I’m writing a book/on line course on writing to heal. As of today, my title is Twelve Principles of Writing to Heal from Trauma. I have three main objectives:
1. to explain what trauma is so that we all know how prevalant it is, and that many expeirences we’ve had in life qualify for that lable. This is important so that we find the right approach to healing and to changing the world;
2. to provide writing exercises that are body-centered and designed to address specific conditions in our nervous systems. I don’t mean I’ll suggest topics as much as structures that provide enough containment and safety to venture into painful and/or unconscious realms and creative possibilities;
3. to provide a way to assess the state of the nervous system as one proceeds through the twelve principles and does the writing exercises.
Chapter Two is about giving up writing that doesn’t work and doing writing that does work to produce biological, pscychological and spiritual change. One thing that doesn’t work is the same old thing in your journals day in and day out, whether it’s keeping a diary or dumping feelings. Under the category of what does work is this prompt:
Your daily gawk: actively look for and record what surprises or amazes you.
You’ve heard of a daily gratitude journal, right? How about a daily, “Wow, I never noticed that before!” journal.
Although this is like a diary, it isn’t the same old thing every day. It sets you up to have regular experiences of newness, surprise. As cosmologist Brian Swimme once said in a workshop I attended, “The purpose of life is to gawk.” Allow yourself to be amazed at the most ordinary things. They are all around you, and they will become more visible if you are looking for them.
Here’s a hint of how to see the extraordinary regularly: look at what the light is doing. Outdoors, it’s easy to be wowed by sunlight and shadow. On a cloudy day, there the finesse of shades of grey and silver; there’s how much more colorful color looks than in bright sunshine. Indoors, it’s as if light falling on an object brings it into being. Notice the effect light has on you. If there’s not enough, do you strain to see or do you relax more? Recently my neighbor had a floodlight aimed right into my bedroom window. It was so loud I had no peace at night. When he turned it off at my request, night got quiet again and magical. Your body has all kinds of responses to light. You could keep a daily light journal.
I’ve thought of many daily themes. You could try one each day for a week:
what am I grateful for today?
what surprised me today?
what amazing thing did the light do today?
what made me smile today?
what same old thought crept into my mind today? what happened to it when I decided to find something amazing to gawk at?
what nice thing did someone do for me today (even if they didn’t know it)?
what kindness did I offer someone today?
what new thing did I do today? (a new route, a new food, a new activity, a new radio station, a new style of clothing, a new exercise, a new type of book, a new word…)
Many years ago when I was still living in a cloud of dissociation/depression, I discovered that I could feel better by learning something. I didn’t know then that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. Nor did I know that the state of being curious and the state of feeling traumatized can’t both be happening at the same time. If you feel upset or traumatized, getting curious is a way out. Discovery puts us back on track of being in the “safe enough” zone of a balanced nervous system. (See the post Your Balanced Nervous System Quiz)
So what are you curious about? What would you like to find out? Is it something you can look up? Something to try your hand at? Something to attend, like a class or concert? Something to make? I’d love to hear what comes to mind, and what happens if you act on it.
By the way, are you curious as to what on earth have I posted a photograph of?