Use Writing to Achieve Clarity, Focus and Understanding

There are four pillars of health:  sleep, diet, exercise and managing your consciousness.  In an era where there is so much competition for your attention, how can you gain mental clarity?

Writing articulates thoughts and ideas in surprising ways

Something extraordinary happens when you write.  If you choose to journal, you may have noticed the gap between what you think you will write and what actually comes through that channel.

This is because writing, at its best, can offer insights into small and large problems.  It appears that the unconscious mind is doing the heavy lifting.  As such, writing can help you clarify your thoughts in a way that brings vague notions in the back of your mind into tangible light.

Through writing, you notice that the stress of work and relationships makes you yearn for some time in the mountains.   Or, you come to understand that fear of failure has been holding you back from taking on that ambitious project at work.  Or, you see the way that your negative self-talk may be something you have internalized from the way your dad spoke to you as a kid. Clarifying what is “on your mind” through writing can feel highly centering and useful.

Writing can provide rich, personal value without regard to whether you choose to share or revisit what you have written.  The writing process can be as valuable, if not more valuable, than the product itself.

Answers that come through distillation or slow-cooking

If you have been wondering how to solve some thorny problem, your unconscious mind may have processed ideas over time.  Writing can pull those ideas together into something coherent and useful.  The eminent doctor and writer Oliver Sacks used to see a patient and then think about what he observed while walking through a Japanese Garden across from his office after an appointment.  When he returned to his office, his patient’s symptoms had coalesced into a diagnosis that he crystalized in writing after letting his thoughts assume clearer form through this forced waiting period.

Scientists and artists have related similar stories for centuries.  Writing solves problems.  The act of writing can help you capture insights that have eluded you for some time.

The power of writing to heal trauma

For several years before Covid, I co-facilitated a creative writing workshop with author Katie McCleary in Folsom Prison (Bridge The Gap).  Given a simple writing prompt and twelve minutes to lay pen on paper, the men in prison wrote vivid, compelling stories that used the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method to explore their consciousness in writing.  In this method, all work is treated as fiction.  Writers may choose to share or not share.  Comments about writing shared do not include criticism or analysis but rather observations about the language or ideas that occur when listening.

The catharsis, forgiveness, understanding and healing that emerged through these workshops were astounding and beautiful.  The common humanity of men in prison became readily visible, as the men felt accurately seen, heard and understood through their own written reflections.

Part of the power of writing has to do with the emotional distance it provides.  You can explore ideas or events from different perspectives, see things through the lens of elapsed time and detach from emotions.  You can disentangle from a breakup, process a move, reconcile yourself to loss, and come to accept unanticipated change.  There’s a reason we say “come to terms with it,” in English.  Often those terms may be found in written reflection.

Your therapist can help you use writing to facilitate your own healing from a break-up, a loss, a jarring event or from deeper trauma.  Your therapist helps you extend the insights you produce in your own journaling.  Your therapist can help you find compassion and forgiveness for yourself and others through writing.

Consider employing the experts at SF Stress & Anxiety Center.  Clear the fog.  Find and expand your center. Improve how you relate to yourself, others and the world.  Click the button below to schedule a time to speak to a Care Coordinator.


By: Douglas Newton, LMFT

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