Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“When you open your mind, you open new doors to new possibilities for yourself and new opportunities to help others.”
The Role of Mindfulness and Memoir Writing In Healing: A Reflection
After eight years of studying the art and craft of memoir writing, publishing one memoir and working on a second one, I am able to say, without a doubt, that the process has led to healing in my life.
There is a plethora of information about the healing aspects of writing (links to selected resources included below) but I wanted to explore the process that led to the healing I experienced.
For twenty-five years, I lived with guilt and shame about two abusive marriages. But I was not fully aware of the depth of that guilt and shame until I began writing.
It wasn’t until I published the memoir in 2014 that I felt the healing.
Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse is about a young woman whose search for Prince Charming led her deeper into an abyss of self-defeating patterns. The journey into and out of these patterns is the story.
In writing my memoir, the themes of hope, resilience and courage in finding that I had everything I needed became clear. I only had to claim and honor the strength within to get the life I wanted.
In writing and sharing my story, I forgave the men in my life whom I felt had harmed me. I saw the father of my children as a good person with a bad problem, rather than harboring anger against him. Perhaps, most important, I forgave myself.
But I did not know any of this when I started writing in 2009. I only knew that I had a story I wanted to tell. I wanted it to be a story of hope for others in abusive relationships.
The words and feelings buried all those years seemed to take on a different shape as they landed on the pages.
What was it about the writing process that helped me to move forward from the guilt and shame to a life of joy and peace?
Mindfulness comes to mind when I think of memoir writing…being in the moment with the memory, the experience, and the effect it had on me. In doing that, I had to face my own truth. Yes, that was mew, yes,I made all those choices, yes, I am human.
If I want readers to connect their stories with my story, they need to experience me as a believable, authentic person. My story needed to be more than a litany of life events, but rather a universal message with my own unique, yet relatable life story twist.
I needed to remain mindful of being committed to my truth and my voice in relaying my story. When I felt stuck, I journaled about feeling stuck or I took a break and let the story marinate on its own.
I am taking these lessons into my work-in-progress memoir.
When I take care of myself, I begin to trust in my own creative abilities. I allow myself to be vulnerable and share from my core.
Memoir writing is a journey of self-discovery, healing and transformation.
But I have to be open to where the story is taking me. I have to be willing to “go there” into the land of uncertainty and vulnerability.
And the places it took me were uncomfortable, raw, cringe-worthy as is currently happening with my work-in-progress memoir about being the mother of an addicted son.
A wound will fester if it’s covered up too long. I am revisiting old wounds and opening them up for healing.
Why in the world would I want to go there and relive those painful memories?
Joseph Campbell said, “ The cave you fear to enter holds the treasures you seek.”
Facing painful memories is the beginning of getting to the other side.
We all tell ourselves stories about ourselves.
These stories can be reframed through the writing as we revisit the memory. Often times, it is the act of writing it on paper that gives the memory less power. We can take back our control about how we view the event.
We can develop a new narrative around our memories.
If readers can connect to their own stories through my story, perhaps they can envision different outcomes for themselves. In that regard, I believe reading as well as writing memoir can be healing.
But in order to enter that cave of fear—about privacy issues, my own vulnerability, repercussions of telling my story—I have to write with intention.
Being connected to my purpose for telling my story propels me through the roadblocks and obstacles along the way.
My purpose in telling my stories is to share my hope that no matter how far down into the abyss you go, there’s always hope for a better life.
In my desire to help others, I ended up helping myself. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving as readers connect with me and share their stories.
Being mindful and writing my memoir helped me to heal.
Selected resources for writing to heal and mindfulness:
“Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering From Trauma and Emotional Upheaval” book by James Pennebaker,MD.
“The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story” book by Linda Joy Myers,PhD
“Expressive Writing: What’s on Your Mind and in Your Heart” Dr. John F. Evans , Ed.D
“Writing to Heal” Bridget Murray
How about you? Has writing helped you to heal? Have you read memoirs that helped you to heal? What about writing or reading memoirs do you think leads to healing?
I’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~
“Interview with Memoirist Annette Gendler”
Annette is the author of the newly released memoir, Jumping Over Shadows, the story of a German-Jewish love that overcame the burdens of the past.