The Emotional Writing Process is valuable for:
Reviewing highly emotionally charged events in our lives and integrating them.
Giving us objective distance and allowing our emotional charge on an event to integrate.
Providing us emotional insight into events and ourselves.
Giving us an outlet to reduce stress.
Offering us a tool to alter our moods.
This exercise is suitable for crisis situations and overwhelming events. The Emotional Writing Exercise is based in part on the ideas of journaling, the event reviews of Joseph Breuer, and James Pennebaker's writing exercise.
The Written Integrator is available here.
Warning: Folks with a history of mental illness, PTSD, or panic are urged not to use these techniques without a therapist. If you decide to do these processes you will agree to absolve the webmaster, the webhost, Emoclear.com, and Steve Mensing of any responsibility for the application or misapplication of these processes. There is always in any process the possibility that someone could experience some discomfort.
Before you start the Emotional Writing Process make sure you have enough paper and pens and are in a quiet room where you will go undisturbed. If you enjoy writing on a computer, that will work too. Whatever way is most comfortable for you. The approximate time for this process is around 30 minutes per session or more. When no more emotional charge exists on the event being described in written detail (The event Subjective Units of Distress Scale is down to 1) and you experience acceptance toward the event, then there's no need for further sessions on that event. Click here to see the SUD scale.
Pick an event that's got your attention and is disturbing you.
Begin to write out the details of an emotionally charged event. Keep your sentences brief and focused and write from how you feel and think about the crisis or event.
You can write daily or every other day.
Begin at the start of an emotionally charged event and fully describe the event all the way to end. Be prepared to repeat the description several times adding in more and more detail. No censoring or editing. Grammar and good spelling are not a priority nor are outstanding writing skills.
Write non-stop and do not attempt to edit your writing. Allow your emotions, beliefs, and memories of the event to be committed to paper as they occurred. Write them out in detail.
Write out any intentions, decisions, emotions, behaviors, sensations, urges, and beliefs you had at the time. If you need a reminder card to refer to during the process, have these reminder questions available:
What did I emotionally feel?
What did I believe about the event, others, the world, and myself at the time?
Did I experience any physical sensations?
What were my intentions?
Was there anything I hid from myself or denied at the time or later?
What decisions and choices did I make at the time?
What was I doing? How did I feel about that?
Was there anything I felt guilty about, ashamed of, or embarrassed over?
Was there something I learned from this experience?
Did I have any emotional or intuitive insights about the event? What did I realize or come to understand?
What was meaningful or important?
Let your writing do the writing. Write out everything uncensored. (No attempts to do this writing perfectly). Short detailed descriptions work well. If you get stuck on what to write next, you can repeat your descriptions of what you've written to get going again. Repetition is fine here.
Always use your own voice to write. Don't take on anyone else's style or write like you're attempting to entertain an audience. You are the audience.
You are writing for your own benefit. You do not need to show your writing to anyone and if you want to shred it afterwards, that's okay.
Allow your story to unfold in the order it happened.
If you experience the intuitive prompting to doodle out some aspect of the event, feel free to do so. The doodles may provide some emotional insight.
Use "I feel" statements in your descriptions. I feel___________________.
Use "I believe" statements in your descriptions. I believe ________________________.
If you are having sleep challenges, the Emotional Writing Process can be helpful.
If you feel strongly overwhelmed during the process, then rub your palms and fingers briskly together for 30 seconds before placing a warm palm over your lower forehead and eyebrows. Suck in your lips hard. This will cool your flight/fight overwhelm down. Do this only for a short time, and then return to the written process.
Measure your progress with the Subjective Units of Distress (or SUD) scale, which rates the level of distress during processing of intense or attention-grabbing emotions. You can access the scale by clicking here.
After the Emotional Writing Process is concluded, are there actions you need to take? Are there things that need to be said to others? Is there any forgiveness required? See the Forgiveness Exercise.
At the conclusion of the writing session you may have some remaining emotional charge. Allow yourself to fully feel it and allow it to be there without attempting to get rid of it or keep it. Observe it with acceptance or love. If you know how to use an integrator you may use it to accept and integrate whatever emotional charge remains.
Tips on the Emotional Writing Process
Don't use it on a recent trauma where you are still disoriented. Let at least 5 weeks go by before you start writing about a trauma. Know how to use the Shrunken Head for emerging overwhelm or "abreactions". Have someone you trust nearby or a therapist when you work with very overwhelming experiences. This lends a sense of safety.
After you've written the story out once or twice, consider changing your perspective and viewpoint. How might have other people viewed it? Or how might you view it from a future time?
Hydrate yourself prior to writing sessions.
If you're about to undertake a very emotionally charged session it's okay to relax at first. Do a brief relaxation exercise but don't get overly relaxed to the point it makes emotions more difficult to access.
It's okay to take small breaks especially if your writing hand gets tired.
If you're headed out into troubled waters it's pleasant to have comforting pictures or objects available.
Much emotional growth can take place if you do the Emotional Writing Process regularly and at a set time.
You can use the Dive Reflex maneuver to turn off very strong flight-fight overwhelm. See
the Dive Reflex's instructions and learn it prior to using the Emotional Writing Process. Don't subvocally judge an emotional target. It's just an acceptable feeling, one of a multitude you'll have today.
If you're getting tired, feel free to halt. Seal yourself back up by writing down 10 or so enjoyable and pleasant memories.
It's possible that parts of disturbance may reappear in the future. Take them up again with the Emotional Writing Process until they are completed.
Sometimes there's extremely overwhelming areas in our life which we are not yet ready to face. Choose a less charged area to deal with. These can be a buildup to facing the more difficult when you're ready. If you believe facing something is going to make you flip out, don't do it until you're ready.
Are there disturbing events, related to what you're presently writing about, which happened earlier in your life? Write about them too after you finish with your current event.
In considering what you just wrote did you feel you were as revealing as possible. Was there something you left out?
When you reflect on your writing session, what did you find important and meaningful?
How did the story affect your life in the past and in the present? Might it have any effect on the future?
Were there secrets or vulnerabilities that you missed which you might like to describe next time?
Notice what's different about your life after you complete a series of Emotional Writing Exercises. How is your mood? Your activity level? Your general well-being? Better sleep? Your social interaction? Are you thinking less about what disturbed you previously?
If you have a judgmental thought about your feeling or self, observe them with acceptance.
Don't get tied up in trying to figure out a feeling or explaining it. That takes you out of feeling. Just feel it.
If you get urges from your feeling, return your attention to your feeling. Step away from acting upon the urge. Just feel.
You will also feel enjoyable and pleasant feelings during these sessions. Acknowledge them too.
When strong emotions show up, feel them as you write. Acknowledge and accept them.
Pick a good time to do your writing. Also choose a place where you will not be disturbed by phone calls and folks dropping by.
Questions from the Heartbeat Questions may be included at the end of writing sessions.
In writing about the events remember to tell where and when it happened. How long it happened. The people involved. A full description of what happened and how you felt about it. What was meaningful about this event? What was the short and long-term impact of this event? What did you learn from it? Did you redecide any decisions? Have any intentions changed?
Don't subvocally judge an emotional target. It's just an acceptable feeling, one of a multitude you'll have today.
Emotional writing exercises: Questions to get you going
Are there memories I have of unpleasant situations that I've avoided thinking or talking about?
Were there traumas in my life?
Is there something I'm dying to tell others about, but never expressed?
What do I criticize myself about?
What do I enjoy most? Find meaningful and important?
I feel _______________.
What are my resources and strengths?
Do I ever feel angry, anxious, fearful, jealous, distant, lonely, empty, out of control, happy, depressed, sad, envious, jealous, embarrassed?
Is there something I strongly want to forget?
What are my secrets?
My life is ______________________________.
What was the most important day in my life?
What about my life makes me frightened or anxious?
Is there anything about myself or the world that appears unchangeable?
Who were the important people in your life? How do you feel about them? What would you say to them if they were in your room at this moment?
What would you like from friends, family, associates?
Where am I going?
Who am I?
Where am I coming from? Where am I? Where am I going?
Is there an idea, feeling, behavior you want to explore?
Can you write from a stream of consciousness?
What kind of movies do you like? Which of those has the most appeal?
Would you write about shame, shyness, performance anxiety, sadness, anger, depression, envy, jealousy?
Are there parts of you you have trouble accepting?
What critical things do you sometimes call yourself?
What good things do you notice about yourself?
What are your values? What is most valuable to you?
Can you dialogue with a part of yourself now?
Can you recall your childhood home and schools? The people in them? The rooms?
Can you describe key junctures in your life from your own perspective? From others perspectives?
Was there an opinion you strongly held?
Do you ever hold multiple views of the same situation?
Can you recall a time when you believed you did wrong?
Describe times you've felt differently or believed differently. What was different about these times of change?
Can you describe a conflict in your life?
Is there something you need to tell someone? Is there anything holding you back?
Describe an important possession.
What do you like, love, or dislike about your relationship partner?
How would you feel about moving?
How would it feel if you lost or became separated from the most important people in your life?
Have fun, Steve