker's second book, Writing to Heal, he discusses that it isn't healthy to dwell on things. But, as I wrote to iHanna, I'm not sure if it's different when you're writing a journal.

My garden is a miracle to me, and so enjoyable. A few nights ago, we ate the first cucumber I had harvested. I have to laugh that I'm finding it all so pleasurable on a daily basis.

Hope you're doing well, and again, I'm so glad to hear from you. Thanks for commenting on this.

Susan

Tamara (TC) said...

Susan,

Thanks for caring enough to continue to check back with my blog. When I left, I left! I did just post a notice that I will be focusing on my fiction writing for the next year and not posting at Desire to Heal. I will be posting periodically at http://tcstaples.blogspot.com. I don't want the responsibility of regular posts or the restriction of topic that came with Desire to Heal. I also realized that for all of its idiosyncrasies, blogger is much easier for me to use than wordpress.

I can imagine your excitement at using your first cucumber. Just watching the stuff sprout was amazing! I will prepare the ground better, plant earlier, hopefully not have 107 degree days and not be on vacation for 2 weeks next time I plant a garden! LOL!

There is something magical about knowing that you are growing your own food! I am glad that you are still enjoying it so much.

Hugs,
Tamara

mmaaggnnaa said...

All I can say, Susan, is AMEN!

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)
http://mmaaggnnaa.wordpress.com/

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tamara,
I have to laugh. Yes, as my gardening teacher said, "Soil is the most important thing." Then, she said, "Watering is the most important thing." So, if you had a problem with both, it's not surprising your "crop" didn't take hold!

But, I'm sure you'll have better success when you try again. And, I'm so glad to hear you're still writing--whether it's an occasional post or a work of fiction!

I wish you the very best!

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marie,
Thanks for saying it!

Susan

Tamara (TC) said...

Susan,

Yes, that is pretty funny! I can see that soil and water are pretty darned important - LOL. We did set up a timer to keep it watered while we were gone but it is hard to tell a timer to adjust for weather conditions. It is okay. I had enough success that I am excited to try again and put more effort into it the next time.

Warmly,
Tamara

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tamara,
You're right. Going on vacation in the middle of your "crop season" would be problematic at best. But, I think that whenever you plant again, it will be a good experience.

Warmly,
Susan