Memoir Therapy

The more people I’ve written for, the more obvious it’s to me that writing or talking about oneself is enormously therapeutic. “Well, yes (insert eye roll here), that’s a well-worn fact – everyone knows it.” And I agree. Therapeutic writing has been around since … hmm … well, since diaries and journals first began, around the time the written word was invented. But there’s more to it than that.

We all appreciate how much better we feel after venting in an email, or on a forum, despite the possible backlash that letting it all hang out online can engender. But as a memoir writer, I’ve seen something quite extraordinary occur many, many times when people sit down to write or tell their story. It’s a healing that’s almost palpable. Not only does the writer come to terms with hurt, betrayal and anger (you’d think that would be rewarding enough) but they also enjoy an improvement in overall mental and physical health.

So why?

Putting feelings down on paper certainly helps mental clarity. But there’s much more to it than that. Dr James Pennebaker, a Texas researcher, found that when people wrote or talked about the hard stuff—emotionally difficult feelings and events—for as little as twenty minutes at a time over four days, their immune functioning increased. There was a direct impact on the body’s ability to withstand stress and fight off infection and disease.

Makes you want to write, doesn’t it?

Michael Collins

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