Here are several ways that expressive writing helps us heal, as taught in my Writing to Heal + Meditation workshop (originally designed for victims of emotional/psychological trauma, but these principles can be applied to anyone seeking healing or personal/spiritual growth):
Writing helps us accept. Many psychologists consider normal memory to be “the act of telling a story.” With traumatic memories, however, we tend to remember them in bits and pieces, like a series of single, static photos playing through our heads. This fragmented sort of memory generally prevents us from being able to tell the traumatic event as a fluid story. When we remember experiences only in parts, we are unable to accept them as a whole. Remembering our traumatic experiences in one fluid story helps us understand the bigger picture of our trauma.
Writing empowers us. When we tell our traumatic experiences out loud for the first times, we tend to tell them without emotion and often use stereotypes to explain. Writing helps us personalize our story and allows us to tell it with emotion, using adjectives, or strong feeling words. When our stories are ripe with our personal emotion, they become our own, and we become empowered!
Writing prepares us for reconnecting. Remembering our traumatic memory as a fluid story, opposed to a static event/s, prepares us for reconnecting with society and individuals, as we emerge from the isolation our traumas may have subjected us to. (Reconnecting is the third and final stage in the recovery process. Establishing safety is the first stage, and remembrance and mourning is the second stage.)
Writing improves our health. Expressive writing has been scientifically proven to improve our mental and physical health and well-being. Studies on expressive writing have shown that those who write expressively for about 15 consecutive minutes per day for a minimum of four sequential days sleep more soundly, get better grades in school, and have a strengthened mental capacity and memory.