Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Write to Heal

The Inability to Face the Truth and How Writing Heals – Passage from Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides

In the book The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy illustrates how three siblings have reacted to something terrible that has happened to them. None of the children are dealing with their pain in a healthy way, and none of them are fully facing what has hurt them. Rather, all three of them have assumed a false persona–a facade that defines them. This facade has become associated with the roles that they play in the dynamics of their family.

Tom’s Role in the Family’s Dysfunction [Tom Is the Character Associated with Pat Conroy]

“My designation in the family was normality. I was the balanced child drafted into the ranks for leadership, for coolness under fire, stability. ‘Solid as a rock,’ my mother would describe me to her friends, and I thought the description was perfect. I was courteous, bright, popular, and religious. I was the neutral country, the family Switzerland. I had been married for almost six years, had established my career as teacher and coach, and was living out my life as a mediocre man.” Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides, pgs. 43-44.

“But it was good to feel the tears try to break through. It was proof I was still alive inside, down deep, where the hurt lay bound and degraded n the cheap, bitter shell of my manhood. My manhood. How I loathed being a man, with its fierce responsibilities, its tally of ceaseless strength, its passionate and stupid bravado. How I hated strength and duty and steadfastness. … Strength was my gift, it was also my act, and I’m sure it’s what will end up killing me.” Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides, p. 46

Luke’s Role in the Family’s Dysfunction

” Luke had been offered the role of [p. 43] strength and simplicity. He had suffered under the terrible burden of being the least intellectual child. He had made a fetish out of his single-minded sense of justice and constancy. …he was the recipient of my father’s sudden furies, the hurt shepherd who drove the flock to safety before he turned to face the storm of my father’s wrath alone. … He had the soul of a fortress…

Savannah’s Role in the Family’s Dysfunction

“From earliest childhood, Savannah had been chosen to bear the weight of the family’s accumulated psychotic energy. Her luminous sensitivity left her open to the violence and disaffection of our household and we used her to store the bitterness of our mordant chronicle. …. Craziness attacks the softest eyes and gentlest flanks.

. . .

Luke chose to react the way that his mother had reacted and to totally deny that the tragedy had occurred. He pretended or he convinced himself that he had forgotten the incident entirely, but Tom remembers:

[Luke]”‘Mom told us it never happened.’

[Tom]”‘Mom also told us that Dad never beat us. She told us we’re descendants of southern aristocracy. She told us a million things that weren’t true, Luke.’

[Luke]”‘I don’t remember much about that day.’

“I grabbed my brother’s shoulder and pulled him toward me. I whispered brutally in his ear,  ‘I remember everything, Luke. I remember every single detail of that day and every single detail of our whole childhood.’

“‘You swore you would never mention that. We all did. It’s best to forget some things. It’s best to forget that.’

. . .

“‘We’ve pretended too much in our family, Luke, and hidden far too much. I think we’re all going to pay a high price for our inability to face the truth.’ ” Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides, pgs. 42-43;

A failure to face the truth is not a solution to a problem. It damages people in a number of ways:

  1. Ignoring the Truth Can Result in Numbness
  2. Ignoring the Truth Can Result in Cynicism
  3. Ignoring the Truth Can Result in Bitterness

As the book Prince of Tides begins, Savannah has tried to commit suicide, and at first, it appears that a mutually shared wound has affected her more than it did her brothers who preferred not to deal with the issue. But upon further reading, we realize that Savannah is trying to cope through her writing.

[Tom] “‘I just think the truth is leaking out all over her.’ Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides, p. 42

[Luke] “‘She’s crazy because she writes.

[Tom] “‘She’s crazy because of what she has to write about.

. . .

[Luke] “‘She should write about what won’t hurt her, what won’t draw out the dogs.’

Tom] “‘She has to write about them, That’s where the poetry comes from. Without them, there’s no poetry.'” p. 43

From  Savannah’s Poems

[This passage describes writing and how words are working within Suzanne]

My navies advance through the language,
destroyers ablaze in high seas.
I soften the island for landings.
With words, I enlist a dark army.
My poems are my war with the world.

I blaze with a deep southern magic.
The bombardiers taxi at noon.
There is screaming and grief in the mansions
and the moon is a heron on fire. Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides, p. 47

Dr. Roberta Temes is a psychologist who has written about the power of writing to heal:

“Translating your feelings into words brings you amazing results. All you need to do is write about important life events. Write with feeling. Write with truth. Write about significant experiences, good and bad, and then write about your emotional responses to those experiences. You will benefit both physically and emotionally; it’s been proven that constructing your story is an exercise in healing.”

“Research tells us that the health benefits of writing about your life may include:

1, Improving Your Immune System.Studies have shown that your grades could improve if you are a student; and your number of sick days could be reduced if you are a worker; asthma sufferers have fewer attacks and AIDS patients have higher T-cell counts. These advantages occur as a result of investigating your past and then putting your thoughts into words. Your immune system becomes stronger when unresolved, previously unexplored incidents are revealed.
2. Reducing Your Anxiety Levels. When you write, you expose the truth. Telling the truth extinguishes the emotional burden of secrecy; keeping a secret uses up valuable energy. When you put your emotional distress into words it is no longer wandering through your mind causing worry, tension, insomnia, and other disturbances.
3. Eliminating Your Obsessions. Obsessions may be caused by unanswered questions. When your mind is busy asking ‘why,’ your focus becomes restricted to that one subject. Structuring past events into a coherent story permits you to manage your feelings about those events and eventually store them away — obsessions will diminish and then disappear. If there are traumas in your past please know that the emotional fallout from trauma is distress and distress can be alleviated by writing about the trauma and about your response to it. When you write, you safely summarize, organize and then explain your past. Forming that narrative calms your complicated sensitive memories.
It takes a few weeks after writing your story to get the full beneficial effect. Your mind needs time to absorb it all and reconfigure.”

I am currently reading The Prince of Tides and preparing for a book club, and as I have glanced at the WordPress Daily Prompts for the past three days, I have thought about how each of the prompts relates to what I am reading and thinking about what I am reading. Yesterday, the prompt was “Exposed,” and I thought about the fact that many of the Wingo family problems stem from the fact that the members of the family will not expose themselves. Most of the family members want to hide their problems from the world, but worst than that, they want to hide their problems from themselves.

Exposed

Today’s prompt is “Bitter,” and as I pointed out before, bitterness is often a result of our failures to deal with our problems.

Bitter

Three days ago, the writing prompt was “Better,” and by the end of Chapter 3 of Prince of Tides, Tom Wingo had begun to acknowledge some of the truths of his life. He had begun to expose himself and his family and he had dared to risk so that he might achieve what could only be achieved by that exposure–so that he could get better.

Better

Most people realize that Pat Conroy is Tom Wingo in the book Prince of Tides, but like the book character Savannah, the real Pat Conroy is also a person who strives to heal his own personal and family problems through his writing. The Prince of Tides is a highly autobiographical work for Pat Conroy. it is a chronicle of his family’s pain, and Prince of Tides is only one book through which Pat Conroy expresses his pain and his family’s dysfunction.

When Tom Wingo first met his sister’s psychiatrist, he was immediately cynical:

Dr. Lowenstein: ‘Has she ever attempted suicide before?’

Tom: ‘Yes. On two other bright and happy occasions.

Dr. Lowenstein: ‘Why do you say “bright and happy?”

Tom: ‘I was being cynical. I’m sorry. It’s a family habit I’ve fallen prey to.’ Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides, p. 48

Anger followed Tom’s cynicism:

Dr. Lowenstein: “‘There are some background questions I need to ask if we’re going to help Savannah. And I’m sure we want to help Savannah, don’t we?’

“‘Not if you continue to talk to me in that unbearably supercilious tone, Doctor, as though I were some gaudy chimp your’e trying to teach to type. And not until you tell me where my goddamn sister is,’ I said, sitting on my hands to stop their visible trembling. The coffee and the headache intermingled and the faraway music [on the intercom] scratched along my eardrum like a nail.” Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides, p. 48

As part of society, we have been trained to believe that anger is a bad thing–a thing to be avoided, but in her book the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron explains that in some instances, anger can be beneficial [if we listen to what our anger is suggesting that we do]:

“Anger is fuel. We feel and and we want to do something. Hit someone, break something, throw a fit, smash a fist into the wall, tell those bastards. But we are nice people, and what we do with our anger is stuff it, deny it, bury it, block it, hide it. like about it, medicate it, muffle it, ignore it. We do everything but listen to it.

“Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way….” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 62.

. . .

“Anger is the firestorm that signals the death of our old life . Anger is the fuel that propels us into our new one. Anger is a tool, not a master. Anger is meant to be tapped into and drawn upon. Used properly anger is use-full.

“Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not. Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. …It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests.

“Anger is not the action itself. It is the action’s invitation.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 62-63.

In the book The Prince of Tides, generations of Wingos had not listened to their inner warnings. For one reason or another, they had stuffed and suppressed their feelings, and the entire family was ill. Too often, families never move from their frozenness, their numbness, their cynicism, and their bitterness, and they refuse to listen to the reasons why they are angry and they do not allow the anger to move them to another, healing level. But by the end of chapter 3, Tom Wingo dared to take the next step:

“And then the pain summoned me. It came like a pillar of fire behind my eyes. It struck suddenly and hard

“In the perfect stillness, I shut my eyes and lay in the darkness and ade a vow to change my life.” Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides, p. 63.

©Jacki Kellum May 8, 2017

It’s Better to Light A Candle Than Curse the Darkness – A Reason That I Write

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Our world has become a dangerous and confusing place to live. Innocent people–even those who have dedicated their lives to keeping peace and to helping the community–are senselessly murdered, and they are often killed by another person who doesn’t even know them or who doesn’t have a personal quarrel with them. The murderers are simply others who have completely lost empathy or the ability to care.

Empathy is “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings. It is an identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.”

If a mass murderer stopped to think about all of the children that he was leaving fatherless or motherless before he began randomly pulling a trigger, he might reconsider his senseless taking of lives,  but mass murderers seem to have lost the capacity to think empathetically. And mass murderers are not the only people who lack empathy. Lack of empathy is global and it is poisonous. It is at the root of greed and anger, and it enables parents to abandon their children to pursue another romance or whim. Lack of empathy also allows the selfish social climber or the power hungry to run over everyone that they feel is blocking them from reaching their goals. Lack of empathy is destructive on many levels.

I write about the problem with lack of empathy quite often. People from every country in the world have read one of my blogs, which, at the time of this writing, has  been viewed 50, 877 times and by people in every country of the world. Yet, I doubt if my writing has actually changed anyone else’s behavior. Perhaps it has helped other people to begin to think and to begin to look introspectively, and that is good, but In reality, my primary goal in  writing is not that of saving the world. My primary goal in writing is that of saving myself.

Writing is the way that I refresh my own awareness of every aspect of my life, and it is the way that I organize my thoughts. It is also the way that I seek to understand why people do the thoughtless things that they do, but above all else, my writing is the way that I monitor myself and shine a light on my own motives.

Eleanor Roosevelt said that it is better to light a  candle than to curse the darkness, and while I would love to believe that through my blog, I enlighten the world, I realize that I do not. The more important thing, however, is that through my writing, I shine a light on my own darkness, and hopefully, that has become a torch that leads my way.

Think about it: If every person in the world would scrutinize himself and light a candle in his own heart, there would be no darkness at all.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Eleanor Roosevelt

©Jacki Kellum October 14, 2016

Candle

Gladstone Said that Time Is On Our Side But I Disagree

William E. Gladstone said Time Is On Our Side, but I Disagree.

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones sang the same song–that Time Is On Our Side–but I still disagree. It is almost October, and in New Jersey, the days and nights are getting cooler. Chily raindrops are beginning to fall, and I am peering into the 66th winter of my own life. As I begin to watch the leaves drifting  to the ground, I know that  the trees’ skeletal fingers will soon scratch into the sky, and I understand that the leaves of my own life are also falling and I too am moving toward winter. Yet, there is much that I still want to do, and I do not feel that time is on my side.

I was 15-years-old when The Rolling Stones released the song Time Is On My Side. That year was 1965. When I was 15-years-od, I believed that Time WAS on My Side, but I don’t feel that way now. Now, I feel as though Time is a luxury, and the tragedy is that I wasted an enormous amount of time in the process of discovering that truth. As Joni Mitchell says, “So Many Things I Would Have Done, but Clouds Got In My Way….[but] I’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now.”

Both Sids Now
by Joni Mitchell
Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
When I consider that Joni Mitchell was only 24-years-old when Judy Collins first released her song Both Sides Now, the lyrics amaze me. By the time I was 24-years-old, I had already almost died in a car accident that left me with several permanent scars, and in that regard, I had experienced more of life’s bitter truths than most 24-year-olds had discovered, but I still didn’t have a clue about all of the illusions and the delusions that I would eventually unveil. When I was 24-years-old, I still had not seen life from both sides now, and neither had Joni Mitchell.
In another of Joni Mitchell’s brilliant songs, she called life a game–The Circle Game.
The Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell
Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Joni Mitchell’ song The Circle Game is a masterpiece, but it doesn’t tell the entire story. As soon as the boy reaches the age of twenty, the song ends:
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty…
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.
When I first heard The Circle Game, I was also turning twenty, and frankly, I am glad that I didn’t realize then how much my understanding of that tune would change over the next several years. The greatest of life’s games is that when we are young, we don’t realize how precious the moments and the opportunities of youth actually are. When we are young, we believe that we will be young forever. Unfortunately, that is not true.
One of life’s greatest disappointments lies within discovering that Time itself is an illusion and that living is like chasing after a mirage. We waste too much of our lives looking too far ahead at something that seems to be golden and grand. We believe that the treasure is always just ahead. When we reach the time and place where we believed the treasure had lain, its golden somethingness isn’t there at all. What we had chased was merely a shiny reflection in the sand.
“What was any art but a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.” – Willa Cather
I don’t want to pretend that art and writing are more than they actually are, but in the almost final analysis, I can honestly say that my ability to create is the way that I begin to make sense of life’s Circle Game, and it is the way that I have managed to slow my own aging process. My writing has been particularly helpful in that regard. I won’t remind everyone of the very true words that youth is wasted on the young. That has been said so very many times and by so very many people that I am not sure who said it first. I’ll merely conclude by saying that Time is a Luxury, and it is a luxury that will eventually run out. Ultimately, everyone stands  in the October of their own lives singing another song: Winter Comes Too Soon.

©Jacki Kellum September 28, 2016

Disagree

The More We Give, the More We Receive – Why Blog? – Create to Discover New Ideas & New Creations

Yesterday, in my writing class, we talked about hoarding. I am not sure how the conversation began, but it quickly evolved into a discussion of the clutter that has amassed in all of our homes. Everyone agrees that the stuff that we hoard eventually strangles us and that we need to learn to let go. Many years ago, I read a short parable about the Dead Sea and about the damaging results of its refusal to give.

Two-Seas

The Parable of the Two Seas

“There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters. Along its shores the children play…..

The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills. So it laughs in the sunshine. And men build their houses near to it, and birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there.

The River Jordan flows on south into another sea. Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.

What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie not the country about.

This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

There are two kinds of people in the world. There are two seas in Palestine.” – Anonymous

The Bible talks about Giving:

“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

Initially, when I read the above scripture, I assumed that it was simply telling us to give of our money and of our groceries to actually provide those groceries for those around us. But I believe that the hunger and  the feeding in the Bible were about more than something that goes into our mouths. I believe that the Bible also talks about the pervasive hunger of the human spirit and of the needs of the soul.

William Blake was an English poet during the Romantic age of literature. He was a Christian, but he wrote about an emotional hunger that was broader than that described by most traditional Christians. In Blake’s early poems, The Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience, he contrasted the child’s spirit with that of the adult, saying that the adult had become hardened and insensitive and that the adult was no longer spiritual. I find it interesting that the Bible also speaks about the child.

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘ Matthew 18:3

In Blake’s early poems, he was talking about more than childhood. Blake was talking about an emotional youth or spirituality.[I believe that the Bible is also talking about more than childhood]. Ultimately, William Blake described a Heaven and a Hell for people who either connect with their emotional spirituality or innocent imaginations or who choose not to connect with it. Blake said that the Imagination was the path to his Heaven, and he also wrote about a Christ-like figure Los, who was the embodiment of the Imagination. In Blake’s writing, the Imagination [Los] leads one to Heaven.

One may or may not accept that Blake’s teachings were Christian.

But Christianity is not the only religion that raises the issue of the needs of the hunger of the spirit or of the soul.

homesick.jpg

I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists . . . .

Many of us identify with the statement: I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists.  If we substituted the words
“hungry” and “food,” we would probably also acknowledge that we are starving, too.

I am hungry for a food I am not sure even exists.

The Tao draws ideas from Buddhism, and the first of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that mankind lives in a state of yearning. The Buddhists believe that by aligning oneself with the Four Noble Truths, that yearning will cease, or at least, it will be lessened.

“Tao or Dao (/taʊ/, /daʊ/; Chinese: 道; pinyin: About this sound Dào (help·info)) is a Chinese word signifying ‘way’, ‘path’, ‘route’, or sometimes more loosely, ‘doctrine’ or ‘principle’. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao is the intuitive knowing of “life” that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through actual living experience of one’s everyday being.” Wikipedia Here

[The Tao Te Ching–or the Dao–can be found in its entirety by Googling the words: Tao Te Ching. It is a beautiful writing.]

The Hindu religion talks about the soul. “Atman means ‘eternal self’. The atman refers to the real self beyond ego or false self. It is often referred to as ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ and indicates our true self or essence which underlies our existence.” From BBC Religions Here

I realize that I am over-simplifying all of these religious beliefs and schools of thought, but my main objective is to say that the Christians are not the only people who have identified a hunger and a need to be filled. I grew up as a Christian, and because I am slightly more comfortable talking about the Christain perspective, I return to the need to give, as it is discussed in the Bible. In an odd sort of way, I believe that humanity’s hunger has to do with the difficulty he has with giving:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

Again, I admit that this may be an over-simplification, but I believe that as we create, we give. Think about it: When we post to our blogs, we “share.” Creating is a way that we empty ourselves, and as we empty of ourselves, we allow space for another creation to begin.

The act of creating works like a bellows.

 

bellows-define

What Is A Bellows?

A bellows is a device that can be used to fan the flames and to build a larger fire. When the arms of a bellows are pulled apart, air is drawn into a bag. When the arms are squeezed shut, the air is rushed out, and the oxygen fans the flames. This increases the size of the fire.  Once the air has been emptied from the bag, the arms are pulled apart again, and fresh air is drawn back into the bag. When the arms are shut again, another blast of oxygen is expelled, and the flames leap higher. A bellows is sometimes called a blast bag.

Writing Is Like Using A Bellows

When we initially begin to write, our thoughts may be nothing more than a tiny flicker. Our thoughts need oxygen. We must fan our reflections to help them grow. We begin by pushing out the stale air which has been sitting inside our bags or our minds. When the whiff that was initially inside the bagblows out, the flame may flash for a second or two, but it needs more than a draft of stale, oxygenless air. Once the bag is empty, however, we can pull apart the bellows, and fresh ideas, renewed memories, and other invigorating thoughts will fill the bags of our minds. When we push that new bag of fresh air across the flickering light, the flames will begin to leap into the air. But in order to fill our bags with that vital and fresh oxygen, we must expel the insipid air that has been trapped inside.

Relate Using A Bellows and Creating to Emptying in the Teachings of Zen

The Full Teacup is a Zen story that illustrates the need for emptying. A man who was believed to be powerful and wise came to the Zen master to learn something new. Apparently, the student began by reciting to the master some of the things that he already knew. Apparently, he was trying to impress the master with the depth of his knowledge. After the Zen master listened for a moment, he said, “Let’ begin our session with a cup of tea.”

The master filled the student’s cup with tea, but he did not stop pouring. Tea flowed from the cup and ran across the floor. The student said, “Stop, the cup is full.”

The Zen master responded, “Exactly. Your mind is like the full cup of tea. I cannot teach you anything until you empty your mind and open yourself to something new.”

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 11

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.

When we sit down to write, we often feel that we have nothing new to say. That is because our minds are filled with stale, lifeless thoughts. Before we can begin to discover what we want to write, we must expel what is inside ourselves and we must create an empty space within our consciousnesses.

Please return to the idea of the Dead Sea, the body of water that does not empty of itself.

The Dead Sea – “Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.”

“What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie not the country about.

“This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

“The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

“The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

:There are two kinds of people in the world. There are two seas in Palestine.” – Anonymous

Allow me to add to this parable. There are also two kinds of thinkers. One type of thinker explores his thoughts and shares. In doing so, he is continuously emptying his thoughts through writing, through painting, or through producing music. Fresh ideas will continually flow inside the generous thinker’s mind, and the new ideas will replace what had previously been there. The other type of thinker will not empty of himself–he will not give. The thinker who hoards will not allow what is inside his head to flow outward. Therefore, his brain  becomes parched and dried. The grass is no longer green in this thinker’s mind, and the children no longer come to play. Nothing will change until the thinker allows what is inside himself to flow out.

We Must Create to be More Creative:

When we don’t give–when we don’t create–
We allow our inner selves to stagnate;
And stagnation leads to withering,
Which ultimately results in a type of death.
When we don’t create, we become like the Dead Sea. 

I often write about my reasons for blogging. For me, there is no money in blogging. I don’t blog to increase my wealth, but I do blog for other selfish reasons. I blog to empty my mind and to be re-invigorated through that emptying. I blog to control the chaos that results from the stagnation of too much information, and I blog to be blessed with something new to say. I would not say that I am a generous person. A generous person gives for no reason at all, and I do have a reason for giving through my creativity. I create to be more creative.

©Jacki Kellum September 23, 2016

Generous

Opening Up by Writing It Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain – Including Sexual Abuse

After performing extensive tests, James W. Pennebaker, PhD, has written a series of books that examine the question of whether or not the practice of writing has the ability to heal emotional wounds. I do not intend to recite his laboratory findings, but I do believe that he says things in his books that most of us need to know:

“Major secrets can be stressful. Like other stressors, keeping secrets from those close to us can affect our health, including our immune function, the action of our heart and vascular systems, and even the biochemical workings of our brain and nervous systems. In short, keep back thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can place us at risk for both major and minor diseases.

“Whereas harboring secrets is potentially harmful, confronting our personal thoughts and feelings can have remarkable short- and long-term health benefits. Confession, whether by writing or talking…can neutralize many of the problems of secrets.” Pennebaker, James. Opening Up by Writing It Down, pgs. 1-2.

Denial

“Virtually all of us have actively avoided thinking about unpleasant experiences. Some have actively avoided thinking about unpleasant experiences. Some issues are so painful that we deceive ourselves into thinking that they don’t exist.” Pennebaker, James. Opening Up by Writing It Down, p. 7.

“Most striking, however, was that those who reported a sexual trauma evidenced more health problems than any other group we had ever seen.” Pennebaker, James. Opening Up by Writing It Down, p. 14.

Writing Is A Way to Organize

“We don’t need to talk to other to tell our untold stories. Whether we talk into an audio recorder, scribble on a magic pad, or type on our iPad, translating thoughts into language can be psychologically and physically beneficial. When people write about important events, they begin to organize and understand them. Writing about the thoughts and feelings connected with unexpected experiences forces us to bring together their many facets. Once we can distill complex experiences into more understandable packages, we can begin to move beyond them.

“Writing, then, organizes upheavals.” Pennebaker, James. Opening Up by Writing It Down, p. 65.

Writing Clears the Mind

“Before beginning a complex task, it can be beneficial to write out your thought and feelings. Indeed, many professional hypnotists often use this technique to accelerate the hypnotic procedure. Basically, they ask their clients to jot down their current thoughts and feelings. When their clients finish writing, the hypnotists tell them to tear up the paper and throw it away. This serves as a symbolic form of clearing the mind.” Pennebaker, James. Opening Up by Writing It Down, p. 72.

Benefits of Freewriting

“Freely writing your thoughts and feelings before beginning any formal writing can loosen your writing skills.” Pennebaker, James. Opening Up by Writing It Down, p. 73.

Is Writing on a Blog Helpful?

Yes. Pennebaker, James. Opeing Up by Writing It Down, p. 76.

Writing Needs to be Self-Reflective and Not Research

The author recalls that a scholarly person, who had been writing for a while came to his center and wanted to share his writing, which apparently had not helped him.

“He was a fluid writer with an impressive vocabulary and a keen eye for nuances in people’s behaviors. In his writing, he drew heavily from Jung, Spinoza, Aristotle, Lao0Tzu, and other intellectual luminaries. Despite his insight into other people’s behaviors and even his own mental processes, he never wrote about his own emotions or why he felt the way he did. He was so concerned with demonstrating his own brilliance that he forgot why he was writing in the first place.”

“…don’t expect intellectualization to improve your health.” Pennebaker, James. Opening Up by Writing It Down, pgs. 79-80.

Don’t Use Writing as A Forum for Uncensored Complaining

“Remember that a prime value of writing is that it forces us to ask how and why we feel the ways we do. Ideally, writing helps us organize, structure, order, and make meaning of these experiences. As a self-reflective exercise, it is beneficial to acknowledge our deepest emotions and thoughts….Merely complaining…will not be particularly healing. Indeed, it hay be harmful.

“Many studies have demonstrated that blindly venting anger often makes us feel angrier. Hitting a pillow, pretending it is someone we would like to slug, ususally increases our blood pressure….Talking or writing about the source of our problems without self-reflection, merely adds to our distress.” Pennebaker, James. Opening Up by Writing It Down, p. 78.

Don’t Recite Memorized Facts – Be Real

“Although these overdisclosers appear to be confiding their deepest thoughts and feelings, a closer analysis suggests that they are divulging traumatic events in a repetitive fashion without self reflecting. Again, they have rehearsed the events in their minds and in conversations thousands of times, but have not explored either their emotions or the meaning of the events to their lives.” Pennebaker, James. Opening Up by Writing It Down, pgs. 78-79.

“Whereas periodic self-reflection is healthy, it can be carried to an extreme. …

“If we live completely in this self-reflective state, we cannot be empathic….To the degree that writing helps us understand and even reorient our lives, it is beneficial. When we self-reflect to the point of self-absorption, it becomes maladaptive.” Pennebaker, JameOpeninging Up by Writing It Down, p. 79.

Writing Is Not A Substitute for Talking and Friends

“Other people’s views and opinions usually ground us in reality. Without consulting others, we can blow many of our thoughts and emotions far out of proportion–cans can help provide us a ‘reality check’ that we often need. …

“Friends…can offer emotional support, advice, and other forms of assistance in ways that writing just can’t do. Just because you may no be able to talk to some of your friends about a specific topic, remember that they are available for general advice and friendship. If friends are unavailable, psychotherapists and other people in the helping profession will listen to your problems and help keep your sense of reality intact.”  Pennebaker, JameOpeninging Up by Writing It Down, p. 80.

People Who Have Significant Emotional Problems or Who Are Seriously Ill Still Need Professional Help

“For people who are deeply distressed and who are unable to cope effectively, therapy is often the only realistic alternative….Similarly, when individual suffer from a significant health problem, writing (or therapy) may positively influence their bodies. In most cases, however, they will be much wiser to visit a physician first….

“Writing, then, should be viewed as preventive maintenance. The value of writing or talking about our thoughts and feelings lies in reducing the work of inhibition and in organizing our complicated and messy mental and emotional lives. Writing helps to keep our psychological compass oriented. Writing can be an inexpensive, simple, albeit sometimes painful way to help maintain our health.”  Pennebaker, JameOpeninging Up by Writing It Down, p. 80.

Pennebaker’s book confirms several ideas that I have had for quite some time. If you need a more detailed analysis of his test results, find a copy of this book.

©Jacki Kellum September 11, 2016

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