Most writers are aware of the therapeutic nature of writing, but most may be less than willing to admit such writing therapy may be personally beneficial.
Sometimes the writing that is most helpful us on a personal and emotional level is writing that we do not wish to be published. It is highly personal, but can helps us understand something about ourselves.
Leslie Ridgeway and Dale Griffith have seen firsthand the benefits of using writing as a therapy among the women inmates at York Correctional Institute in Connecticut.
These two individuals worked with the women at YCI. They encouraged the inmates to write their inmost thoughts without the threat of condemnation. They discovered there was a sense of healing that took place when these women admitted their hurts in writing.
According to their 2002 report entitled, “Struggles: Writing as healing” Ridgeway and Griffith admit, “Many women had reached the limit of their coping skills… educational staff worried about the women’s mental and physical health and discussed ways to help them cope. A safe port in the emotional storm was needed.”
The ‘Struggles’ program centered around using words to capture their recollections on violence in their lives.
One inmate wrote, “As children we’re taught to respect and obey our parents. Usually I covered with my hands up protecting my face and head. A reaction that I’m sure is a defense mechanism of survival. I didn’t harm my mother, but my physically defensive behavior of pushing her away from me shocked her back into reality. The beatings finally stopped and I was left with the question as to why I hadn’t reacted to her actions years earlier.”
While we seek to identify with the pain the author feels, we also gain a sense for the liberation she feels in finally saying in print what had been bottled up inside for so long.
One unnamed woman who was part of the inmate writing exercise reported, “Seeing our violent experiences in writing is more personal and real – especially when we read them aloud. When I hear myself aloud, I’m relating my experience to someone else, and the emotional feelings, which have often been repressed, hit me.”
As a focused writer it might be assistive to you to take regular time to write something that is simply theraputic. None of us came from perfect situations in life. By writing about your past you may discover a sense of personal freedom and increased freedom to pursue your writing career with less baggage.