Every so often, thinking about a word I use a lot I realize I’d be at a loss  if someone were to ask me what that word really means. This week, while working on my upcoming Transform Your Health: Write to Heal class, it struck me  that “heal” is one of those commonly used words that doesn’t have a commonly shared meaning. 

Being  as clear as I can about what I mean when I use a word sharpens my thinking, so I’ve put some effort into figuring what the word “heal” means to me.

Defining Healing

I did  a web search on“heal” and “healing” to read some dictionary definitions and to find out how the concept is defined in different fields. I also re-read some book chapters and thought about my own and my clients’ experience. I took lots of notes throughout, and sat for a while with with what I had found. Here’s are my current thoughts.

Healing involves transcending the suffering that can be caused by traumatic or disruptive life events. Transcendence of suffering takes place through wholeness of self. Wholeness is the alignment, or the  re-alignment, of the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual aspects of ourselves (The Meaning of Healing: Transcending Suffering). 

Healing means finding wholeness, connection and meaning, whether or not a cure is possible. 

You can find a degree of wholeness as a person whether you get better or not, whether you are suffering or not, and I certainly have seen people finding a wholeness as they die. 

~ Cicely Sanders, in The Meaning of Healing: Transcending Suffering

How does this land with you? Do you have another way of defining or describing healing?

 Healing Through Writing

We can heal from a traumatic or emotionally disruptive event by honestly, expressively and deeply telling what may initially be a fragmented or chaotic story. We keep writing until, perhaps over a period of days or months, until it becomes a coherent and understandable narrative. We can weave this more coherent story into the ongoing fabric of our lives, find meaning in it and move forward from it. 

Keeping our stories hidden from ourselves and others takes energy. It can be stressful and isolating, affecting our mental and physical health. Telling our stories through talking or writing strengthens our connections to self and others. It benefits mental and physical health by influencing our core values, patterns of thought, and our feelings about ourselves (Pennebaker & Smyth, 2018). In order to heal, our writing must link detailed descriptions of what happened with our thoughts and feelings about the event (DeSalvo, 1999).

Explore The Power of Writing to Help You Find Your Inner Healing Voice

Look here for the next opportunity to join me for Transform Your Health: Write to Heal. We meet for 6 weeks, using a progression of transformative, evidence-basedwriting forms. A recent study of Transform Your Health: Write to Heal showed that it strengthens resilience, reduces stress and decreases signs of depression. Participants found it to be a safe and valuable experience (Glass, et al., 2019).

My own participants’ evaluation feedback shows they are able to openly write about their deepest thoughts and feelings, and that they find the class to be deeply meaningful and valuable. After writing they had low levels of sad or upset feelings, and felt high levels of happiness and contentment.

Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to have you join us!

References and Resources

DeSalvo, L. (1999) Writing as a way of healing. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Glass, O., Dreusicke, M., Evans, J., Bechard, E., Wolever, R.Q. (2019). Expressive writing to improve resilience to trauma. A clinical feasibility trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, (34), 240-246.

Pennebaker, J. W. & Smyth, J.M. (2016). Opening up by writing it down. New York: NY. Guilford Press.

Pennebaker, J.W. & Evans, J.F. (2014). Expressive writing: Words that heal. Enumclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor, Inc.

Photo by Emma Tsui on Unsplash

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