The ‘write-rip-throw’ approach to ditching negative thoughts

Negative thoughts making your life a misery? Well, rather than ruminating on them and giving them oxygen, there’s a simpler way of getting rid of them. Just write them down on a piece of paper, rip them up and throw them away.

Write your bad thoughts down and let them go to be free of them. (pic: istockphoto.com/AnikaSalsera)

Write your bad thoughts down and let them go to be free of them. (pic: istockphoto.com/AnikaSalsera)

Sounds too easy? Too free of angst? No use if you just can’t let go…?

Research begs to disagree. It’s people who hold onto their negative thoughts who preserve them. Physically binning them – rather than just imagining you’re throwing them away – takes away their power. Here’s how… Continue reading

Expressing your fears takes their power away

It’s something therapists and writers have known for years, but now psychologists have confirmed that naming your fears stops them having so much power over you.

Giving a name to something, or expressing exactly how you feel, means you don’t have to deny the feeling or keep squashing it down. Sometimes the energy needed to keep it at bay is more painful and stressful than just talking about it anyway. Writers use that technique all the time: expressive or reflexive writing puts into words their feelings and stresses, and therefore externalises what’s going on inside and helps to process feelings and look at them objectively.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) did some tests on people who are afraid of spiders, asking some of them to approach a tarantula, and to experience and label their fears. For example, to say: “I’m anxious and frightened by the ugly, terrifying spider.” People who were able to express their fears were able to get closer to the tarantula, and had less of a stress reaction.

Michelle Craske, a professor of psychology at UCLA and the senior author of the study, said: “The implication is to encourage patients, as they are exposed to whatever they are fearful of, to label the emotional responses they are experiencing and label the characteristics of the stimuli — to verbalise their feelings. That lets people experience the very things they are afraid of and say: ‘I feel scared and I’m here.’ They’re not trying to push it away and say it’s not so bad.”

The crucial point is this: “Be in the moment and allow yourself to experience whatever you’re experiencing.”

when it’s time to let go

Thirteen years ago right now I was whizzing to the hospital to see my dad who had just died. We’d only just him and been home a few minutes when we got the call.

It’s one of those moments that will always stick in my mind, for obvious reasons.

Question is, for how much longer will I stay stuck in that moment? Every year it gets worse, not better.

Why am I holding on? And why can’t I let go?

I want him to rest in peace. And I want to live in peace.

Why can’t I come out of my writing shell?

How can I crack open my shell to reveal the pearls within? (pic credit: istockphoto.com/Kasiam)

Ask any writer – a real writer – why he or she writes, and they’ll reply that they’re born to do it. It’s their destiny, and it’s a dream that they’re not prepared to let go.

I’m one of them, but I’ll only admit to that in writerly circles. While I make a living from writing – from journalism, commercial writing and copywriting – I’m kind of shy about the fact that I harbour ambitions to be an author. Of a novel. Preferably in print, displayed prominently in the front window of Continue reading

Creative writing to help soldiers deal with trauma

Soldiers suffering severe physical and psychological after-effects of war are to benefit from expressive writing workshops to help process and transcend their trauma.

The use of creative writing as therapy will be core to the Operation Homecoming programme to help heal service members at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland who have been affected by traumatic brain injuries and psychological health conditions.  Continue reading

the healing power of a grief journal

Tears streamed down my face when I read about a woman who had lost her only child chart her journey through journaling. This post is really worth reading on Life Goes Strong, entitled Writing for Life: How Journal Writing Helps Heal One Mother’s Grief.

Writing really was therapy in this case, for Tamara Thomas, and the process took her through the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance – and the tasks of mourning: to accept the reality of loss; to work through the feelings about that loss; to learn to live without the person you’ve lost; and to Continue reading

rap star feels the therapeutic benefits of writing his life story

Writing down my ‘stuff’ – letting it flow on the page and then close the book on it – has long been my therapeutic secret. While it’s great to have a therapist with whom to share  and pick over the darkest, most uncomfortable aspects of one’s character, there’s something about the easy availability and non-judgemental nature of pages in a notebook that are all-ears all times of the day.

Which is why it’s inspiring to hear how rapper Dizzee Rascal, in writing his autobiography with the aid of a ghostwriter, felt the process of telling his story was ‘like therapy’. He told the Evening Standard that he had lots of Continue reading

a poem after the london riots

The lasting legacy of ludicrous riots:

what will that mean for me?

Not the mobs in their looted trainers,

or the YouTube vigilantes;

not the columns condemning violence

or the angry-eyed document’ries.

Maybe the broom-wielding Wombles

or the Continue reading

does writing help you deal with your own darkness?

I’m not the only writer who infuses her fiction with the shadowy elements of her psyche.

Who knows what can emerge from the shadows of the unconscious?

I’ve just read an interview with thriller writer Mo Hayder – winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger in the Library 2011 award – where she says her writing helps her deal with the darkness in her mind. By fictionalising what terrifies her most, she is able to allay the intensity of her fears.

Psychoanalytic theory suggests that characters in novels are all projections of the author’s anxieties, neuroses and inner conflicts which the author him/herself may not be fully conscious of. It is this unconscious element that Continue reading

why I need a room of my own on a boat on the Broads

I know I don’t appreciate things until I don’t have them any more – that’s human nature. But boy have I missed a room of my own since embarking on a boat trip on the Norfolk Broads.

Norfolk Broads boat

Boating on the Broads

Before departing, I had imagined a serene journey along the river network of Norfolk, gliding past wildlife and other friendly ‘sailors’ with their jaunty hats and jovial waves, and plenty of time and space to think and write.

I was right about the first two, but wrong about the second. Not used to ‘camping’ or managing without wi-fi broadband, hot running water, and the ability to Continue reading