When we have an upsetting or difficult experience in our lives, we can sometimes:
- suppress the most difficult feelings associated with that experience
- be unable to fully process what happened
- allow that experience and our feelings about it to become the central focus of our life
As a result, internally we can become emotionally stuck and unable to move past what has happened to us. Perhaps we relive the events over and over in our minds, or we begin to avoid certain things or people in an effort to prevent something happening again. Very often we end up in a cycle of thoughts, feelings and actions that contribute to remaining stuck in that place.
Writing can help with that. Journaling and expressive writing, particularly alongside talking therapies like counselling, can help us to begin to come unstuck.
Expressive writing is simply writing that supports us to express our feelings. When we purposefully sit down to engage in this kind of writing, our rational right side of the brain is absorbed in finding the right words to put on the page to express our feelings about what has happened to us. This leaves our more creative left side of our brain free to engage with thoughts and play. Without the usual control of our inner censor, the left side of our brain is able to act more creatively and we may find ourselves coming up with unexpected images and ideas. These may flow on to our page, giving us greater clarity and understanding about issues that were troubling us.
The more we write, the freer we feel, unburdening from the emotions that were bottled up internally. As Anne Lister said:
“What a comfort is this journal. I tell myself to myself and throw the burden on my book and feel relieved.”