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Journaling as a Healing Art Virginia Maripolsky RNC, BSN, MSW Bangkok Hospital Medical Center
Presentation Objectives: • Using writing as a tool for healing • Present four basic writing exercises • Advise on the legal status of your journal especially as it pertains to a health care professional • List warming up techniques useful with clients • Refer to internet resources
Journal, noun. 1. A daily record, as of occurrences, experiences, or observations. 2. A newspaper, especially a daily one. 3. A periodical or magazine. 4. A log or logbook.
Writing as a Healing ArtPoets and Writers Magazine, May 2001“Literary Life Writing”“The Rape Poems”“How Telling our Stories Transforms our Lives”“Poetry in Prisons”“Recovering Your Silenced Life”
Long before there were therapists there were poets. • “Once crystallized into words, all-engulfing feelings become manageable, and once challenged into explicitness, the burden of the incommunicable becomes less heavy. The very act of creating is a self-sustaining experience, and in the poetic moment the self becomes both the ministering ‘therapist’ and the comforted ‘patient’.” • Molly Harrower, PhD, The Therapy of Poetry
Summary of study outcomes • Many students wept while writing • Some indicated these were tragedies they had never disclosed • Many were troubled and dismayed by their writing • Four months later…they reported their spirits had improved significantly
Physiological effects of writing • Brain wave activity congruence between the right and left brain • Increased T-lymphocyte activity • Increased ability to fight infection • Lower heart rates • More relaxed physiological state
Journal of the American Medical Association - Joshua Smyth • Symptoms of people with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis • Greater reduction in their symptoms four months later
Silencing our stories • If telling our stories seems to unleash our bodies’ healing potential • Then silence can adversely affect our health
DisclaimerDon’t use writing as a substitute for therapy or for getting medical care.
Rules of Journal Writing • 1. Date your entries as you go • 2. Don’t make any other rules
1. Timed Exercises • Choose a set time to write • 5 – 7 minutes serves well • Set a timer or watch the clock • Stop writing when the time is up, even in the middle of a sentence
2. Flow Writing • Pick a tangible object from your surroundings and use it as the opening image in your entry • Let your mind free associate from one thought to the next
3. Dialogue Writing • Open with a leading question • Take a breath, pause; write down the first response that comes • Work in a rhythm of question/answer
4. Unsent letters • Although this is an addressed journal entry, you do not need to take the recipient’s feelings into account • Allow the letter to ramble and develop in your usual style
Unsent letter • Often the ritual of actually writing on stationery and sealing into an addressed envelope provides closure • Has been used to write to a loved one who has died
The Legal Status of your Journal • Don’t tell your journal anything you wouldn’t want the District Attorney to hear.
Legal issues • It isn’t protected • You can’t claim your 5th amendment rights • The diary is just another piece of evidence
Legal issues • Emails have been used as evidence • Encrypt personal use of computers or use only a phrase you will know
Warming up • Date & time your work • Sign your work • Ignore your inner critic • Watch out for the censor • Avoid judgments
Techniques to get started: A tool for healing • Draw a picture of a totally healthy you. • Describe it in your own words.
Warming up techniques • How do you take time to experience the pleasure of each of your 5 senses. • Write about each. • Explore your instinct for making things up • Write a travel diary
Warming up techniques • Write about a childhood recollection. • Go with the first thought • Go for the details
Warming up techniques • Start doodling: continue for 2 - 3 minutes • Describe it or how you felt doing it
Warming up techniques • A blessing a day • Review the day and write one thing that you are willing to accept as a gift • End with the words…..thank you • Amen • Namaste
Warming up techniques • Journaling as a garbage can: • Throw away your frustrations, your fears, your doubts, your insecurities, your anger. • Writing about them will lessen their power over you.
Warming up techniques • Journal as a camera • Carry a notebook with you • Collect careful little ‘word photos’ • You will begin to see more than you ever saw before
Write a poem Write a haiku Write to yourself as a child Make a wish list Warming up techniques • Write a prayer • Write a song • Write a country and Western song • Write in fragments
Keep a Dream Journal • Write every dream you remember • Write it when you wake up in the middle of the night • Write when you are tired to catch your brain off guard
Internet Resources • Often, a webring of journals that post at least 20 entries a month. • The Squirrel Lists, a variety of lists of journals of Gen-Xers, left-handers, Canadians, humor-oriented, philosophy-oriented... a place to find a list of people offering specifically what you're looking for. • Diaries and Journals on the Internet • Willa's List of Journals • Open Pages, a webring of journals that is open to any journal that meet a few simple qualifications.
JOURNALING • Acts as a healer • Lessens the power that our emotions have over us • Research has shown that journaling increases our bodies ability to fight infection and • Promotes a more relaxed physiological state