Self-Care for Writing About Trauma and Other Difficult Experiences
Tips from a trauma practitioner and writer on how to turn your writing practice into a healing practice.
Your past can feel like a big tangle of cords and wires, each memory wound around another. In slowing down to write about them you can unwind them, and loosen tight couplings that don’t actually belong together. It is from that place of thoughtful introspection and new understanding that you can grow, shift, and heal in a manner that synthesizes emotional memory with critical thought. Writing about anything difficult from our past, as either a personal practice or for an audience can be an opportunity to process and heal — if done in a way that feels safe and honors your boundaries. By slowing down, staying present in your body, and putting language to thoughts, memories, and emotions that might otherwise be swirling around in your head, you can spend time examining and making meaning of the felt experience of moments, both big and small, that shaped you.
But like all healing work, writing about trauma thoughtfully isn’t easy and it needs to be done with intention.
In my book, Lifting Heavy Things: Healing Trauma One Rep at a Time I lead readers step-by-step through the process of creating an intentional, healing, embodied, and trauma-informed movement practice, just like I would with a private client. My approach comprises three parts — Conditions, Activation, and Recovery — that, when done in order, can be used to structure a trauma-sensitive movement and writing practice which will yield work that is healing to both read and write.
I recently published a story about writing Lifting Heavy Things with a trauma-informed approach. In “On (Not) Writing About Your Trauma,” I define trauma-informed writing as both a process and a product that tends to the nervous system of both writer and reader so that all parties are more likely to stay present for the experience of the written work. It is self-aware of both how the writer approaches their writing practice and in understanding how their words may impact their readers.