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Words Unleashed

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A blog by Anne Belden, MS, PCC, November 13, 2014

Did you ever have one of those diaries with the gold edges and a tiny key? I loved mine, it was red and when I opened it, I had access to my greatest longings and secrets, such as they were at age 10. My biggest fear was my brothers finding it.

Well, we’ve grown up and so have our journals, but the heart of it remains: to put words on paper is a way to access our own inner worlds, connecting ourselves to ourselves. In speaking, we are heard first by others, in writing we are heard first by ourselves. Thus, our penned word has the power to free our voices from the silencing effects of judgement.

Franz Kafka said: “ Writing is an axe with which to break the frozen sea within”……. I agree!

Writing can be both healing and a form of “psychic preventive maintenance”. We can count on our own written word to build trust with our inner knowings, ideas and beliefs. Writing can be paced, and thus encourages the mind to slow and listen to the body. One study showed that immune cells were livelier for weeks following intentional writing experiments. Another showed that people who write regularly have fewer doctor visits.

But how to begin?

Well, you can always just take your shiny new journal and put thoughts on paper, or you can do one of many guided writing exercises. Here is one that I developed, drawn from the research of James Pennebaker, PhD, whose original work focused on the health effects of confession. He conducted writing experiments with prisoners. I have re-worked his process and call mine:

“My Unspoken Worst Fertility Trauma”. Follow these steps:

  • Get in a quiet space and comfy position with your new grown up journal
  • Think of your hardest fertility moment (procedure, appointment,conversation,etc) that you tumble around over and over
  • Now write about it for 20 minutes - no worrying about grammar, spelling or how it sounds, just let loose your deepest, heartfelt thoughts and feelings
  • Be sure to focus on your feelings at the time, and what you are feeling now as you write, not just what happened.
  • Do this for 4 days - this is important. On the first, you might notice an increase of anger, sadness or grief, or even new feelings you hadn’t known were simmering. By the last day, see if you notice a sense of calm, clarity, or resolution settle in.

And then, after your four days of writing, if your pen has found itself and is aching to continue, I’d love to hear about your experience! What was this writing like for you ?