Friday, April 1, 2011

Healing as We Write

As a follow-up to yesterday's blogpost, I've been thinking about how we heal through our writing. What is it about story-telling that knits up bleeding wounds and helps us to find a new balance in our lives?

First of all, I think there's something in story-telling itself, both the telling and the listening to, that is powerfully healing. It doesn't have to be "realistic," nor must it have anything specific to do with the nature of our sorrows. Myths and legends, Campbell's "hero's journey" (in all its permutations), and fairy tales all work upon the deepest levels of our psyches. Perhaps that's a bit too "pop psychology," but even if Jung's archetypes aren't real, even if we don't have a scientific understanding of how story elements affect us, they do affect us in powerful and positive ways. I suspect that one of the ways groups like Alcoholics Anonymous works is that people tell their stories and listen to the stories of others. In speaking aloud, just like in putting words to paper, we face the truth about what happened to us and what we did.

So, back to fiction writing. Here are a few offhand ideas about how this might work:
  • We tell a story that depicts what happened, fictionalizing it so that we can put in elements too frightening (or humiliating or whatever) to tell directly.
  • We put ourselves into the story, doing things we wish we had been able to do in real life (revenge stories).
  • Corollary: we put other people into our stories and do to them the things we wish we could do in real life (more revenge stories, but of the nastier sort)
  • We create characters who have also been wounded in body, mind or spirit, and we follow them as they recover the integrity of their lives.
  • We write a story that has nothing to do with our own lives but contains elements--a happy ending, a conflict resolved, justice done, kindness rewarded, bad behavior abandoned--that give us hope. Not hope for anything specific, just hope. Just enough encouragement to get through this day and then the next.

Thoughts, anyone?

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