Waiting to see an oncologist this morning (happily, not as a client but as a counsellor) this morning, I came across this article by Dr Karen Baikie, a clinical psychologist based in Sydney. It’s from a magazine, Verve, for women with breast cancer…

Because emotional memories are stored as fragments in different parts of the brain (unlike factual memories), chronology and sequencing are absent, “ so we tend to remember pieces and not necessarily in the right order, which can amplify the trauma and the stress we feel from the event, because we cannot remember enough to resolve it…. When we write it tends to be in a more autobiographical form; that is, we tend to write in stories.

“So, as we disclose our thoughts and feelings related to a traumatic event, we are actually putting them into a sequence [and making them facts] ….and ultimately stripping the emotion away. Emotional writing helps us top re-organise and restructure traumatic, emotional memories. “

Guidelines for Expressive Writing

  1. Write in a place and at a time where you will be undisturbed
  2. Write for 20 minutes without pausing 3-5 times weekly
  3. Write by hand or computer, whichever is faster
  4. No need to worry about grammatical structure, spelling mistakes etc.; the flow’s the thing!
  5. Write about whatever is troubling you – deep thoughts and feelings about an event or situation that has deeply affected you
  6. It’s fine if you write about the same event each session, or about something different each time.
  7. You may feel vulnerable afterwards. Have a friend at hand whom you can, at least, call, if needed.

Outcomes include…

  • Fewer illness-related visits to the doctor
  • Fewer days in hospital
  • Reduced absenteeism from work
  • Quicker re-employment after job loss
  • Improved memory, and immune system functioning
  • Improved moods
  • Lowered blood pressure

For more about the originator of Expressive Writing.

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