Why We Write

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But I can’t write…“Why do I have to write?”

“Can’t you just help me without writing?”

Why yes, yes I can. But there are a variety of reasons why I use writing. First, let’s get the science behind us. 

Studies show that utilizing the motor skills necessary to put pen to paper and formulate thought stimulates more of the brain. Something about it activating the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. I know, lots of science words there. If it freaks you out a bit, you can read more about it here.

Writing puts things in perspective, and “even helps us get over a break up”.

According to the article above, in a brain scan experiment done by the University of California, 20 volunteers were asked to write 20 minutes for 4 consecutive days. The ones who wrote about something emotional vs something neutral showed more brain activity. 

But the reason I incorporate writing into my coaching practice is far less complex and way more personal. 

Depending on what stats you believe, we are bombarded with anywhere from 45,000 to 65,000 pieces of stimuli every day. I’m betting if I asked you to sit down and list it all you would be like, huh? At least I would.

See, what happens is that our brain knows we can’t process that much information, so it does the best it can do to protect us from overload, although you may be feeling right now it isn’t doing enough on that front.

But I digress. The brain accomplishes this incredible feat by putting everything through a filter, which sounds lovely, and in many ways it is. But what are the parameters of that filter you may be wondering? Ahhhhh, here’s the sticky part. One of the reasons we often feel so out of control is because our amazing, marvelous brain is running stimuli through filters we may not have set intentionally.

Again, not a scientist, so I am not going to go into the mechanics of how that happens. Suffice it to say, if we have ever done something in the past, it is recorded, not just in our brain, but in our cells. Depending on our reaction to the event, the brain will either allow it through, or it won’t. Talking about a control freak!

That’s why it can be so hard to change our behavior, develop new habits or get rid of old ones we don’t want.

And this is why we write.

Writing can help us by making us aware of our triggers, our reactions, our emotions. For example, there are things your husband does that annoy you, or make you cry or maybe even make you furious.

Do you know why? I mean do you really know why? It isn’t just because they are inconsiderate, or thoughtless or selfish even.

I am the child of divorced parents. Science says that pain is imprinted on my psyche, and unless, or even sometimes in spite of any work I do, it is so deep and so real to me that my brain will fight anything I do change the imprint.

Because I was only 3 when my parents divorced and 5 when my dad moved away and started another family, all I knew or felt or assumed as a child was that I wasn’t good enough for him to stay. (Hang on cause I know how that may sound. Trust me, I have done a whole lot of work around that feeling of being abandoned or rejected.)

However, my brain is holding on to that very early, very visceral feeling I registered from a child’s perspective. That means that when my husband makes some careless, albeit hateful, remark about me being replaceable, I go back to that 3 year old girl who sat in bed at night crying for her daddy to come home.

Intellectually, I know. I know that I know that I know.

Emotionally however, I am ready to either run away before he can hurt me more, or, my fave – gut him like a fish. Depends on the day to be honest. 

Of course neither will help me or him or our marriage.

But, when I take the time to write down how I am feeling and ask myself why, I can eventually get to a place of clarity. I can connect the intellect and the emotional. And that is huge.

It doesn’t mean he isn’t a jerk for saying it (cause that is definitely a jerky thing to say) but it does mean I can be less impacted. I can call him on being unkind without the emotions of that wounded child.

If I just hear this information, learn it one time, it becomes very easy for me to forget. 

BUT, if I write it down in my own handwriting I have engaged more of my brain. And if I can see it again and again and again, as many times as I need to, I come much closer to taming and retraining my brain. And by cause and effect, am a happier, more balanced, less reactive, and, wait for it, LESS dependent woman.

And like wow, isn’t that what we all really want?

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