Writing as Therapy

“I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.” 

Ever since I read those lines by Prof. Dumbeldore in Harry Potter, I have wanted a similar Pensieve. Sadly, for want of a wand and quick magical powers I am forced to stick to paper, ink and some time alone.

As a writer just hearing the scratch of pen on paper itself is pure bliss and writing brings out many an emotions in me. The immediate relief of jotting down an idea even if it is a shopping list or my kid’s homework schedule; the sense of accomplishment of having completed a piece of writing, the frustrations of not getting the exact emotions on paper. But most profound in my attempts at writing have been the aimless wandering of my restless mind on paper. Sometimes in finding the right idea, sometimes to understand a problem and many a times just a silent companion as I plough through the emotional maelstrom to find myself a calm anchor.

Whether in ink or the inner monologue that we to listen to everyday, writing guides us toward our higher calling.

In the words of Graham Greene, Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”  

Writing is a meditative experience, a talk with your soul, psyche and a deeply enriching one at that. Writing therapy today is an important tool, a form of expressive therapy used widely in hospitals with patients dealing with their mental and physical illnesses, as well as in university settings aiding students in self-awareness and self-development. Clinically they are classified into therapeutic writing, free writing and reflective writing. Although people have written diaries and journals for centuries, the therapeutic potential of reflective writing didn’t come into public awareness until the 1960s, when Dr. Ira Progoff, a psychologist in New York City, began offering workshops and classes in the use of what he called the Intensive Journal method.

So what makes writing so powerful? A nice rant can work wonders too. Maybe even reading a good book.

The basic difference is in the kind of cure. An rant and submerging your emotions in a book is an attempt to bury your emotions, sweep them under the carpet. While writing does the torturous duty of confronting them.

It isn’t alchemy that makes the concept of merely venting out on paper a fundamentally life changing experience.  The mere act of penning down your thoughts, emotions and even fears can be incredibly cathartic. Writing is understanding our thoughts through a personal, inward looking lens that may not have existed till language was put to use. Words are a medium. They express, clarify, illuminate beyond the factual details to the deepest thoughts and emotions.

Cognitively, writing has been shown to increase working memory and performance in patients. Writing is more deliberate and personal. Hence there are better chances on being honest than having a heart to heart chat with your best friend. In this context, writing is like a truth serum. The greatest advantage being the paper is non-judgmental and hence will not ridicule, scoff, judge or carry tales.

Writing is both the teacher and the lesson that individualizes the course to suit your needs and will guide you to a more positively driven life. It is a multi-dimensional catalyst of change and learning that acts as a sieve separating your fears, insecurities, confusion and helps understand and confront them from the outside in.

As leading theorist in writing therapy James Pennebaker explains, “The development of a coherent narrative helps to reorganize and structure traumatic memories, resulting in more adaptive internal schemas.”

As a writer again I have found this to be my best therapy. Free writing of my thoughts that encourage no standards, compare no other work, disregard the odd grammatical error breathes new life into my writing. Perhaps the most important writing element that Writing Therapy enables is the discovery of your voice. Writing about your life is the best way to discover and develop your writing voice. Only you can tell your true story. You are the only person who has your perspective. Writing your life is a gift that only you can offer to the world.

So write freely, even if it is for just yourself. Many a great memoirs on the bestsellers stands today began with the same idea.

Some writing exercises

Random Writing – The Mind Dump

Write. Anything. Don’t know what to write? Begin with that line and write for a set period of time – 10 minutes or half an hour. It may read as nonsense, and that’s okay. That’s how our minds work. Write down all the random, apparently nonsensical words and sentences, anything that comes to mind. You might include brief descriptions or sketches of any images that come to mind. Don’t change or edit anything. Simply write.

Dumbeldore’s Pensieve.

Write about any emotion, thought or problem that’s overwhelming you right now. Vagueness and confusion can be overwhelming too. Write through the emotions till you come out the other end, clear and confident.

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Why Communications Matter

It is remarkably creepy to read a story written in 1953 and wanting to be the protagonist today, especially if the protagonist is a murderer.

I have just finished reading a deeply disturbing short story by Ray Bradbury – the murderer. Disturbing mainly because in spite of being an evangelist of modern communication, I so wanted to be the protagonist in the story who systematically “murders” the technological devices around him as he is fed up with its invasion into human lives.

The story perhaps has more relevance now than when it was originally written. Today we are bombarded with communications from all sides and angles and the noise has become a part of our lives, so much so that we have unconsciously learnt to tune them out.

Why communications matter? Not because it is a rare art or a difficult science, but because everyone is practicing it, shouting about it and knows how to tune out the noise.

And that is the major challenge for anyone looking into meaningfully communicate in today’s business world. How to get through the noise tuning out filter?

The process to understand this should be ground breaking, a 21st century innovation. Right? Sadly not so. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher had already documented his advice on the elements needed to influence audience in his book called Rhetoric.

So the practice of communication is commonplace, the strategies age old and yet its relevance, importance and popularity has never been so prominent.

Communication matters today as it is not enough to talk, write or shout. It is imperative that we break the noise, reach out to the people, connect with them and make them listen to our view point, satisfactorily. 10991240_1007791749234552_2539162811953590634_n

Effective communication breaks the barriers of mere information, persuasion and argumentation to delve deeper into the realms of self-identity, self-expression and image making a deeper connect with the audience based on trust and conviction.

Consistently ranked as a very important criteria in job selection, communication and its assessment begins much before entering the Organization itself.

Your resume is a written proof of your self-image. The interview shows up your thoughts, wit, intelligence, values and of course expectations. A clarity of thought, succinct language and fluent speech indicates developed communication skills.

So maybe now is the time to ask yourself – How proficient are you in your ability to devise and communicate strategy, write effectively, prepare and deliver oral presentations and participate in meetings and interviews? Can you analyze and synthesize enormous amounts of information to convey your message? How adept are you at interpersonal communication — can you establish the productive relationships with supervisors, customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders that are crucial to organizational success?

Listening is the most important and utmost neglected part of communication. A good listener alone can make a great communicator.

Persuasion is a specialized form of strategic communication. The success or failure of any business is often a matter of persuasion. Convincing a boss, customer, colleague, shareholder or whomever of the value of your idea, product, service, investment or a host of other things can determine whether or not your endeavour succeeds.

The fabric of corporate society is woven from the ongoing communication and exchange between people through interpersonal, informal, cultural,Corporate communications is in equal measure formal and informal. While the formal channels of communication need to be open, transparent and ethical, it is the informal channel often called the grapevine that is a fertile ground for all information and oftentimes the tension.

As an entrepreneur, manager, employee or businessman you need to know how to keep this balanced to ensure employees are happy.

So grab a book, pick a course, join a toastmasters club or get a mentor. Learn the art, succeed in life!