Using Creative Writing for Therapy
It frequently is the case, though, that the arts and hobbies in general offer millions of people relief and healing in unexplained yet sometimes miraculous ways. Whether or not you are one of the walking wounded, it can only enhance your depth of knowledge and enjoyment of writing creatively to check out why and how this humble business of writing things down can help.
When serious pain enters our lives, recovery and healing can seem like a mere joke. A seriously addicted heroin user will consider your offer to help him or her find a way out to be a cruelty rather than a kindness. A veteran of violent war and combat can spend years in his or her private hell, the mind filled with the memories of atrocities and the sounds and sights of killing. The cancer victim sees no road ahead at all without certain death and pain, unwelcome as any hostile intruder waiting just around the corner. In a family where there has been a violent crime, forgiveness and peace toward the injustice of senseless crime can be a deep ache and pain within that never goes away for even a few hours.
No, not all of this psychic pain is the same, not at all. The arts appeal to the periphery of our lost vision. Is the strength there in the survivor to create artistic paintings? Or is every painting dark, evil, and horrifying? What about music, with its amazing power to comfort? Alas, maybe the musician lost both hands in the battle and there is no instrument he or she can play. Perhaps a person has lost all ability to move, becoming a quadriplegic, and the music of the dance is like a curse. The bitter heart is so heavy that a person might ask whether creative writing can truly lighten things up.
America's great disabled artists are legendary. Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, both blind and members of an oppressed minority, are two that come to mind. Their music will be cherished by millions well beyond their lifetimes. Helen Keller was blind and deaf, but she gave the world a courage it never had before through her teaching and accomplishments. Christian artist and quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada learned to paint with a paintbrush held in her teeth. She also writes books and hosts a radio program. Many, many others have made this type of voyage. The arts give the afflicted something to hang onto, something tangible, a way to reach out, and in small ways, a remedy and healing for the affliction.
Creativity can die right alongside all our other hopes and dreams when the wolf is at the door. It really depends on the type of adversity you face. Sometimes creative writing is less useful therapeutically than dance, woodwork, dramatic acting, and many other approaches. Let us say an individual has to deal with a violent crime, such as a gang killing or the death of a child or loved one resulting from a vicious and senseless crime. That person asks, "What do I write about that can heal me?"
When the time is right, the survivor can write about memories of the one who died, loving words that describe precious memories, favorite times, happy times, family events, the look and appearance of the departed, and so on. The survivor can write about his or her own deeply painful feelings: the injustice, the hurt, and the stupidity. The same survivor can write a tale in which he or she meets and forgives the offender or ventures into darker feelings, portraits of revenge, or punishment, police work, etc.
A very important element here is that these types of therapy writings may need to be entirely private, never to be published at all. It can be healing to publish them as well, such as on a Web site, maybe as a memorial, for others to share the grief and burden of it all, or the joy of memories of the departed. However, if the afflicted writer needs to explore very dark feelings, nothing needs to stop him or her because the unpublished word is never liable to restrictions such as defamation or legal-level accusation and formal complaint, etc. Like a child who has had a nightmare, writing it all down removes much of the curse and pain of it all, no matter how poor or clumsy the writing, how hate-filled the words must be, or how dark the tunnel of grief and suffering you fell down.
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