Assalaamu Alaykum Dearest Sisters,
Anger Management is a big deal especially after trauma. Along with that often is anxiety and depression. How can we cope with life after something terrible happens to us? How do we learn to heal and sort out our feelings? PTSD is a serious problem for a lot. Let’s take a look at a special technique that is taught in therapy sessions.
When I was in my university days, we were taught how therapeutic writing works particular when used as a part of anger management therapy. As students we had to actually do these practices ourselves. A lot of us found out we were pretty angry people. I personally benefited from this technique not just with the anger management part, but the entire journaling experience help me learn to identify exactly which emotions I felt and what their triggers were. It was quite empowering. I am sure our professors understand that most of us particularly at our young ages needed to learn these basic skills to deal with our own lives as well as share with others when we work in the field.
So in class, we learned that writing about past traumatic events has many benefits for both physical and emotional health particularly with regard to anger management as well as reducing anxiety and thereby alleviating some symptoms of depression and grief. Recently, I came across some extensive research by James Pennebaker and colleagues that shows that individuals who occasionally write about their emotions and thoughts experience many benefits ranging from anger management, anxiety attacks and disorders, healing from trauma, and much more. In fact, their research shows that they improved considerably when this model was followed. Learn more about journaling for healing.
Briefly, this is what the writing for healing from trauma and various emotional disturbances and disorders entails:
The goal of this exercise is to help find meaning and resolution in the trauma. Through the writing process, clients may be able to experience their emotional reactions to the trauma in a more manageable way and might be less disturbed by unwarranted ruminations.
Many people are hesitant to write for fear of others discovering and reading their journal. We shouldn’t let these fears scare us away from writing. We can simply dispose of the writing or password protect the document. No one needs to ever see what others have written. The process of self-expression is beneficial even if the text is immediately destroyed. Typically, this exercise is done over four consecutive days. However, we may wish to proceed for a longer period of time. In any case, it is important to reflect on the experience.
This exercise is intended to have us focus on the most traumatic life experience. Let the ideas flow fluidly as the past, present, and future are recounted. We can explore the inner emotions and during this process, we should believe in ourselves. We should be patient with ourselves and take as much time as needed.
• Choose something that deeply affected you and that is personal.
• Feel free to use the same topic or a different topic each day.
• Keep your writing in a secure place to avoid feeling intimidated or limited while writing due to the fear of someone else reading it. If helpful, communicate with family members what you are doing and respectfully ask for privacy.
• While this exercise may be a challenge, be gentle with yourself. Keep in mind that you are working on your personal development and in time, will lead to beneficial effects including clarity on life.
• If you feel overwhelmed while writing, it is okay to take a small break. Try not to get out of your writing flow. Sometimes we resist what is painful, preventing us from moving forward by feeling the emotions.
• It is normal to feel vulnerable. Use your social circle to provide support & comfort.
• Choose a time that will make you feel the most comfortable. I.e. You may choose to write in the evening or early in the morning.
INSTRUCTIONS (Adapted from Pennebaker, 1999)
Each time you write in your journal, express your deepest thoughts and feelings about some important emotional event or issue that has affected you. In your writing, let go and explore your deepest emotions and thoughts. You might tie your topic to your relationships with others, including parents, spouse, friends, or relatives; to your past, your present, or your future; or to who you have been, who you would like to be, or who you are now. You may write about the same general issues or experiences on all days of writing or on different topics each day.
All of your writing will be completely confidential. Do not worry about spelling, sentence structure, or grammar. Journaling (see this article for the slides and how to) as discussed in our previous article is extremely effective. Journaling is most effective if you write whenever you notice that you are thinking or worrying about something too much. Set a length of time that feels comfortable for yourself, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. Then continue writing until the time is up. You do not need to write every day. Instead, think of expressive writing as a way to clarify your thoughts and emotions. This method is particularly powerful in helping you to get through emotional upheavals.
POST FOUR DAYS REFLECTION
• What was the most challenging aspect of writing? Even though it may have been difficult, do you agree that it was worth it?
• Did the process of writing help to decrease the avoidance you may have felt?
• Despite any lingering emotions, can you identify areas of personal growth or healing that may have occurred? If you have, write down specifically what positive actions and behaviors you have and intend on taking regarding post-traumatic growth.
• Do you see your trauma differently post completion of the exercise?
• Is your character different, or do you have improved strengths, from your post-traumatic growth?
Let us know in the comments down below what kind of strategies you use and what has worked for you. With lots of love and duas, wasaalam.