Writing that both describes traumatic events in detail and also examines how we felt about these events at the time and feel about them now (describing both negative and positive emotions), is the only kind of writing about trauma that clinically has been associated with improved health . And this is accomplished in Pennebaker’s (Dr. James Pennebaker of the University of Texas) experiments by only one hour of writing – fifteen minutes a day – over a four-day period. Later studies showed that the more days people wrote the more beneficial were the effects of writing. Dr. Pennebaker’s work is compelling. I knew nothing about it during the years when I was working on When the Piano Stops, my own memoir of recovering from incest (and Never Tell: The True Story of Overcoming a Terrifying Childhood, which was the title given its best-selling, UK print). From time to time during those years, my beloved uncle, who had a very limited understanding about what’s involved in healing from childhood sexual abuse, expressed concern about my continually revisiting the most horrifying experiences of my life. The information in this blog would have been great to share with him at that time, but of course I couldn’t. Today, however, I have the opportunity to share it with you, and I do so with the hope that if you’re a survivor of child abuse you’ll take it to heart, gather your internal resources, your memory, your pain, and your creativity, and write on! By Catherine McCall, MS, LMFT http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-child-abuse/201209/how-and-why-writing-heals-wounds-child-abuse
We must be content to grow slowly.
Most of us will still barely be
at the beginning of our recovery
by the time we die.
But that is better than killing
ourselves pretending to be healthy.
There is a profound connection between writing and healing. Dr.James Pennebaker of the University of Texas, after considerable research, explained in his book, Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, that excessive holding back of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can place people at risk for both major and minor diseases. More than simply a catharsis or venting, translating events into language can affect brain and immune functions. The subjects he tested had an increase in germ-fighting lymphocytes in their blood and lower stress levels. Writing was found to reduce anxiety and depression, improve grades in college, and aid people in finding jobs. He also reported that months after people had written about traumas over 70% reported that writing helped them to understand both the event and themselves better. Writing provides a means to externalize traumatic experience and therefore render it less overwhelming. At the same time, as the upsetting experience is repeatedly confronted, the emotional reactivity one feels as s/he assesses its meaning and impact is weakened. Once organized, traumatic events become smaller and smaller and therefore easier to deal with. Having distilled complex experiences into more understandable packages, survivors can begin to move beyond trauma because the process of writing about it provides a means for the experience to become psychologically complete, therefore there’s no more reason to ruminate about it. But not just any kind of writing will do. Dr.Pennebaker explains that the more writing succeeds as narrative – by being detailed, organized, compelling, vivid, and lucid – the more health and emotional benefits are derived. Likewise, over time, the work of inhibiting traumatic narratives and feelings acts as an ongoing stressor and gradually undermines the body’s defenses. By Catherine McCall, MS, LMFT http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-child-abuse/201209/how-and-why-writing-heals-wounds-child-abuse
A journal is a tool for self-discovery,
an aid to concentration, a mirror for the soul,
a place to generate and capture ideas,
a safety valve for the emotions,
a training ground for the writer,
and a good friend and confident.
5. Feel some kindness toward your ex. “The most potent step you can take in your own healing,” Piver [Susan Piver in her book, The Wisdom of a Broken Heart"] writes, “is to extend loving kindness to your ex.” Although that seems counter-intuitive and next to impossible, the process of extending your heart to someone whom you have no intention of loving ever again, she says, can actually bring feelings of stability and peace to your inner mind. You don’t need to forgive or forget your ex’s past transgressions or stay in touch. (In fact, Piver says it’s a good idea to de-friend him on Facebook to keep from obsessing about his every move.) Your focus should be on letting go of anger. Piver recommends sitting in a quiet, comfortable place and spending a few minutes wishing yourself well—may I be happy, healthy, peaceful, accepting of myself—before wishing your ex the same. Remember that no matter how badly he treated you, he has the same longing as you: to find love and be happy.
6. Write the story of your relationship. Do it from the third-person point of view in three different writing sessions. First, tell about how this woman/man met this man/woman and how they fell in love. Then write about the love story and how it started going south. Finally, tell the story of the breakup: She said this; he did that. “Just taking that step back and looking at your circumstance as if you were describing someone else may sound silly, but it helps you bring a very valuable perspective,” says Piver. “And it also helps you look at your story from the stance of someone who’s OK instead of someone who’s embroiled in agony.” You might also gain some valuable revelations: what you miss about the relationship and what you don’t. By Deborah Kotz, Angela Haupt http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/03/22/8-steps-to-mend-a-broken-heart
Every man has his secret sorrows
which the world knows not;
and often times we call a man cold
when he is only sad.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
There is a major characteristic about depression that we must always be aware of when turning our minds to fighting and defeating it. Depression feeds on itself. In other words, we get depressed and then we get more depressed about being depressed. Negative thoughts become automatic and are difficult for us to challenge. Being in a state of depression can then, itself, become a bigger problem than the difficulties that caused it in the first place. We need to break the hold that the depression has on us. Depression can manifest in many different ways and we don’t always realize what’s going on because the problems seem to be physical, not mental. Perhaps we tell ourselves we are simply feeling tired or affected by the weather. To recognize depression in ourselves, a friend or a loved one, read through the list below which are the most common signs. Identifying with more than three of these makes depression highly likely. Richard Gosling http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/recognising-and-overcoming-depression
* Being restless and agitated.
* Having difficulty sleeping, or feeling tired and lacking energy.
* Realizing that we are doing less and less.
* Self-harming or being occupied with thoughts of suicide.
* Developing physical aches and pains with no physical cause.
* Not deriving pleasure out of things which we usually enjoy doing.
* Blaming ourselves and feelings of guilt about day-to-day actions.
* Loss of self-confidence and a preoccupation with negative thoughts.
* Using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs more than usual.
* Not eating properly and losing or putting on weight.
* Noticing that we have started to cry a lot.
* Being unusually irritable or impatient.
* Loss of interest in sex.
* Finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions.
* A sense of feeling numb, empty, despairing or helpless.
* Having difficulty remembering things.
* Feeling low-spirited for much of the time, every day.
* Distancing ourselves from our friends and not asking for help.
* Taking a bleak, pessimistic view of the future.
Depression is nourished by a lifetime
of un-grieved and un-forgiven hurts.
Robin Norwood, in her book “Women Who Love Too Much”outlines a ten step plan for overcoming relationship addiction. While this book is directed toward women, its principles are equally valid for men. Stated here (reordered and sometimes paraphrased), Norwood suggests the following:
1- Make your “recovery” the first priority in your life.
2- Become “selfish,” i.e., focus on getting your own needs met more effectively.
3- Courageously face your own problems and shortcomings.
4- Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself, i.e., fill in gaps that have made you feel undeserving or bad about yourself.
5- Learn to stop managing and controlling others; by being more focused on your own needs, you will no longer need to seek security by trying to make others change.
6- Develop your “spiritual” side, i.e., find out what brings you peace and serenity and commit some time, at least half an hour daily, to that endeavor.
7- Learn not to get “hooked” into the games of relationships; avoid dangerous roles you tend to fall into, e.g., “rescuer” (helper), “persecutor” (blamer), “victim” (helpless one).
8- Find a support group of friends who understand.
9- Share with others what you have experienced and learned.
10- Consider getting professional help.
When to Seek Professional Help
A- When you are very unhappy in a relationship but are unsure of whether you should accept it as it is, make further efforts to improve it, or get out of it.
B- When you have concluded that you should end a relationship, have tried to make yourself end it, but remain stuck.
C- When you suspect that you are staying in a relationship for the wrong reasons, such as feelings of guilt or fear of being alone, and you have been unable to overcome the paralyzing effects of such feelings.
D- When you recognize that you have a pattern of staying in bad relationships and that you have not been able to change that pattern by yourself.
Indifference and neglect
often do much more damage
than outright dislike.
It takes time to overcome lifelong patterns of codependency, and the process often involves “two steps forward, and one step back.” But there are several specific steps you can take to break out of an ingrained codependent style. The first step is to face the problem honestly. Chances are, you have rationalized and justified and even spiritualized your codependent style. Now is the time to face it head-on. For someone who has spent a lifetime using denial to ward off pain, shame, or fear of rejection, this can be a terrifying experience. You will need support from people who can provide safe relationships that allow you to be emotionally honest on your journey. Support groups with other people on a similar road of recovery often provide more support for recovering from codependency than family and friends because members of these groups know what it is like to struggle with these issues. (http://coda.org/) One way to begin breaking through denial is to seriously consider the experiences that have contributed to your codependency. Most often this involves exploring significant aspects of your family history. Because codependents have learned to cope by disconnecting from their inner emotions, this exploration cannot be simply an intellectual exercise. It must involve a process of coming to terms with your actual feelings as a child. It also means being completely honest about your family of origin. Jason T. Li. Ph.D. http://lifecounsel.org/pub_li_overcomingCodependency.html
Stop trying to hold onto your past,
you can’t start the next chapter of your life
if you keep re-reading your last one.
If you are codependent and struggle with your basic sense of self-worth, it can be easy to believe that you are inherently defective. Taking time to look beyond the lie that you are just plain defective to really understand how you personally learned your codependent patterns is a significant step in learning to respect yourself more. Every person has a story that is worth listening to and understanding, including you. As you begin to understand how you have been impacted by your experiences and recognize that your codependent patterns are understandable ways of trying to cope with difficult situations and not signs of inherent defectiveness, you will experience less self-blame and more compassion for yourself. You also will experience restored hope that you really can learn healthier ways of relating to yourself and others. The first step is to face the problem honestly. Chances are, you have rationalized and justified and even spiritualized your codependent style. Now is the time to face it head-on. For someone who has spent a lifetime using denial to ward off pain, shame, or fear of rejection, this can be a terrifying experience. You will need support from people who can provide safe relationships that allow you to be emotionally honest on your journey. These supportive relationships might come from friendships, support groups, or professional counseling. Jason T. Li. Ph.D. http://lifecounsel.org/pub_li_overcomingCodependency.html
The thing you fear most has no power.
Your fear of it is what has the power.
Facing the truth really will set you free.