At my another blog, VisionCrafter, which focuses on my spirituality, I wrote a piece titled “Writing as a spiritual practice”; I want to encourage writing on this blog as a tool of recovery. Of course, recovery is a spiritual process as it transforms you and draws on inner resources that are not readily seen through our intellectual lens. But I want to highlight the pivotal place that written storytelling can play in our healing from trauma. These stories can take many forms: from sketchy journal entries to fleshed out autobiographies. Telling our stories is powerful medicine because it starts the unraveling of secrecy and denial that allows abuse to flourish. It also validates your experiences and for those that live with dissociation or PTSD, it helps bring cohesion to what may feel like a fragmented mind.
I see this over and over at the intensive outpatient trauma program which I participate(d) in for support groups. One of the initial milestones a person works toward in their process is to deliver their autobiography to the group. People can write this in any form that is meaningful to them. Yours truly wrote a novella (are you surprised?) but others wrote journal entry type stories , while others read from an itemized bullet point list. No matter what form the writing takes, every person experiences deep emotional release in this process. And we are usually surprised with what comes up. It is like a personal archaeology of our psyches. For when you excavate the dirt and debris of secrecy, fantasies of how you wished things were and victim blaming, our stories, told by us, reveal the treasure of our innocence. And then we can embrace ourselves in that state and care for the wounding to that fragile part of self. It begins to shift of power back to ourselves, instead of our abusers.
This type of personal work is intense and I do not recommend it be taken up without a helper and when we are not strong enough. There is a time and place in your recovery for that kind of work. But it points to the power of writing. We can also use writing privately for our own clarity and exercises of empowerment. I do recommend journal writing for all trauma survivors. You can make your journal reflect your personality and use it in a way that is helpful to the life you are creating. I used my personal journals as testing grounds for uttering my secrets when the mere thought of coming out as an incest survivor or hate crime survivor filled me with crippling fear. It was so scary to even commit the words to paper; but it was a first step. I kept journals for decades before I ever came to the point I am in with my recovery now, one in which I put my trauma-related writing out publicly in an effort to help others. You do not have to have that aim; it can remain a personal tool. That is just part of my path.
If you are a trauma survivor and the thought of writing anything down about your story terrifies you (and believe me, I still go through this reaction at times), please befriend yourself enough to create a safe space for you to write what needs to be witnessed. You can destroy it afterwards if you need to. Emotional safety necessitates you have the privacy you deserve and that you not make yourself vulnerable to unworthy,unhelpful people; so use your best judgement if sharing. Words are powerful tools in manifesting the life you desire. They can release hurtful emotions and call in healing. So, write on!
* I offer handmade cards like this one at my Etsy shop here. I enjoy making cards as an art form but I put energy into card making because I am a fan of handwritten sentiment between friends.