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Monday, June 27, 2011

Exploring Therapy in Writing

“What do you write?” That’s the automatic first question I get asked.

“How my childhood should have been.” That’s the automatic answer I wish I could give, instead of the safe, literal one—stories, novels.

My, um, counselor is intrigued and, I suspect, pleased by my first-choice answer. You see, by profession, I’m also doing his thinking homework for me.

“Righting past wrongs?” he asks.

When I give a nod, I get a battery of Freudian-based questions:

• How does writing about my past help me understand the
   unconditional love I missed?

• How does it help me see that as a child I blamed himself for
   my parents' unhappiness?

• Does the hero of my stories always reach a rainbow end,
   happy, strong, and complete inside?

My answers are mixed and difficult to decipher. Results are questionable.

So why don’t I just leave my past alone? Why risk dwelling there in the construction of sentences and paragraphs that bring to life another version of it? What matters is the here and now. After all, so many of my counterparts have moved on from their pasts years ago, never to give it another thought.

Or have they?

Psychologically speaking, there are, my counselor assures me, innumerable adults who are just wounded children. They recycle through relationship after relationship, suffocating one another in “enmeshed boundaries.” They lean on each other like a crutch, only to hate each other because they can’t use their own two legs.

Becoming aware of the reasons behind our feelings and actions that lead to our weaknesses and ruin is like getting a psychological CAT scan. We discover the maladies in our thinking, and awareness, as they say, is half the battle. We can then make conscious decisions to break unhealthy patterns.

Writing stories that right past wrongs is not the same as reading daily affirmations or filling out mood charts, but it does force us to face our past, examine it, and decide, in the here and now, how to redeem ourselves and our villains.

We write about what we care about, and we care about what hurts us.

Keep writing!

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