healing powers of expressive writing: James Pennebaker

I’ve been wanting to write about Pennebaker’s “healing powers of expressive writing” ever since Isobel left a tantalizing link in a comment back in April.

Since my energies and brain-power wax and wane, I’ve been waiting to be ready to write an informative post.  Ain’t gonna happen.  The being ready.  Why wait to share?  (As it is, I am struggling here….)

To get started, go read the short article, please, linked in the next paragraph.   For more information, see below at “more info.”

For nearly 20 years, Dr. James W. Pennebaker has been giving people an assignment: write down your deepest feelings about an emotional upheaval in your life for 15 or 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Many of those who followed his simple instructions have found their immune systems strengthened. Others have seen their grades improved. Sometimes entire lives have changed.”

As regular readers know, illness has changed my abilities in reading and comprehension.  The good news is that back in May when I was still mired in bad muck, I could understand the intent and instructions in Pennebaker’s assignment.   No special writing ability is necessary.  Note the wisdom about being ready to write about a particular moment.  Smart.

I printed out the two callouts from that first link to use as my instructions.


two callouts I used as my instructions
source:  http://www.utexas.edu/features/2005/writing/

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more info

Truly, it is worth wandering through.  (Each link will open in a new tab.)

James Pennebaker’s home page at the University of Texas.  At the bottom, see the links, some of which include online exercises.  A sampling:

Enhanced guidelines for healing writing, still short, but with a little more to think about.

Insight into your own use of language:  http://secretlifeofpronouns.com/exercises.php.

The Online Research Consortium.  University of Texas psych research being conducted online–we’re the guinea pigs.  Questionnaires out the gazoo.  Painless.  Anonymous.  Kinda fun.

The BBC Radio 4 programme introducing Pennebaker’s research.

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I found all those links after I tried the expressive writing.  That’s me anyway–get the gist of something and full steam ahead!

(Here’s a link to the discussion that Isobel and I had.  At the end of the comments.  Thanks, Isobel.)

I’d really like to hear what you think!


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. IsobelandCatIsobelandCat
    Jul 08, 2013 @ 11:18:09

    So have you tried it Laurel? And if you have, has it helped?
    It was a lucky catch in my radio listening wasn’t it!


    • lahgitana
      Jul 08, 2013 @ 11:33:00

      I did try it, Isobel. I chose for my topic one where scenes had been going around and around in my head, as if I was desperate to remember. I wondered if writing about just a part of an ongoing event would help. After writing, those scenes quieted in my head.

      I would write again, too.

      It was a lucky catch, Isobel. Thank you for passing it on.


  2. IsobelandCat
    Jul 08, 2013 @ 14:17:33

    I thought it was fascinating, and it makes complete sense to me. I was on my way to see Mother I think.


  3. Pix Under the Oaks
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 04:31:35

    It is interesting Laurel and I need to come back and read more of the links when I have more time. After my regular morning commenting.. :) I think I have mentioned that I journal and he expresses that might be ineffective. It works for me. I think the Tips for Writing to Heal are really worth a try for me. Very interesting! Thanks L for the links.


    • lahgitana
      Jul 09, 2013 @ 06:57:53

      Please do come back and comment again, Pix. I began to see the difference between keeping a journal and this 4-day wonder–it’s as if I can quiet that particular story in my head by focusing on it…. Have only tried it the one time.

      My journaling became a waah-waah-waah place–I haven’t written in a journal in eons!

      The Tips were my guide–helped me focus and then let loose. >:-D


  4. jacquiefioramonti
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 12:58:17

    This is so interesting! I’m going to give it a try. I also used to journal regularly at one time and, like you, haven’t for ages. I do think it has its advantages but only really found it useful when I was struggling to sort stuff out in my head.


    • lahgitana
      Jul 13, 2013 @ 07:53:49

      Hi Jacquie–I liked this method because it served more as a brain-cleaner-outer than a talking-to-myself-in-a-loop. Which I think is the point–to release the collection of glop embedded in an experience. I’d like to hear if you try it out.


  5. nadbugs
    Jul 10, 2013 @ 03:49:08

    Saving this. Barely coherent @ the moment.


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