My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Is There Cathartic Value To Writing And Reading?

I should actually be writing about the question- is it wise to be blogging while working on a PhD in General Psychology? It has been over a week since I have written on my blog do to my classes and work. As well as one important item! My book I have been writing based on this blog is out. All you have to do is go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon’s website and search for “Living More Than OK” to find it and hopefully buy it.
Back to the question at hand, since I went off topic. A weekend ago my wife and I went to the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas. The event is wonderful for me, as it is a celebration of books and reading. This of course is a passion of mine and a passion I would like to see more of in our society. Some of my favorite booths were the organizations that are working on helping with literacy and encouraging reading in the schools.

During a panel discussion with a few new upcoming authors; that is when the question of the title hit me. One author was promoting a fiction book he had written. The other two were focusing in on new memoirs they had written about their family experiences. There was a short Q & A time at the end with just a few questions. One young questioner caught my attention as she wanted their thoughts on whether writing is a form of healing or has cathartic value. She posed it in a demeaning manner in that you could tell she felt writing books did not have a healing side to it.

The three authors were about the same age as the questioner. I was surprised to hear all three back away from writing as means of healing emotionally. Any idea of writing as healing came across apologetically. Especially since two of the books were memoirs about difficult family situations I don’t see how their writing could not have had an element of personal healing to it. Now it could be because they were all English Fine Arts majors and/or they wanted to be agreeable with the young questioner in their age group. Maybe they picked up her sentiment on the issue. Granted writing alone should not replace the healing in counseling therapy. Yet in in mental health counseling the success of the power of story in Narrative therapy and journaling as a tool in helping overcome emotional problems is solid in the research.

When I made it home, I pulled off from my bookshelf, my copy of Writing As A Way Of Healing by Louise De Salva, Ph.D. Here is one of many examples in her book, “In Virginia Woolf’s memoir, ‘A Sketch of the Past’, there is an unequivocal statement about how her need to write came about from the pain she’d experienced in childhood. By writing her autobiographical novel, To the Lighthouse, Woolf says she ‘rubbed out’ the impact of her father’s violence by writing about it…which formerly had obsessed her. Woolf believed by writing ‘I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it I explained it and then laid it to rest.’” This is a perfect example of writing being used in a cathartic way for personal healing. Louise’s book is a thorough reminder that writing can be a help to personal healing.

In the same manner that writing that book helped Virginia Woolf in her personal struggles, I am certain there were people who read that book who were helped in a healing manner by reading it. Reading novels and life stories of people’s struggles can help the reader think and feel through issues in their lives to bring healing. Personally I know I have been helped more by reading books than any personal counseling I have had when going through life difficulties. Dr. De Salvo is not saying that writing is the only form of healing but that is can be depending on the writer and their purpose. I as a licensed professional counselor know the importance of one on one counseling but I also understand the usefulness of writing and reading as having cathartic value for the individual. I feel better already!

Reflection: Has there been a book that has helped you during difficult times? Do you journal or keep a diary? Do you find the experience beneficial?

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