Let’s talk about writing. What function does it serve in our lives? Forget business proposals or academic essays, but think in a psychological sense. Why do we write?...and even more so, why don’t we write?
Brazil's Paulo Coelho said it best when he so eloquently proclaimed that “writing is as necessary as love; it is the joy of life.” It is obvious that for a famous author, such as himself, this would be true - but what about for the rest of us…?? Many of us spend hours glued to our phones and computers splattering written messages or codes on Twitter, Facebook and blogging our thoughts and emotional verbatim, yet many of us don’t realize why we do it nor how writing can be used as a tool for catharsis and mental health. Author or not, writing can be our psychological release; it can give us the power to communicate with others and help us get in touch with our unconscious selves.
Growing up in a Latin Jewish household, communication was everything. We are loud, outspoken and very passionate people (not to mention hard-headed) and emotional confrontation is something to be expected. Yet, I have always felt more comfortable expressing myself through written words—notes, letters and passages from my favorite philosophers—and this was often met with hostility and disdain. When I look back, I understand slipping a note through my parent’s door detailing the reasons behind my rants and pains wasn’t the easiest for them to understand (mainly because this made things constantly on my terms), but it worked. It was who I was and whom I continue to be. They quickly learned that if I was truly upset about something, instead of arguing aimlessly, they needed to back down and wait for the coveted letter to appear. That way, everyone was in a calmer mindset and my thoughts were conveyed appropriately and transparently. Then, I would receive an oral or written response in return. I still have many of these letters for they are a part of my psychological growth.
Although there is no doubt that we must practice what we preach when we encourage our clients to be assertive and confront their feelings, rather than repress or quiet them down, I also firmly believe in the power of words. As coined in the 1960’s, writing our internal fears and wishes in our “psychological notebook” is an effective way to reach mental clarity and a sense of meaning. Additionally, studies prove that writing for 20 minutes or more has a direct impact on our physiological health increasing our immune functioning and serving as a stress- fighting activity. Journal therapy can be used for dealing with grief and loss as well as life-threatening or chronic illness; recovery from addictions, eating disorders and trauma; repairing interpersonal conflicts and relationships; increasing communication skills; developing healthier self-esteem; gaining a better perspective on life and clarifying one’s goals. Ultimately, writing can serve as a romantic, emotional outlet and vehicle for expression in our daily lives; it can assist us in rebuilding the shattered puzzle of our often chaotic thoughts.
So remember to “write…attempt to bare your soul with your writing; A paper and pen can perform miracles, heal pain, nurture dreams, and take and bring lost hope into consciousness (Paulo Coelho).”
Stephanie Dargoltz is a bilingual counselor who works at a private practice in South Florida with children, adolescents, and adults. Her interests include Sport Psychology/Counseling and plans to pursue these careers in the near future.