Reading and Writing As Part of the Healing Journey
Over the past decade, I have found solace and healing in a variety of books. Some of these books came to me as recommendations from my own therapist; others I picked up along the way and connected with them in very intense ways. For me, a good self-help or spiritual book is one that, while reading, I feel like the author is looking into my heart or soul. I have those “a-ha!” moments and often feel a stirring.
I am the kind of reader who will sit with a book, have a pencil to underline, and a ton of sticky tabs to mark the “really important” details. There are often little notes in the margins- a name, a memory, a star that tells me I need to go and journal about this.
It’s one thing to read the book and understand the material on a cognitive level. It’s something completely different to relate it to your own experiences and bring the ideas deeper. My years teaching English to students showed me how important it is to make that connection between the book and reader.
So what does that mean and how do you do it? Good questions. The process can look different for everyone, but here is how I do it. When I’m reading a book, I might first notice a stirring- a flip flop in my tummy, tears welling in my eyes, or a holding of my breath. That tells me that what I’m reading has made contact with something deeper. That passage or line has something worth noting- and maybe journaling about. It gets underlined or tabbed!
After a chapter or two, it’s time to go sit with those passages and my journal. For me, if I don’t have a clear topic to write about, I’ll start with quoting a passage from the book. Putting that at the top, I’ll then write about a time when that passage rang true, or a person that it made me think of. Sometimes there’s a whole memory I need to write about. But then it goes beyond that. For me, the healing really takes place when I connect with the emotions about that memory, person or situation. Allowing myself the space to feel all the emotions- uncomfortable, messy, confusing and sometimes hurtful emotions. The tears are usually flowing, the tissue box is emptying, and the journal page is filling up.
Often we keep so much of these emotions bottled up, in check, or buried deep down. They may go unacknowledged, but often they continue to drive our behaviour and reactions. As we begin to unlock them, and give those feelings a voice, new light can shine in and it’s possible to sometimes make different choices.
For example, one of the books I often discuss with people is Trust by Iyanla Vanzant. In one of the early chapters, she writes, “It is hard, if not impossible, to learn how to trust yourself when you cannot give yourself permission to feel what is going on inside of you. Learning how to trust what you feel is one thing. Learning how to express what you feel is a completely different issue. Many of us resist the first part because we have not mastered the second.”
When I read that, it was like a ‘mic drop’ moment. As you read that passage, what are the thoughts or feelings that come up for you? Maybe this is a great opportunity to go write about it. And if you’re worried about someone finding your journal, write the thoughts down and then shred them! Going through the process is what sparks the insight!
Growth, change and insight can come in a multitude of ways. For me, bibliotherapy (books!) and journaling has consistently propelled my healing. Depending on what I am feeling called to work on personally, there is always a book and journal for me. So, where do you want to grow?