Archive for September, 2007

Personal Reflections on Writing to Heal from the Director of UCLArts and Healing

Personal Reflections on Writing to Heal from Ping Ho, Founder and Director of UCLArts and Healing

After sitting in on 4 or 5 expressive writing workshops and 4 or 5 poetry workshops, I am starting to get it. The very first time I did stream of consciousness writing with Dr. Rachel Ballon, the ideas were all over the place – a veritable mess, but out of the three pages of ramble – there was an “aha” that was probably worth hundreds of hours of marital therapy. It is freeing to “let go” and let a piece evolve. Quite often after I write for about 10 minutes – the REAL issue emerges in the last minute. So, at least I know where I should begin next time.

I recently returned from China, where I decided to keep a journal in poetry format – in order to keep my entries pithy. What I discovered in this process was that all it took to write well was to take in life with all five senses, and my attempts at writing poetry revealed how much I was not taking in. This newfound awareness kept me in the present moment more often, which filled my day with more rich memories than blurs. Sometimes the pieces flowed forth freely; other times, they took a while to craft, yet all were immensely gratifying to read.

These classes in Writing to Heal are a genuine hybrid of art and therapy, which gives them a depth that is fascinating. A sense of community rapidly develops among an impressively diverse group of strangers. Emotions surface at unexpected times, usually when reading what one has written. Participants often report that they get more out of reading their work than writing it. Listening to others can be as enlightening, moving, and inspiring as reading what one has written oneself. Writing with authenticity, even by novices, can rival the work of the masters. With self-awareness comes the possibility for change.

Since writing is so powerful and accessible, it should be offered as a therapeutic tool in a multitude of settings.

Participant Reflects on How Writing Heals

When I was going through a crisis, at about four years sober, my friend, quazi sponsor, told me to write a journal. I don’t remember if it was her idea or mine but I decided to write to God. So, every night I would get into bed and start, “Dear God.” At first it was a kind of laundry list of the day but then I think I started to write more about “stuff”. I always signed them, “love Linda.” I think around the same time I started calling God, Max. I wanted to personalize the vastness, the awesomeness. Now, back to why writing heals. It’s like purging. Getting out the poison, getting out the lies. Seeing your stuff in black and white. Concrete. It’s a relief. I remember before I got sober, over 20 years ago, writing a letter to my father. I had a big resentment that had festered. It was time to let it out. With a borrowed typewriter and my glass of wine (my drug of choice) I sat and typed. I typed over a four day period. Somehow I managed to slip in some good stuff. It was 8 pages long. Phew! I did it. I had tried to figure out how to get it to him as he can’t really read. But, the miracle was, at the end, when all was said and done, there was no need. The magic of pen to paper had worked. Freedom. It never got sent. It never got read. There was no need. Healing had happened.