Whenever I cross that bridge in my mind that I call my past, I suffer. My past has nourished my suffering over and over again; till it was fat. Whenever, I close my eyes the memories of my past are there to greet me and remind me of that awful moment.
Yet, I keep traveling back and I don’t know why. Surely I should heed the signs of warning and calls to turn back the have been placed along the way, by me, after previous upsetting forays! Why do I return to these moments or months of grief or fear or violence, that raised fist, the shameful disrobing, those awful words, which sliced my heart in two? I have no words for what happened to me, and even if I were to find them, I cannot imagine that anyone will be interested in another sad story. And even if they were interested, no one can really understand what I went through because they were not there. I was alone. I remain alone…. – Forward by David Read Johnson, PhD from the book Writing Away the Demons compiled by Sherry Reiter, PhD.
A few years ago, while on my own journey to discovery, of how to deal with the memories that ail me, I met a woman named Sherry Reiter, PhD. We were both facilitators at a conference on trauma experienced by Military Veterans. I shared with her part of my story while we waited to speak and she graciously gave me a signed copy of her book “Writing Away the Demons“.
Over the years I’ve opened this book from time to time as I worked with couples, individuals and families to help them face and deal with the traumas of their past. Dr. Reiter taught me that day about how writing can be Transformative. Since that time I’ve been doing some writing of my own an often share with my clients the information I’ve learned during this process.
There is a bridge between the present and my past. I call her memory, and over her I travel back and forth, my home now there, then here, seeking comfort against the uncertainties that press on me. With her, I revisit the kind gestures, the warm embraces, the belly laughs that graced my life along the way and that help me face the rising edge of time which greets me each morning.
I encourage those, as I do many of my clients, that their is a power in writing. As Dr. Reiter would probably say…”There is power in the words,” let it be in the form of poetry, journaling, your story or just free form writing. Demon in the sense that Dr. Reiter talks about in her book is not an evil spirit, but a powerful upheaval that seems to take over one’s existence, an uninvited situation, memory or thought in which the person is thrusted time and time again. Dr Reiter outlines 10 basic concepts in transformative writing that aid the author in understanding, not to write the problem away, which would be a simplification of ones pain…but to make a safe meeting place…in the middle of the bridge, between you and your Demons in order to foster new understanding and change. She outlines these basic concepts in her book as elements to behold in ones writing that gives us understanding of why writing can be so liberating to the soul. Here are those elements, summarized, as they appear in her book:
- MASTERY: Words are the building blocks for prayer, and even magic spells. Reducing the Demons to the language is a form of empowerment. From birth language is the structure that we use to communicate our wants and need. Mastery of the language used by our Demons help codify, at times the stories that it has left us to believe as true.
- RITUAL: Whenever human beings have been faced with change, whether alone or in a groups, we create rituals to give significance to life passages. Rituals may be used prior to writing journeys, some individuals chose to light a candle, meditate, dance or play music. Such rituals provide portals that enable you to enter into a new state of consciousness.
- SAFETY: Writing can be done alone in private, without the need to please or impress others, it can be free from judgement
- WITNESSING: When writing your invisible thoughts and feelings appear to be observed and witnessed by the self. The author has the ability to revisit and/or erase these feelings whenever they choose.
- FREEDOM/POETIC LICENSE: As the author you have free reign to control the intensity or depth on whatever subject your heart chooses to explore.
- VENTING AND CONTAINMENT: Writing is the Do-it-yourself way to cathartic expression of feelings and deep emotions, liberating the emotional self from it’s prison.
- TRANSFORMATION OF TIME, SPACE AND MATTER: When you write, time is at your mercy, feeling and thoughts that were once invisible magically appear.
- THE MAGIC OF THE POETIC: There is much to be learned in life that is not rational or logical. Creative writing is a modality that can help you to access your creative emotional intelligence and imagination.
- CREATIVITY: Creativity allows us to transcend our limitations
- INTERGRATING PARTS INTO A WHOLE: The writing is your container, a ship bouncing on the waves of your emotions. And from these waters, re-birth takes place- Sporadically, sometimes awkwardly in pain, with the ultimate triumph of creation and transformation.
If not for seeing, hearing, feeling my own words as they jumped of the page at me…I don’t know if my own journey would have been as remarkable. I have yet to reach my destination, however writing about my demons has carried me much further than I would gone without it. At times it has even saved me from myself.
When working with clients who have experienced trauma, the journey is marked by tears, sadness and grief. However, the starting point is not the ending, but the beginning to an end.
Jemal Douté, LMFT is a Couples Counselor in Fayetteville, GA. He is also certified in EMDR and works with individuals whom have experience hardships, trauma and lost of hope as the result of severe psychological distress. www.jemaldoute.com