One of my favourite philosophy books when I was in college was called ‘Towards Self Meaning’. It was about how we come to know ourselves, how we come to self understanding and it in turn was based on the work of the philosopher Bernard Lonergan who wrote a book called ‘Insight’. The titles of both books are highly relevant to what writing for wellbeing is about.
When it comes to expressive writing, there is a danger that we can write ourselves into a corner or a cul de sac. So we write about our grief or our sense of profound loss about someone or something or we write about our anger and the pages fill up and read like one long rant against the world. If you read back through your writing you’ll pretty quickly find whether this is something that you do.
But is this helpful? The research on the health benefits of writing would certainly seem to indicate that it is not. What works best in this kind of writing is when people write to gain some clarity or insight into their feelings or thoughts, when the writing is a journey towards self meaning, when writing helps us clarify an issue. So the best way to approach writing is to embark on a journey of self discovery with the aim of getting somewhere else, to a place where we feel understand ourselves a little better, where we realise why we did what we did or why something upset us. So our writing helps to bring meaning where before there was a jumble of mixed up emotions and thoughts. That seems to be the real benefit of expressive writing. That it not only helps us express but also to clarify, to make meaningful, to understand.
So writing from sentence stems like:
‘Now I understand…’
‘This all happened because…’
‘Now I realise…’
can be a helpful way of bringing more clarity into your writing and this is especially helpful if you find your writing is going around in an endless loop without really going anywhere.