Blog Post by – Steve Tanner, PathwaysToIntegration.com

After someone experiences something shocking or traumatic they may say something like , “I don’t know what I think or feel!” Or “I can’t even say how I feel!” Can you relate? By ‘trauma’ we can include an unexpected death of a loved one, sexual assault, burglary, job loss, divorce, house foreclosure, major illness or any life-changing event.

When people experience traumas their emotions and thoughts often get scrambled. It’s very difficult to connect what they are feeling and thinking now with the life they knew.  Their feelings now do not fit into how they understood their lives and the world before. The stories of who they are, their stories, do not have the language or the context to integrate their new emotions. In Writing Ourselves Whole, Jen Cross (a fabulous book) puts it like this (p4) , “Trauma lives in us in individual ways; through trauma, our relationship with language is ruptured.  What happened to us makes no sense because we cannot find words, because there are no right words to make anyone else understand.” and (p5) “Part of what makes an experience traumatic is that we are without sufficient language to convey to others what has happened to us. We are at a loss for words. Words fail us.”

Many people are simply ‘broken’ and don’t know how to start again. People can remain this way for years if not decades. It’s true – we don’t always know how to feel or think.  Our voices go silent because we don’t have the words.  Our stories seem to have been truncated and stopped.

And so one wonders, how is it possible to heal again? How is it possible to feel, speak and live again? Without language to tell people what’s inside us and without the context to glue our previous life to our current life, how do we tell others who we are and what we feel? How can life ever make sense again?

Many researchers and writers are confident that daily writing exercises can help people recover from life traumas and emotional upheavals. Psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker (University of Texas, Austin) has been researching since the 1980’s how writing helps many people heal. In his book Opening Up by Writing it Down Pennebaker says (p65),  “Once we can distill complex experiences into more understandable packages, we can begin to move beyond them. Writing, then, organizes upheavals.”  Also in Writing as a Way of Healing Louise DeSalvo (another fabulous book!) says (p43), “We receive a shock or a blow or experience a trauma in our lives. In exploring it, examining it, and putting it into words, we stop seeing it as a random, unexplained event. We begin to understand the order behind appearances…. Expressing it in language robs the event of its power to hurt us; it also assuages our pain.”

How and why does writing seem to have this effect? It’s because when we write we are prompting our inner God given intuition to speak again. Through writing we prompt our own inner voice to speak again. Through writing we begin to relate what our feelings to what happened using our own language. Through writing we can find and express continuity from our life before to our life now.

Another powerful aspect about writing is that it is completely personal and very private. With writing you don’t have to feel or say what others want you to feel and say. You are free to express whatever you feel or think. Nobody else ever needs to know what you are putting down on paper. There is great power in this because people can rediscover in private the power of their own voice to bring order to their lives again. This is the place where healing takes a foothold and begins to grow.

More and more people are coming to understand the power of writing. It is private and personal. It can empower your voice to find the words to explain and make sense of life’s upheavals. It can reconnect fractured feelings and emotions. Many people have benefitted from picking up a pen privately, with a coach or in groups.  Of course, writing does not work the same for everyone.  Yet many people have found great solace in writing their feelings and thoughts about events they have experienced.

Who knew that something we learned in grade school could help heal us? I see writing as simply this: it is a way to commune with ourselves to find context and continuity again. I lead workshops and groups and can coach people privately about how to use different writing techniques to jump start and grow this process.

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Steve Tanner (MDiv, CNSF, CTREP , CC) is a  Certified Neurosculpting® Facilitator, a Certified TRE Provider and a Life & Transformation Coach. Steve believes in the power of using writing and Meditation as tools for exploring your creativity as well as finding healing and transformation. For info about workshops and seminars contact pathwaystointegration@gmail.com.