22
Aug

Why I Do What I Do

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Time and time again I have learned, and been reminded again, not to judge others.  When you pass them on the street, meet them in the supermarket, or even socially, you can never know just what trials or horrors the people around you may have experienced.   Because I work in expressive writing, I know this: “Research has demonstrated that the inhibition or avoidance of negative emotions (Gross & Levenson, 1997) and the suppression of thoughts (Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000) lead to heightened physiological arousal, negative mood, and impaired cognition.”  In other words, it ain’t healthy!   Expressive writing has been found to provide therapeutic benefits for those in distress.

In “talk therapy” therapists ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening.  But not everyone can access or afford that sort of help.  Besides, it takes years!  But most people can afford a notebook, and a library card.   Through expressive writing, and “bibliotherapy”, we can initiate the conversations that count.  These methods allow my clients to open up what the brilliant poetry therapist, Peggy Osna Heller, lovingly calls their “shpinalzos” (that’s where we store all our “stuff”), and give them an opportunity to express themselves, and to talk about what’s eating them.  We can “make the invisible visible”, she says, by providing “words for what is known only in images and images for what is not known yet”.

I’ve been thinking along these lines for some time now, using movies, music, archetype, heroic myth, fairy tales, poems, short stories, women’s literature (both “classic” and “chick-lit”).  It’s fun for me; it’s fun for my clients; it allows them to express a lot of “angst”; and it’s healing!

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