How Healing Takes Place Creatively
by Kelly Wiese
The reality of this world is that we are told not to feel, not to say, and not to take up space. We are expected to fit into an unrealistic world at the sacrifice of our own true self. Everyday we hand out pieces of ourselves, and with each piece, layers of unresolved issues begin to construct. If these issues are left undeclared, depression and addictions such as shopping, alcohol, drug, gambling, and eating disorders can occur. Our society is full of them.
Suppressed feelings can begin as soon as we are able to decode our environments. Children are especially sensitive to their feelings and to the feelings of others. They learn what their roles are in the family very quickly and begin to navigate through events and trauma by trimming themselves here and there to fit in. Hence, the layering begins.
Within our brains, memories of certain events that are traumatic seem to be encoded differently than other events. These memories, stored in the right hemisphere of the brain, take on vivid form. They intrude into our minds as flashbacks, perhaps stimulated by subtle cues in the environment. Consequently, we become emotional and either choose to feel our feelings in a healthy, safe way, or we shut them off and turn to our pattern of coping. Patterns can be used very successfully for coping, however, they are not everlasting.
Creativity personifies the mind, body, and soul experience. It is a left-brain action. Creative writing enhances the thought process. It creates safety for further exploration of a memory or flash back. Rather than being right back in the moment of trauma, creative writing can be a buffer. The memory can be expressed on paper and felt within the body.
Creating safety is crucial in order for this to take place. Safety allows the inner voice to come forward and say what has been repressed. Through the tip of a pen, feelings are transformed creatively into the language of voice. For some, this is the first time they have ever spoken truthfully about themselves. It is a very powerful moment to write and read thoughts and feelings. Validation is key, being heard is essential! Voice work is the catalyst to healing. In simple terms, writing about an experience does not completely neutralize it. The emotions and expressions are still there but in a form that is more thinkable, hence, making the memory more bearable.
This new transformation into voice can cradle raw experience. In writing, the capacity to bring together feelings and descriptive details is important. Through recalling and reciting events similar in form to a newspaper article, lost feelings can be triggered and revived feelings may occur when we remember certain details. The act of writing is not just a pen and blank piece of paper. The paper becomes the supportive listener and helpful bystander who can assist the active writer. The pen and paper can be encouraging, give feedback, and take on words without judgement. This non-judgemental listener offers a new energy and awareness of self. What a great tool!
The non-judgmental listener is in contrast with the inner critic, who would prefer you stay stuck in your patterns of shame and low self-esteem. Perfectionism is something that is rampant in our society. It is completely unobtainable. This inner critic lives in all of us! Naming feelings in a piece of writing lessens the shame, judgement, and inner critic. The event becomes less catastrophic.
We all have a history or context. When we feel our feelings, they are either current or they are from an older stack of historical feelings. When the line between current and past blur, we can get stuck. We soon adapt the attitude that you might as well visit them all, past and present. You can visit your feelings but you do not have to live there. This attitude is what keeps us from creating what we really want in our lives.
Maybe we did not know how to feel when situations occurred. Maybe it was beyond our control, or that we felt neither safe nor skilled enough to process and heal. Perhaps fine-tuning the art of emotional repression was easiest. With enough frustration and loneliness we can begin to believe that we are alone in life. With enough unfelt rage we can begin to believe that it is necessary to have contempt for others, for life, and for ourselves.
Sometimes we go numb for survival's sake and stop feeling altogether. We need to face whatever our feelings are, otherwise our feelings will control us. What we resist persists. All of our feelings count. We do not have to tell others how we feel but we do have to tell ourselves. By releasing our resistance to our emotions creatively, we can stop the inner critic that tells us we are stupid, insignificant, and not worth the time. You may think, "If I was just a better person, I would not feel this way." This critic has nothing to do with character. It has to do with the way we think. It takes as much energy and time to stink think ourselves as it does to feel our feelings. Feel your feelings and trust your vital energy. This is your emotional charge, your creative spirit.
Kelly Wiese holds a BA (English) with a minor in creative writing and poetry. She currently works at BridgePoint Center For Eating Disorders in Milden, SK. She has been in recovery from her own eating disorder for six years and created "The Onion Workshop" from her commitment to recovery from addiction. For more information about The Onion Workshop: Healing and Feeling Through Creative Writing, email email@example.com and see the display ad on page 17 of the 14.1 May/June
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.