Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Writing for healing is actually where I began my journey as a writer. As a sixteen-year-old struggling with severe depression and lack of self esteem, my journal was where I sorted out all the mess inside my own head. I wrote things I would never say out loud (at least not until much later when I would seek professional treatment) and discovered more about myself than I have from any other activity. Once I started taking medication and being treated for my eating disorder, I continued to write, this time not about how I sinned but why. This opened the door to understanding my own emotional patterns, triggers, ect. 

In the introduction to Writing and Healing by Anderson and MacCurdy, the authors speak to the idea of writing as being an integral part to the healing process. Given our time and place in the world, these writing instructors find it to be almost impossible to come across a student in their classroom who hasn't experienced some kind of trauma. They explain, "We now know that every instance of trauma has the potential for grave psychic harm and that even witnesses to disasters can be susceptible to the effects of PTSD." This almost calls for a kind of responsibility as teachers and fellow writers to acknowledge and even discuss traumatic events, as we've found that silence is the environment in which PTSD festers. The authors go on to say, "Children who survive these and other kinds of overt and covert traumas become young adults, and many find their way into our classes, where the writing they do about what they have experienced challenges our practical, political, and theoretical assumptions about the power, place and purposes of writing." I found this statement to be particularly powerful; as we know, the stories we tell ourselves and others are extremely important. The latter statement suggests that we only have more to learn and grow from inviting stories of trauma and healing, often seen as taboo, into the academic space.

One of the most important pieces I found in this text is: "As trauma survivors, we share one very important characteristic: We feel powerless, taken over by alien experiences we could not anticipate and did not chose. Healing depends upon gaining control over that which has engulfed us." A way in which to do this type of healing is described as "re-externalization" in this intro. Writing can be a way of re-externalizing our trauma, articulating and transmitting it into the world without all the ghosts of the pasts swimming around as they often do when we simply mentally reflect on our trauma. 

Another important piece to note is the risk we run when we discourage writing students to write about themselves and their own lives and to separate public from private and personal from political. The authors state, "..writing teachers find themselves more and more and alienated from students who seem less and less attentive and more resistant to the increasingly abstract benefits of academic literacy, which students experience as increasingly removed from the circumstances of their particular histories." This reminds me of my own experience in a Women's Studies class on the Goddess that I took while I was studying abroad in Greece. We studied the many Greek goddesses found in mythology, and I took up issue with Hera being praised as the role model wife and mother for women of that time when she essentially was married to an asshole who raped and cheated on her. Was my commentary based on my own personal traumas with domestic abuse and rape? Definitely. But my teacher's response was that I was doing myself a disservice by not being able to separate my own very "modern" views on such issues in order to fully engage in the content being taught. I wonder what the authors of this texts would say back to her. 

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