Writing as Therapy

Writing to express yourself, ease pain, erase trauma and reflect and gain insight is a powerful form of therapy. This has been practice for years in the form  of journal keeping and has even been shown to positively effect the immune system. For some people dealing with certain issues, it may be too painful to try writing about them alone, without the help of  a counselor or therapist to help them deal with some of the thoughts and memories that may come rushing in, so while I encourage you to write, I want to strongly encourage you to stop writing and to seek help if it  becomes to much to deal with alone. I also want to share with you something I wrote a while ago to deal with the loss of a relationship when I didn’t really know what to do or what to feel, but I wanted to express myself in a safe place away from judgment and to ward off the feelings of depression and failure.

You told me that if I loved you, that if I believed in our love I’d let you go, knowing that someday you’d return. I didn’t want to. My heart told me not to, but I did because I wanted you to believe I was brave and confident that our love could endure both time and space apart. In reality I was petrified, afraid that letting you go would mean the end of us. Still, with trembling hands I let you go explore the world, hoping and praying that our love alone would bring you home. At first it wasn’t so bad. We emailed each other often, nothing much had seemed to change except your location, but then the emails became less frequent and our conversations seemed more distant. Eventually you stopped emailing me all together and the longer I went without communicating with you, the more it felt like I was suffocating from lack of your presence. I tried to stand strong in this growing abyss hoping that my strength in allowing you to explore would serve as a demonstration of my deep desire for you. And then you came back as promised, only this time something was different. The light in your eyes had faded along with your smile. I wasn’t going to say anything, hoping that our closeness would bring back both the light and your smile, but then you told me you met someone. I stopped breathing. I probably wouldn’t have taken another breath if you hadn’t told me to. My heart galloped inside of my chest as I saw the promise of us come to a crashing end. I wanted to remain positive, told myself that this too shall pass and somehow serve as a catalyst for what was surely to come… you and me, together forever. Somehow things didn’t workout that way. You continued to distance yourself from me, drawing closer to someone else. Months passed and I found the courage to email you again, asking simply how you were you doing. You replied with a few words I imagine, I hope were hard to type; “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m engaged to be married in June.” Time froze as I deciphered those words and allowed them to sink into my pores. I started to write you back, my words fast and angry, then I hit the delete key… thought for awhile and started again, this time my words more gentle, too gentle, too forgiving. Again I hit delete and just stared at that email for what felt like an eternity. I haven’t written you back or talked to you since, until now. Now I’ve found the words to express myself and let you know how I feel. I feel angry, disappointed, cheated and hurt, but none of those things will bring you back to me. None of those feelings will heal my heart. I love you, I probably will always love you, and when you asked me to let you go I never really did. I still hung on to a big part of you, but now I see that in order for me to heal I truly have to let you go as you have apparently let me go a long time ago. I want to be able to say I hope everything works out for you, but I can’t, at least not right now. I know that will change overtime, as soon as I fully let you go and convince myself that this too isn’t a catalyst for us to be together forever somehow, but the catalyst for me to move on with the rest of my life.

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Five Stages of Grief

Looking at the Five Stages of Grief theorized by Kubler-Ross, I begin to realize that these stages not only quite accuratlely describe what one goes through during the loss of a love one (or even excepting ones own mortality when faced with a terminal illness), but it also describes what one may go through when faced with other losses that are hard to accept, including accepting that one is addicted to a substance.

I mention the latter because it was while leading a group therapy session for substance abuse that I realized this.

The five stages of grief basically are, 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression and finally 5) accepance. These stages don’t necessarily, but usally fall in this order.

If your boss comes to you and tells you that in two weeks they are eliminating your position and you therefore are out of a job you might at first not want to believe that is true, then after it becomes closer to a reality you might get angry with your boss, the company, yourself and then you might start praying to God to keep you from losing your job, or anxiously and perhaps desperately trying to find a way out of the situation, when you realize it is inevitable, you may go into a depression but eventually you will accept the reality for what it is and do what you have to do to cope with the situation.

With the guys in my substance abuse therapy, helping them see why they felt what they felt and helping them deal with it seemed to have a tremendous affect on helping them come to grips with their addiction and to start facing it head on instead of denying or avoiding it.

The reason I bring this to your attention today is to stimulate your mind and give you something to think about the next time you or someone else is going through some personal loss, rather it is infertility, a break up, or facing a long jail sentence. Understanding why you feel the way you feel goes a long way in coping with and stopping the pain and coming out of it a more enlightened and intouch person.

Under the Surface

One of the most fascinating things about humans and human behavior, is that we consciously or unconsciously cover things up or make things appear different then what they really are. We do this for several reasons, but often it is to protect ourselfs from some conceived threat (psychoanalyst would say to protect ourselves from something that threatens the ego)… this is often better called fear, anxiety, anger or depression. Often it is easier to deal with what’s on the surface, than what’s underneath the surface in an effort to avoid those feelings, but what is underneath the surface is the real issue and what really needs to be discussed. I’ll give you a quick example.

Suppose that you and your mate are constantly arguing over how he/she manages the household bills. You don’t like the way they decides how income brought into the house is and isn’t spent. You guys are constantly arguing over the bills, getting upset with each other and nothing ever changes. Maybe your mate doesn’t even understand why you are getting so upset and perhaps, you don’t either. Well perhaps it is because the household bills is the surface problem, the safe problem to argue about, but what’s underneath that, if you look deeper, is the real problem, what really needs to be addressed and changed in order for things to change and get better in the realtionship. Perhaps the real problem is that your spouse paying the bills, controlling the way income that comes in and out of the house is spent is making you feel controlled, unappreciated, like a child… the list of possiblities are endless, but the truth and the root of the problem is there if you look under the surface and I promise you, that if you do this, you will stop arguing or worrying about petty things and tackle the tough truth and meat of the problem which, although may be harder to look at and deal with, will make you a much healthier and happier person once it is dealt with.

So stop arguing over the way your spouse is driving if the truth really is you just don’t want to go their family reunion, your sisters wedding across country or to the football game when you’d rather stay home. Stop arguing over the way your wife doesn’t cook if the real issue is you wish she were more attentive to your needs. Examples are endless, but give looking under the surface a try and see if it won’t help you to become less angry, depressed and anxious and at the same time give you greater insight into yourself and your relationships.