The Healing Properties of Writing by Claire Hutton

One of the early skills we learn is how to write, and writing can be used as a means of self-expression. Writing can release emotion, allow us to explore it in a variety of situations, creating distance, freedom and clarity. People find that by tapping into their inner creativity through writing, whether it be completely escapism based, or working through events from their past, it can help with self-development. All over the world, there are movements that champion this method of self-exploration, groups that facilitate creative writing. Projects such as My Heroines (of which Laura is a founding member and workshop leader) which provides an outlet for self-development for women in which they can explore their creativity through storytelling, creative writing and drama.

Art and Literature as means of Therapy

Many of us have heard of Art Therapy – where patients use art, drawings and sculpting to express themselves and heal. This contemporary form of recovery has been recognised as a form of alternative and holistic therapy. People have long kept diaries and journals and found that writing things down does alleviate pain and suffering in some way. Now, there is exploration into the prospects of writing as a form of therapy too. In the 1960s a psychologist from New York called Dr. Ira Progoff offered workshops integrating the use of journals to record thoughts and feelings, and found this helped patients to better understand themselves.

Writing in Order To Heal

A recent review from Psychology Today agreed that writing could also be used as an excellent therapeutic tool. The article by Adrian Furnham, Ph.D discussed how memoirs have been written and shared as a way of healing a traumatic past and entertaining people in the process. And memoirs can inspire others. Through literature, a healing experience for others is passed on. Writing can help people struggling with all kinds of issues. People with addiction issues who attend twelve-step programs find that writing is a huge part of the healing experience throughout. Drugabuse.com details how “Twelve-step programs have been around the longest and have demonstrated a great deal of success”. Here writing is used is as a way of working through the steps and seeing in black and white the issues that have contributed to abusive behaviours.

The Importance of Writing for Learning

Some of the best literature has stemmed from diary writing, autobiography and memoirs. The Diary of Anne Frank is a striking account and a prominent and crucial piece of historical literature. There have been other famous memoirs, such as Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Augusten Burroughs’ Running With Scissors, which have shaped many people’s lives and provided catharsis for the authors.

An article earlier this year from the Huffington Post detailed how writing a memoir could actually make you happier. The article went on to suggest that although the author didn’t like to admit it, she did find writing therapeutic. Memoir writing, she discussed, became a process that allowed her to connect with her authentic, true self and get in touch with her own vulnerability.

The fantastic thing about writing is that anyone can do it. Most people have had very interesting lives and when recounting experiences, it becomes evident how these experiences have shaped them into the person they are. It does not matter f this material is only destined for the author’s eyes only.

Therefore, it seems that both writing and reading literature demonstrates healing properties.  It is helpful to acknowledge what a great source of help memoir can be in overcoming trauma, aiding self-development and providing information and enjoyment for people from all walks of life.

 

 

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Perspective

Books, including some of my own

Books, including some of my own

Over the past month or so, especially with a new book out (the other writer in me), I have been fretting about reception, reviews and sales. And plot points and character motivation in my current WIP. I’ll add that along with the worrying I have been working to improve my chances of success in the areas I have a modicum of control over. But last night I had a salutary reminder of how lucky I am; not as a writer per se, although I do consider myself fortunate, but in life.

14-year-old Ginger1 is doing his bronze Duke of Edinburgh award and for the community/ volunteering aspect he was clear from the outset that he wanted to work with homeless people. This wasn’t going to be easy to arrange, especially given his age, but we are fortunate in that I have a loose connection to a charity that runs a soup kitchen, Safe Haven. After some time away – weeks without a babysitter to care for Ginger2 while we’re out, followed by a holiday in Italy – last night we went into the centre of town to offer our services once again.

During the summer months a charity linked with Safe Haven prepares and distributes hot meals from a food van on the car park outside St Peter’s Church in Brighton. Throughout the rest of the year, during term time, Safe Haven provide a two-course sit-down meal inside the church. Between the two organisations, on average 100 guests are fed every Saturday evening, 52 weeks a year, and last night was no exception. We prepared a supper of potato salad and a BLT (with a veggie option) followed by cake and as many cups of tea, coffee or hot chocolate as guests can drink. At one point the queue was enormous – bacon can’t be rushed – and one guest became very agitated. He tried to jump the queue and in so doing upset others. He shouted and yelled and waved his arms about; he’d been drinking, as had many others. Ginger1 looked alarmed. A charity staple went over to calm the man who was now on the verge of crying. It became apparent that he was street homeless – most are poorly housed, in insecure homes or trapped in a cycle of addiction and poverty – and he’d not eaten for three days. Three days.

Our well-stocked fridge

Our well-stocked fridge

Once he was relaxed, we gave him his supper and all was well. After a couple of hours Ginger1 and I returned to our comfortable home, with our well stocked fridge and cupboards. And we talked about how it must feel not to eat for days; how confused you might feel, how desperate, how grumpy; why you might drink alcohol or take drugs to ease and numb the pain. How lonely and isolating it can be living on the streets. Barely three hours pass without nourishment of some description passing my boys’s (and my own) mouths.

I reflected on my own worries and concerns. How small and insignificant they are in the scale of things, by comparison to the daily struggles of so many people. Ginger1 is getting such a lot out of volunteering, helping and talking with people whose life experience is far removed from his own. And though I began as chaperone, I am getting as much out of the experience as he is. Books might nourish the mind and soul, but without food in your belly you’re receptive to little.

I am lucky and I am grateful for my good fortune. Enough said.

If you’d like to donate to Safe Haven, please click here.