I love to write and collage and paint. And I love to help smart people do more of the creative work they were meant to do in this world.
I also do EMDR therapy. That’s eye-movement-desensitization and reprocessing therapy. Click here to learn more about EMDR, the most effective tool I’ve learned since graduate school.
EMDR is more than therapy. It works like a cork remover and cleans out channels of associative memory, allowing the body to metabolize old experiences and file them appropriately. It unblocks writers and artists to use their full potential for creativity. It helps athletes and dancers optimize their performance and makes teachers and managers sharper and more effective with their people. It jump starts the nervous system to move information, it calms your body in preparation for focus, and it helps your mind generate new ideas.
EMDR generates creativity and calm. Author David Grand says that every artistic performance problem is linked to past trauma. When we target that past trauma with EMDR, a person can move beyond stage fright or writer’s block and into the creative flow.
EMDR and LifeWriting
When we write our experiences, we learn what we know. Yes – as strange as it sounds, we write to know. Until the words show up on the page, it’s often difficult to access the bigger context, the juicy detail, and the emotional contour of an experience. Putting pen to paper primes the mental pump and triggers sharper recall of events that make up our unique story.
LifeWriting is the process of crafting scenes that represent memories. It happens both spontaneously and with coaching as my clients progress through trauma recovery therapy. EMDR complements the LifeWriting process as it calms and clarifies. EMDR helps people make more conscious sense of their past experiences and allows creative revision to occur in the memory stream. My clients both feel better and see their past more clearly.
For example, Teresa (48, mother of three) came in for EMDR to treat her anxiety about an impending divorce from a man with multiple addictions. As she worked through this issue, she started writing. On impulse one day, she dusted off her old journal and brought it into therapy. “I remembered this a few days ago,” she said. “I used to write about my life but I stopped twenty years ago.” Over the next two months, Teresa re-discovered her love of writing. She started a memoir about growing up with an alcoholic father. In just a few weeks, she amassed thirty pages of riveting story that she shared with her LifeWriting Group. With feedback and encouragement, her words started leaping off the page like images on a movie screen.
Most people I see for EMDR – to treat anxiety and depression – DO find themselves suddenly more interested in telling stories, making music, writing poems, or painting murals. I’m amazed at how healing trauma and removing writer’s block, stimulating new thoughts and color schemes, and prompting deeper creative insights, all bloom from the same fertile process.
We already know that regular writing keeps us healthier, especially when we write about emotional issues or life experiences. I’m a huge fan of James Pennebaker’s research in the area of Writing and Health. He established that when people write, they stay well, and go to the doctor less often.
Taking Pennebaker’s work a step further, I find that when people share their writing in a small, safe, supportive group, they become better wordsmiths and use description and scene-making to further the recovery process. Combine EMDR, writing, and group support, and you get a recipe for dynamic change.
Fiction or nonfiction. Poetry or prose. Whatever your preferred literary mode, Life-Writing and EMDR will boost your writing and healing potential.