writing as therapy
Writing has always been therapeutic for me. I have been reading a lot of musings on therapy on places like Thought Catalog and Rookie, and I have realized that what writers often say they like about therapists and therapy is something that I have magically been able to find for myself in writing, and for that I am grateful. Of course, this is not to say that writing is the definitive method for everybody. Therapists are obviously helpful and wonderful for so many people, and I wholeheartedly agree that there absolutely should not be a stigma against therapy. We all deserve the right to work through our problems the way we want to.
Then the therapist just asked, “How are you feeling?” And for the first time I felt like I didn’t have to answer with my usual “Fine, thanks,” but instead could tell someone what was REALLY going on.
The rest of her questions were similarly simple, open-ended, nonjudgmental: “How does that make you feel?” “What makes you feel supported?” “What would feeling better look and feel like for you?” These were things I hadn’t even asked myself, and answering them in that office put me in touch with thoughts and feelings I’d been bottling up for a year. Unlike friends and family tend to do, she didn’t respond with advice or reprimands, but just acknowledged my experiences with compassion. Instead of trying to solve my problems, she listened to me. It was incredibly empowering.
I look forward to my weekly appointment, that one hour when I get to explore my thoughts, feelings, and struggles with someone caring and nonjudgmental and totally separate from the rest of my life, who knows my story and is rooting for my success, happiness, and health.
This is from a recent Rookie article, and as I was reading it, I realized that this is partly what writing has been for me. I have always found the metaphorical paper to be the best, most nonjudgmental listener, and recently I have realized, in doing so, I have made the listener myself. To wrangle my emotions and thoughts and struggles into words on the paper meant I had to ask these questions of myself, and to put them into words meant that I had to listen to them, address them, and explore them. I had try to understand where they came from and what they meant for me. It was a way of talking to myself, in a sense.
I think this is why I have encouraged people to keep diaries, because I think it has been insanely helpful for me growing up. It’s allowed me to develop a compassion for myself. We can be really critical of ourselves sometimes, perhaps this stems from this age old conception of hearts vs. minds, rationality vs. appetites, kind of deal - we always think of our selves as in a state of war, and I don’t think it should be that way. I think feelings are important, I think they should always be considered as an ally to our rationality and mind. They should work together. I think writing helps to unite them in a way that’s satisfying for me.
Of course, my problem has always been a tendency to only find myself, the paper, to be a nonjudgmental listener. I have the problem of hiding within my own words, world, the paper, but I think recently I have realized that other real people are as capable of paper and myself to be nonjudgmental and compassionate. That people are more loving and understanding than we think, if we give them the chance. This is why I am trying to open my heart up more to them. To learn to give the compassion that I have learned to give myself to others outside me, and to trust other people to share theirs too. The goal is to disclose as openly and authentically to others in real life as I do to the paper. One potential thorn I’m going to need to be careful with on this one however, is knowing what is strong compassion and what is just being a doormat and being taken advantage of, which is something I also frequently have problems with.