The following guest article has been contributed by Marn Norwich, who poignantly explains the incredibly healing practice of writing as a path to recovery and self awareness. Writing is a powerful way to let go of pain, and move into truth. Here, Marn explains this power, and shares some resources to support your writing practice. Enjoy.
In a classroom in a residential treatment centre in east Vancouver, fifteen people in various stages of recovery sit rapt, as one of their peers reads aloud a personal story he has just written. His hands are shaking, and he is holding back tears. The man has never written before, but his lyrical turns of phrase seem channeled, and his words are nuanced and arresting. When he is done reading, his audience of peers call out their support and respect. One after the other, these courageous people share poems, stories and musings they have created minutes before in a workshop setting, works of art that reflect and ennoble the traumas that underlie their addictions.
I witnessed scenes like this countless times at the treatment centre, where I co-facilitated a writing workshop over the course of about six years. During that time, my co-facilitators and I were moved to awe by the capacity of participants to express their joy and pain with head-spinning eloquence from the very centre of the fire of recovery. They were connecting deeply with both themselves and others right before our eyes! It was clear to us that the writing they were doing in our classes played significantly in their healing journeys.
Writing is scientifically proven to be a healing practice. When people engage in expressive writing – writing in which they explore their feelings around life issues – amazing results ensue.
Immune function enhances, emotions regulate, cognitive function improves, anxiety and depression decrease, work efficiency heightens, white blood cell counts increase for people with AIDS, lung function and joint mobility improve in people with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, fatigue reduces for those with lupus, and the list goes on.
Over the past 26 years I have facilitated writing workshops for psychiatric survivors, women in prison, and people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, among other groups. As a professional writer and intuitive energy therapist, these workshops provide me with the opportunity to use my best skills in the service of those I believe could most benefit.
Anyone who can write can engage in expressive writing and receive its many gifts! Anyone who can write can engage in the healing practice of expressive writing and receive its many gifts! In his 2014 book, Expressive Writing: Words that Heal, American psychologist James Pennebaker provides sample exercises with themes to get writers started. See this Psychology Today article for a backgrounder.
Facilitating in the recovery context has shown me the profound connection between our core pain and our core power, along with the capacity of writing to reveal that power to us. In the words of Anne Frank, one of our most beloved diarists: “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
Marn Norwich currently facilitates the following workshops in Vancouver, BC: Women’s Writing as Healing, Writing for Trauma + Recovery, and the Creative Writing Power-Pack. She offers regular Free Intros throughout the year. Check out her March, 2019 series of Free Intros at Vancity’s Commercial Drive branch.