Tag: writing for healing

Writing About a Traumatic Experience

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Writing has always been therapeutic for me. There’s no question that writing can be very helpful to your well-being, but it can be a great help specifically in processing traumatic experiences. Many times it can help you untangle very confused thoughts that are enmeshed with emotions. It can help you gain perspective. Sometimes it helps you uncover more memories that you didn’t even know you have, and somehow it’s a lot like clearing out a blockage so that you can move forward.

Based on experience, I would recommend a few things before you delve in.

Don’t force it. Sometimes you’re just not quite ready to confront your emotions yet. It’s okay. Don’t traumatize yourself in the process of understanding your trauma. Sometimes after a traumatic experience, it’s all you can do to face the challenges of living day to day. Give yourself a break if you can’t do anything beyond that yet.

Write as little as you want at first. Some people think that writing about your trauma is like opening the floodgates. Many times, you don’t end up holed up in a cabin, feverishly writing the days away. More often than not it starts out with just a few lines a day. Testing out the waters, seeing how you feel about it. This is especially true if you don’t really write too much anyway. Even if you love to write, don’t be disappointed with yourself if all you can manage to write are two sentences.

Learn to stop when you need to stop. When you become emotionally overwhelmed, stop and put down the pen. You can push past some walls today, but part of taking care of yourself is knowing that there are walls to be conquered another time.

Be honest. Don’t worry about your grammar, or your prose. Nobody’s going to edit your journal. Just be honest when you write. The first time I wrote about my trauma, the words felt strange coming out of me and onto the blank paper. But then you should be able to write candidly for yourself, right? You should be honest with yourself through your own writing. What have you got to lose, anyway?

Seek counseling. I wouldn’t recommend writing as the only therapy. It’s just something you can do to help yourself. While the benefits can be tremendous, there are simply some kinds of trauma that will necessitate you talking with a counselor.

Re-engage. Writing is a very lonely exercise. It’s just you and your thoughts. It’s good to re-engage or reconnect with people too, when you feel that it’s right to do so. Isolating yourself for too long while recovering can be harmful.

I found it strange that writing about a trauma has helped me think less about it. I find myself not repeating the memory over and over in my mind anymore. It’s like my brain stopped skipping on a broken track and was finally able to engage the memory in a more helpful, less destructive way. It’s like the end of a hostage taking drama that was only happening inside my head.

Just a quick note, though. Not everybody responds to therapeutic writing the same way. It’s not the silver bullet that will make all pain go away. For many people though, like me, it’s been tremendously helpful.

A Cabin in the Woods

Here’s my gratitude journal entry for today.

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Sometimes you live for the moments when the fog lifts and you find a cabin in the woods. A hot, welcoming meal, friendly faces, an invitation to stay for a while. If you persist long enough, you may just find that eventually, the fog descends a lot less often than it used to, and you can see farther ahead.

If you’re not there yet, just hold on to the hope of a few moments of clarity and respite. Keep walking, keep reaching out.

Tips on Keeping a Dream Journal

My mom introduced me to dream journals many, many years back when I still struggled with recurring nightmares. My recurring nightmares stopped 22 years ago (yes, I remember it clearly) and I’ve all but forgotten my dream journals. I’ve recently restarted them. This time, though, I don’t have a separate journal for it anymore.

Dream journals help you remember what you dreamed about and explore your thoughts and feelings about those dreams. In some cases where emotional or psychological trauma is involved, keeping a dream journal can be very helpful in processing what you’re going through. It certainly was for me as a child. Some therapists encourage people to keep a dream journal precisely for this purpose.

Here are a few things that were helpful for me, and hopefully they can be helpful for others who want to start their own dream journals too.

Write your dream down as soon as you wake up
I usually keep a notepad on a table beside the bed so that I can write down certain details about my dream if I wake up in the middle of the night or in the morning. As much as you try to remember things later in the day, you’ll forget most of it if you don’t write it down as soon as you wake up. I jot down short notes that will help me remember my dream later–places, people, conversations–and then take the time to write a longer journal entry afterwards.

Be mindful of recurring themes
For the longest time, the recurring theme of my childhood dreams was trying to run away and my legs would refuse to move. The story would be different but this would always be the common thread–failed escape.

Note down how you felt while dreaming
I always note down what I felt inside the dream. Was I happy? Was I sad? Did I feel pursued? Did I feel safe? You might not be able to remember the tiny details that make up  your dream, but you can at least remember this and jot it down as soon as you can.

Note down how you felt as you woke up
“I woke up feeling…” has always been a part of my dream journals. There are even dreams that affect how we feel for the rest of the day. I write all of that down because it could be helpful in processing how your dream affected your emotions afterwards.

Don’t just focus on bad dreams
There are happy dreams too. Write them down as much as you write the bad ones. You’ll find this part of keeping a dream journal to  be very interesting. Write down interesting ideas, colorful symbolism, striking words in conversations. Sometimes you get the best, most creative ideas while you’re asleep.

Of course there are journals in the market being sold as “dream journals”, but I personally believe that you don’t need that too much. All you need is to remember as much as of your dream as you can and just explore it afterwards by writing. Sometimes, memories come to the surface as I explore my thoughts on the dreams that I write about.

Give it a try! You might find it helpful. 🙂