My current obsession is writing therapy. I realised that the secret to my recovery from both my eating disorder and my husband’s suicide was that I wrote down my thoughts either here in my blog or in one of my notebooks. I looked into what studies had been done on writing as therapy and uncovered some amazing facts.
The Good Stuff
Over two decades of research devoted to the writing paradigm has resulted in substantial findings that translating emotional events into words leads to profound social, psychological, and neural changes. ~ Pennebaker & Niederhoffer
As people write about an emotionally charged event, they often are forced to label, structure, and organize it in ways they have never had to do. They must also present the information in a linguistic structure, often for the first time, to an ambiguous audience and to themselves. ~ Pennebaker
The intriguing research of Klein and Boals (2001) suggests that one effect of writing may be to free up working memory. In the weeks after writing people are likely thinking less about their traumas and can devote their thoughts to other issues in their lives. ~ Pennebaker
Individuals who confront upsetting experiences in their lives show improvements in physical health relative to control subjects. The individuals who showed the greatest health improvements were those who wrote about topics they had actively held back from telling others. ~ Pennebaker & Glaser
Once an experience has structure and meaning, it would follow that the emotional effects of that experience are more manageable. Constructing stories facilitates a sense of resolution, which results in less rumination and eventually allows disturbing experiences to subside gradually from conscious thought. ~ Pennebaker
Studies show writing about a topic for fifteen minutes just three days in a row creates amazing improvements in clarity of thought and emotional freedom.
The Bad Stuff
The main problem with writing therapy is that in the period immediately after writing about an emotional issue, you can actually feel worse before you feel better. It doesn’t seem like much fun to do something that makes you feel bad.
To solve this problem, I have taken the tools of meditation and NLP and sandwiched them on either side of the writing process. Applying a meditation practice to therapeutic writing encloses it in a safe place. The choice of topic to write about and defining a start and end to the writing experience ensures negative emotions are released immediately. Taking the words written on the page and reshaping them into something else allows the experience to be re-framed through proven NLP practices, improves your creative writing ability and turns your pain into something beautiful worth sharing.
The 6+3-step Writing Therapy Blueprint
It is easier to explain by walking you through the process. I got very witty with the names of the steps so get ready to be impressed.
- enclose – assemble the tools needed for your practice – pen, notebook (or computer program), candle or other item for creating a sacred space, and uninterrupted time.
- repose – clear the mind, breathe and connect to your inner voice. Ask the Universe (or your version of divine power or your higher self) to inspire you and keep you safe.
- propose – decide on a writing topic that feels right for that day. Not everything has to be dredged up and some days lighter is better.
- compose – write continuously for 15 minutes without stopping, correcting or reading back what you’ve written.
- expose – read back what you have written and the identify the themes and emotions. Note what surprises you or where your thoughts lead you.
- close – release the practice, let go of the feelings and finish with gratitude.
You can stop here and get all the benefits of the practice, but for turbo charged transformation do the +3 optional steps.
- transpose (optional) – once your writing has lost its heat (after you’ve written about something a couple of times) re-write it with your head as well as your heart. Find beautiful phrases, write from another perspective, write what you would like instead … the re-framing and creative writing techniques are endless.
- diagnose (optional) – get feedback on your draft piece from other writers.
- disclose (optional) – craft your writing into a blog post or some other form of public expression you can share with others and perhaps change their lives as well as yours.
The Steps Explained
This is a brief synopsis of the 6+3 Writing Therapy process which I will expand in the coming days. I think writing therapy is a very boring name so with some help I’ve come up with an alternative. This process is called Inner Voice Ink and I even made a logo.
I like that IV reminds me of intravenous so think of it as a blood transfusion for your life. It is also the roman numeral for the number four but I can’t think of anything deep and meaning about that just yet …
What I like about this whole process is that it is a concrete tangible action that will have positive results in your life. You are telling me you struggle with knowing what to do, having confidence in yourself and feeling good enough. This practice will help you get to know and trust your inner voice and be proud of who you are. Cathartic, curative and creative.
What are your questions or your experience with writing? Let me know so we can explore this together.