Doug, my font of all wisdom, says if we barely scratch the surface of people, we find their hearts aren’t buried too deeply below that surface.
I’ve learned the truth of that statement in my writing classes.
I teach personal writing workshops where we focus primarily on essays and memoirs.
One of the assignments I gave this last group was to write about a turning point in their lives — a time when one day they were one person and the next they were someone else.
While the stories are turning points for them, they are turning points for me too because they open my mind to the challenges and resiliency of others. I am moved by their courage, their faith, and their determination to keep going in the face of such difficulties.
Writing workshops are a type of therapy, and when people write their stories and face the big, ugly, scary things in their lives, they get stronger.
It’s like teaching children to look in the closet when they imagine something threatening is hiding inside that could hurt them. When they open the closet and face the perceived monster, the scariness diminishes and the monster is de-clawed.
Similarly, sometimes when we write about our challenges or fears, just that we are exposing them in the bright sunlight diminishes their power over us.
In Doug’s personal coaching training he learned that emotions are pieces of energy designed to move through us — not get stuck inside of us.
Problems arise when we stop the emotions and dwell on them.
I often listened to a healing meditation during my cancer treatments (forgive all my cancer references but that was one of my turning points!).
The goal of the meditation was to realize that emotions and pain have a natural life cycle — they approach, we recognize them; they hit, we briefly feel them, and then we watch them leave. Bad feelings and pain are like buses we can choose to get on and ride or watch them slow down in front of us and move on.
In Doug’s training, he learned the same kind of lesson. Many of us don’t progress through some things in life because we let them stop and take up residence in us.
Part of the therapeutic power of personal coaching and writing workshops is that you get to tell your stories and have others genuinely listen. And,when we have good listeners and feel heard and understood, we always feel better.
The New York Times ran an article last week about why talk therapy is on the wane and writing workshops are on the rise.
The author, Steve Almond, confessed that he starting writing for the therapeutic benefits. About a writing workshop experience, he said, “…Looking back, I can see that the instigating impulse for me, for all of us really, was therapeutic. We were writing to confront what Faulkner called ‘the human heart in conflict with itself.’ And not just any hearts. Our hearts.”
I’m fascinated with what’s below the surface of people because I keep discovering such strength and beauty there.
As I walked to my car last week carrying a beautiful bouquet presented to me by my writing class I wondered, “what is it I love about teaching these workshops? Is it the writing and helping people become better writers and craft stronger essays or is it the people themselves and their powerful personal stories and the strength I get from them?”
I decided it’s all the above because every time they share something unique and moving from their lives, I get to experience a subtle turning point in mine.
And by the way, I’d love to hear about your turning points! Send them to me and I’ll post them on my blog.