Expressive Writing Group Experience
In the hospital the other day, I had an experience in a group that was quite special. Actually, during this hospitalization, I have had several good group experiences. This one stood out, however.
There were five of us patients who showed up for the weekly "Expressive Writing" group, plus two group leaders. The directive was:
"Think of someone you look up to, real or imaginary, who has taught you something you can use (or do use) in your healing. Describe either the characteristics of the person, what they told you, or how you have been helped. Use expressive writing by telling a story, writing a poem, or anything that makes sense to you."
I wanted to focus this on a motivating statement which has helped me heal. At first, I wanted to write about what Karl Paulnack said about music and heart healing. Then I thought about some quotes by famous people.
But I settled on something that is intensely personal. I think the most helpful, validating, and motivating statement anyone has said to me, has come from my therapist, who from here on in I will call "My Healing Guide." Over a year ago, she said to me in an e-mail:
Having a sense of your kindness and compassion is one of the reasons I enjoy working with you, and it is that compassion that helps you heal. I appreciate that... And I appreciate your honesty. It's our work.
I never really reflected on these words at the time, but I saved them. About a month ago, I revisited the e-mails we shared. These words, in particular, have helped me enormously. They have given me strength to continue on this journey; one that often feels too long and too hard.
I have heard similar words from others involved in my healing, most of them verbal (which get a bit lost). All have been helpful and motivating, though none have ever been said so perfectly. There are also many statements from my family and friends that have helped me too. But, a therapy relationship is unique in that it is focused specifically on healing. And, as such, these words have special meaning to me.
I was prepared to read my statement out loud, but there was a second part to the group exercise. That consisted of each of us picking out one or two words or phrases from our writings and putting them on different colored heavyweight paper using magic markers.
We then placed them on the floor and we read our own. We then were asked, as a group, to arrange them in a line in any way that made sense. The group debated some of the ordering and we went back and forth a few times. We then taped them up on a board, in the order agreed upon, and read them out loud together as a group.
The list was:
Falls aren't important, getting up is
You'll do a better job next time
Try and try again
The only word that appeared twice—came from two different people in our group—was strength. We felt it was important to use that word to bookend the list; strength was felt to be necessary for all of the in between words and phrases to exist.