Sunday, January 28, 2007

Healthy narrative writing

Write for your health? Yes, if you write a story you feel better: the “writing cure” research shows that expressive writing improves health. There is an abundance of evidence that professional poets have poorer health outcomes relative to both other writers and to the population at large. The obvious question for a researcher would be: what are the most important differences between poets and narrative writers? Are they differences in education level, in level of intelligence? Is the outcome of the research due to the design of the research?


john doyle said...

I used to council Vietnam veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. The therapeutic model when we started was Freud's idea of catharsis: talk through the trauma and it stops causing symptoms. The idea of narrative writing to alleviate traumatic stress is a similar idea. My sense with the war veterans: talking through the traumatic event wasn't enough. They still lived in a warzone reality even after they came home. Living every day as if it might be your last: this is a wartime reality, and it's hard not to think it's more "real" than a life centered on boring jobs, watching television, and going shopping.

Odile S said...

I was thinking on second generation problems when I wrote this, the children of survivors of war or the veterans. The first generation traumatisation I have observed as a child. Traumatisms don't just go away by talking, but often not talking will be even worse, I'm sure. There has been advances in this aspect. One of these is the support for veterans and more understanding of how they can get to feel better. A good therapy and a good therapist can make a difference. I have seen it, but it is lengthy.

Anonymous said...

Writing a narrative isn't just listing the facts. The writer puts a frame around the event, deciding when the story begins and ends, which events are important and what they mean. To write a narrative story is to embed raw events in a framework of meaning. It helps if you can make sense of your own experiences, including the traumatic ones.

Odile S said...

I'm impressed that you used to council Vietnam veterans. "In those days" you must have been a pioneer in the field. I have often heard there was not enough support for the veterans comming home from war. I remember feeling deeply saddened for that.
Indeed it is important to make sense of what happened. To be able to verbalize, in my opinion is part of making it controlable, what do you think?

Anonymous said...

Yes, this was before "post-traumatic stress disorder" was a recognized diagnostic category. Making sense of what happened was important, perhaps less politically than psychosocially. To live in an environment where you can trust no one, with long intervals of tedium interrupted by random bursts of violence, realizing that to mourn your dead friends meant making yourself emotionally vulnerable to getting killed yourself...

The Vietnam returnees who spoke out against the war were important in changing public opinion. But I think most veterans felt it necessary to justify their efforts by continuing to believe that the war was a good one. Probably the same will be true with Iraqi veterans.

Odile S said...

I now ask myself if reading a book written by someone else, e.g. a writer can help.

*new* item at Chez Odile is the metachat where Creatives and Thinkers meet.

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