Writing and Trauma: Freeing Yourself From The Pain In Your Soul

Jun 15, 2011 by

Writing and Trauma: Freeing Yourself From The Pain In Your Soul

Everyone who writes, it’s safe to say, has different reasons for writing. “Every writer primarily writes for the back of his own head,” says British author Jonathan Raban. But when it comes to trauma, one of the key reasons people write — or more informally, journal — is to attempt to make sense of their own experience, and process successfully what’s happened to them. I thought about that this morning, when I read this passage in a book:

Journal and Pen Moments Count“One author said, ‘I can get rid of anything by writing about it,’ meaning that the process of externalization could liberate him from the pain in his soul. That realization produced a delicious dichotomy: to free himself, or to hold on to both joys and tortures by remaining silent about them.”

That last line is particularly striking: is the choice really between freeing yourself — by expressing what you’ve been through, even to yourself — or holding on to a potentially richer experience, by not sharing what you’ve been through with anyone?

Seems like a difficult choice to have to make. What of it?

Photo By Gaius Valerius Flaccus @ Flickr


  1. rose

    Yes interesting question and … I think good answer. When we are deeply sad maybe because we lost somebody or fear forsomebody … we usually are like ice .. not notice anything around and we feel again when tears flow … When something happened, hurt our soul and prisons our soul in … when we start to write … all this pain will flow out of us … on the paper … some write .. some paint … some do art. I believe that when we write … we are able to manage we are on the way to get over these things they prisoned our soul.

  2. Lily; First off let me tell you that I love the name Lily, Lilly, Lillian et al. I was fortunate enough to be able to quietly bond with a grandaughter named Lilly who was still born. My wife an I were allowed to hold her for a few moments before she was laid to rest. With that said, I write not to liberate myself from dark or guilty feelings but to attempt to tell my readers of the joy I experienced in living the story. I write lots of short, telling stories about my life for Moments Count Journal and in doing so I attempt to stay within the bounds of honesty and accuracy, however, memory can be a heavy partner when writing about an event that happened sixty or seventy years prior. I’m sure that if all of my writings were examined under the microscope of honesty and accuracy I could be held accountable for some mistakes. But they would be honest mistakes.

    In writing fiction I find that I am free to express myself (as an author) in many ways I could not as a husband, partner, friend or lover in real life. Part of that freedom comes, I think, from the pure joy of creating a fictional situation and knowing that you hold the outcome in your hands. My style of writing makes sense to me. I hope it makes sense to those who read it. JWSIII

  3. Donna Morask

    Interesting question… holding on to a potentially richer experience, by not sharing what you’ve been through with anyone?
    I have never considered this before. I have held back out of fear; fear of reliving the event and all that could go with that. I have held back from shame, afraid that others reading may think, ‘I should have known better’. I have kept it contained within because I just couldn’t articulate what I was feeling, or because it was just too raw.

    With that said, I don’t know that an experience is potentially richer because I didn’t share it??????