Monday, December 20, 2010

T'is the Season - Writing As a Way to Ease Anxiety

The holidays elicit the "ghosts of Christmas past,"  those who are no longer with us, but whose presence lingers in all that we are . . . or are not.


I miss my father, but I don't miss his high expectations for me. Yet, I still berate myself for not "achieving" enough. I miss my mother, but not her childlike demands to be taken care of.  Yet, I see in myself  how I sometimes place this burden on my sons.  I miss my husband, but I don't miss cancer invading our home. I know that my determination to avoid trauma and upset is both unrealistic and immature so why don't I accept this?

Holidays come as the year draws to a close. With endings come new beginnings. Reflection on where we have been and where we are going can be anxiety-producing. Writing is a way to mull anxiety and memory and come to terms with them. Writing about certain people (not just dead, but living) is hard work and painful.  Sometimes, I don't want to go there.  So I don't.  Until I am ready to stop marinating.

Yesterday I spoke to a friend who said that after years of psychiatry, she learned that the best psychiatrists  let you draw your own conclusions.  They are not saying, "Don't you see how you keep getting drawn to these same situations and (abusive) people!"  Instead,  a good doctor plants a seed until you say, "Hey, wait a minute. I keep being ensnared because  . . . "  In that moment comes healthy living and caretaking of the soul.

Write why you keep finding yourself in "these situations" and nurture a setting and routine.
  • Start by listing ideas.  
  • Write freestyle - "dump on the page;" don't worry about spelling and grammar.
  • Create a space for yourself.  Close the door, light a scented candle.
  • Give yourself the gift of privacy.  Shut out whatever or whoever wants your attention for an hour.
  • Learn to be alone with your thoughts.
As Louise DeSalvo notes in Writing As a Way of Healing: "A healing narrative links feelings to events. It describes how we felt then and how we feel now.  It compares and contrasts past feelings and current feelings about events.  It charts the similarities or differences in our feelings over time."

This holiday season give yourself permission to embrace your "ghosts" as instructive, rather than destructive. Open your mind to endings and new beginnings.  Let your words lead you back to you.


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