Is writing a potential source of psychological health and wellbeing? Can writing be used as a form of therapy to help us cope with despair, anxiety, and depression? How does writing become therapeutic? Is it possible that transformative writing is little more than a new age fad? What are the qualities that elevate writing to the status of being transformative?
“Words become agents of transformation, shamanic horses that carry expression and transport people to change.”
Writing can provide a safe meeting place of encounter with our own demons. The word “demon” refers situations of crisis in our lives that conjure fear, anxiety, confusion, anger, and exile. A demon in this context is not an evil supernatural entity, it is an encounter with trauma. The underlying premise of transformative writing is that it can provide a safe meeting place that allows the writer to engage in an open dialogue with their suffering.
Reiter offers ten basic principles of transformative writing.
- Mastery: The ability to explore our inner life, identify the demons that are the source of pain, to make them visible through writing, and ultimately to view them from a different perspective.
- Ritual: Rituals give imbue difficult passages in life with a sense of shared significance, meaning, and the sacred. They encourage a state of deep contemplation. To embrace a ritual of writing away our demons is to open portals of self-renewal.
- Safety: Writing that is focused on developing a deeper and more intimate knowledge with one’s self, yet simultaneously touches the universals within the human condition. Transformative writing does not have to be focused on communicating with others.
- Witnessing: Writing makes the invisible influences within visible. It creates an imaginative space in which we can observe our circumstances with greater discernment and clarity. Transformative writing leads to the expansion of self-knowledge.
- Poetic License: Transformative writing is a break for freedom from self-limiting beliefs and expectations. There is no correct form or style that we must adhere to. Our words are agents of an embodied and soulful creativity.
- Venting: Transformative writing is a process of venting thoughts, moods, feelings and emotions that plague our sense of wellbeing. It is a form of cathartic release that helps to transform the repressed elements of our being into deeply meaningful expression.
- Time, Space, Matter: Transformative writing requires concentration, which in turn helps us to slow down and focus on the sacred work of generating meaning. We return to past situations and find an entirely new way to move through them. We establish new relationships with past, present, and future.
- The Magic of the Poetic: Transformative writing is driven by creative energy centered on the source of our discomfort. It is permeated with a sense of improvisation and imagination. The magical or alchemical qualities of writing help us to change the feeling of being alive.
- Creativity: Creativity is the essence of healing and self-renewal. The art we are engaged in is the art of living a life worth living. Through creative expression, we begin to re-imagine our life.
- Integration: Transformative writing seeks to makes us whole again. The parts of ourselves that we have abandoned and buried are brought into focus. The neglected shadow elements within are allowed to come home.
Transformative writing is a tool of psychological survival: “It is a way of creating meaning in our lives, a way of reconciling our struggles and our triumphs, our helplessness, and hopefulness in the labyrinth of emotional upheaval.”
In Dark Night of the Soul, I share a personal example of writing away the demons.
Transformative Writing Series
- Transformative Writing 1: The Art of Transformative Writing
- Transformative Writing 2: How Does Writing Become Transformative?
- Transformative Writing 3: Harvesting Emotional Energy on Paper
- Transformative Writing 4: The Secret Life of Words
- Transformative Writing 5: Reading
- Transformative Writing 6: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions
- Transformative Writing 7: Writing Away the Demons