Expressive writing is using writing to express feelings and emotions. This can be done by keeping a journal, but can also include using other forms of writing such as story telling, writing unsent letters and dream exploration.
The benefits of expressive writing are many, including:
- improve emotional well being
- impact positively on health
- reduce stress
- aid better sleep
- management of mental health – depression, anxiety, PTSD
- better academic results
- understanding of relationships
- better work performance
The beauty of expressive writing is that it is free, self-sustainable and immediately cathartic. There is no need to think of correct grammar or to worry about spelling.
Expressive writing within a group has the added benefit of the healing factor of being in a supportive environment. The facilitator gently guides the group by asking them to write what they feel on a particular topic, always being conscious of the group dynamic and differences in others. Even though each person is there for their own personal development they aware of the therapeutic power of sharing, even if it is on a subconscious level.
Participants are not forced to share their writing if they do not want to. But with meeting weekly, fortnightly or even monthly, people begin to feel safe in the process of writing and the need of each of us to be listened to and understood takes over and people begin to share.
This is therapeutic on many levels . Firstly as social beings, our natural instinct is to seek connection. By someone empathizing with our story it helps us feel that connection and aid with our healing. Secondly, sharing our painful experiences, even if through fiction or poetry, validates our existence. Thirdly, an understanding that everyone is going through a personal struggle brings down barriers and people feel more able feel safe in being vulnerable, even crying in the company of caring listeners.
The social psychologist, Pennebaker in his book ‘Opening up: the healing power of healing emotions’ claims that too much writing alone can lead to self absorption and can actually have a negative effect. Having a listener, someone who empathizes with our story, is essential to navigate us to healing.
Contact me if you would like to join a writing group, or create a group in your area