nurturing mental health: writing 2 : quotes articles books.........

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We read fiction or participate in any art form to become more human. Real art is not just about entertainment. It reminds us that we are here to understand and care about the human condition, to become more human. 

So real art peels something away from our surface. We are 'coated': it could be indifference that we get from getting battered around. Sometimes we get too thick of skin, and then we need art to peel it away and bring back our sensitivity. 

Fiction is needed because art is truer than life. Art distills meaning from experience, which is often hard to do in reality.

Janet Fitch - from Time Warner Bookmark interview***White Oleander*by Janet Fitch

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A writer's inner life matters: it is hard to imagine that anything matters more. 

Nor is this inner life something that anyone else is privy to, unless and until the writer wants to share it. 

It is a private, secret hotbed of activity, an unruly, unquiet, unholy cauldron bubbling with the best and the worst thoughts a person can think.   ...

The writer is something of a shape-changer and trickster, someone a little more treacherous, eccentric, and unpredictable than she at first appears, because she is continually buffeted and transformed by an inner life invisible from the outside. 

She may speak to her mate in complete sentences about what her day was like, but inside another life is being lived, one full of beauties and monstrosities, upheavals and transgressions. 

Even if the writer safely contains that inner reality -- sublimates her urges, controls her thoughts, manages her monsters -- it nevertheless remains alive inside of her, always ready to produce the next book or sorrow, the next meaning spark or meaning crisis.

....Eric Maisel, Ph.D. Living the Writer's Life

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Like it or not, when you're a writer, there's no escaping the writer's life... when it comes to the feelings, obsessions, and just plain worries that accompany any writer's efforts, there's no getting out. Regardless of career experience, advancing age, and sizeable amounts of therapy, there's no 'cure' for the writer's life.

As soon as writers commit to the writing of a thing, they embark on a journey through both an external world of crises and triumphs and an internal world of feelings and belief systems.

from article: There's No Cure - The struggles of the writer's life are chronic but not fatal -
by Dennis Palumbo, M.A., MFCC

**....book: Writing from the Inside Out

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I've worked as a psychologist, professional singer, activist, artisan, teacher and writer, but my most profound self-discoveries have come through learning to cope with my dysfunctional family.

I wrote Daddy's Girls to share the insight and compassion I've gathered from my sister's schizophrenia and my own work as a therapist. 

The story is fiction with a dash of magical realism, an allegory that examines the nature of insanity, fear, betrayal, and what it means to love."

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My family is far from unique. According to the US Surgeon General, one in four Americans will become mentally ill at some point in their lives. As I see it, the other three are their families. Families like mine, struggling with the fine line between "sanity" and "insanity." 

Even if, on the surface, they may seem unremarkable, everyone has an internal monologue, or dialogue or however-many, playing in our minds -- judging, interpreting, lusting, plotting, hating, fearing -- all illusion, or delusion, layered over pure living and experiencing. 

The fabric of these delusions is the myriad of automatic patterns we develop in rubbing up against everyone else's patterns. Paranoia, grandiosity, fantasy all flit through everyone's consciousness. 

The difference between "normal" and "crazy" is in how often, how long we entertain those feelings, how seriously we take them, how important they are to us.

If you look at it like that, we're all crazy... like, who's really running the store while we're thinking about all that stuff?

from "Mental Illness and the Meaning of Life" by Suzanne Gold, M.A. - from her site Surviving a Dysfunctional Family

....her novel: Daddy's Girls

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from interview with Andrea Ashworth   author of memoir: Once in a House on Fire

"Writing this was a real sanity-saving exercise," Ashworth says about her new book... which has been praised by a number of reviewers. Carol West of the NY Times called it a "mesmerizing and poetic memoir of violence, abuse, racism and poverty."

Dr. Ashworth, born in England in 1969, is one of the youngest research Fellows at Oxford University.

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**Trauma and Survival in Contemporary Fiction by Laurie Vickroy

".. explores how contemporary fiction narratives represent trauma. It investigates novels by Toni Morrison, Marguerite Duras, Jamaica Kincaid, Larry Heinemann, Pat Barker, and Dorothy Allison, among others, showing how these texts, in unraveling trauma's effects, reveal the complex relationship not only between the intricacies of power and the intimacies of personal relations but also between society's demands and the individual's psychological well-being.

This study takes an interdisicplinary approach to trauma, its effects and expression, by drawing on psychological, postcolonial, cultural, literary and object relations theories to illuminate the ways in which traumatic experience shapes relationships, identity, and the possibility of narrative.

Laurie Vickroy - from posting on PSYART - mailing list of the Institute for Psychological Study of the Arts - about the psychological study of literature and the arts.

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"When I wrote Icy Sparks, I was working through a difficult time in my life. I think the creative process of writing Icy, helped me heal that broken place inside myself. ... I always knew I was going to write about a little girl who was different. I grew up with epilepsy in rural South Georgia. I decided to give my little girl a neurological disorder that would set her even more apart.

I knew I was going to give my little girl Tourette Syndrome, and I knew a lot about her — but I didn't have a name. So, one day my husband and I were walking in the cemetery — it's not a strange thing to do in [our town] — and our eyes simultaneously fell upon the marker 'Icy.' And then, a few markers down, we saw 'Sparks' and that was that.

My little girl's name would be 'Icy Sparks.' The next day I began my novel, and the words just flowed easily for me." ...

A novel writes itself. I thought the novel would end on a sad note. But as I wrote the novel, I began to feel healed, because Icy was feeling healed. And at one point, she just took a hold of my heart. She led me into a positive direction and into a hopeful ending."

   author Gwyn Hyman Rubio   [quotes from oprah.com]

book:  Gwyn Hyman Rubio. Icy Sparks

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Cat Robson
The things we are ashamed of, the dark scars that cover our wounds
and our crude attempts to heal with substance and isms, that holy hell
hole is our gift. Not maybe, not just for some people.

It simply is.

That doesn't mean the abusers and users are off the hook. But that's
not our business. Your only and essential job is to choose, not just
to accept, but to powerfully and willingly choose, the parents, the past
and the personality you have been given.

It takes just a moment, a flutter of an eyelid. But it's the difference
between loss and life. The difference between a victim and a writer."

   writer Catherine Robson--[personal communication]

related pages:--- mental health------the shadow self

Related article:**The Consolation of Literature  by Patrick Giles
Many dismiss or even ridicule any notion of the therapeutic, even redemptive potential of art. I am not suggesting healing and enrichment are literature's only values. But to claim that pages full of melancholic wisdom shouldn't console, inform, even inspire readers to take action.. is to miss a fundamental reason literature exists.

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Winona Ryder as 'Jo'

Lisa Krueger [a clinical psychologist and poet].. believes "writing poetry, journal writing, making art and talking about art and poetry can help people in therapy better understand their 'cognitive lives,' which can have a very positive effect on their general well-being." To this end, Krueger conducts weekly workshops on journal writing and creative writing.

Deena Metzger, an L.A.-based poet and author of a well-received book on writing, supports Krueger's efforts. "Journal writing allows people to come to know their own story, just as poetry sees through life's illusions, and when this occurs, healing happens," says Metzger, who has read from her work in the Krueger Gallery reading series [in Pasadena].

Krueger, who has published two volumes of poetry, keeps up with a growing body of scholarship that supports the benefits of journal writing. "I'm very research-oriented," she explains, "and what springs to mind is Dr. James W. Pennebaker's work at the University of Texas a few years ago on journal writing that is now being replicated in many places. 

"It shows a strong correlation between journal writing and a deep decrease in the symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as in physical ailments such as diabetes and arthritis. This is this whole new and exciting area in psychology."

Though the American Psychological Assn. takes no official stand on writing therapy as a healing tool, an article published in this month's Monitor on Psychology, the group's magazine, discusses the practice. Merely venting feelings or reliving upsetting events in writing is not the purpose, several psychologists say. But it can be useful if patients focus on the meaning they derive from the writing.

from article: "Rhyme and Reason in a Creative Space" by Andy Brumer, LA Times, June 5 2002

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related article: Writing to heal by Bridget Murray [American Psychological Association]

interview:  Andrea Ashworth   author of memoir: "Once in a House on Fire"
"I wrote this book partly because I had itchy fingers, and wanted to write other things, and didn't want them to be polluted by the past. But also because, quite simply, I thought I would go mad if I didn't. It's made a huge difference."

*related books:**

Louise A. DeSalvo. Writing As a Way of Healing : How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives

Stephen J. Lepore. The Writing Cure: How Expressive Writing Promotes Health and Emotional Well-Being

Deena Metzger.  Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds

James W. Pennebaker. Opening Up

> More related books:  Books: writing the memoir / journaling

*[Image: Jo March [Winona Ryder] writing at her desk in film Little Women.]
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10 ways to rewrite your life story: 

Reframe the past. You don't have the power to change the past, but you can control how you experience it now. Instead of responding in the same habitual way when disturbing incidents come to mind, pause, and take a deep breath. Then reinterpret them. Ask yourself "How did that experience make me stronger? What important life lessons did it teach me?"

Break the shackles of shame. Unlike remorse or guilt, shame isn't about feeling bad for what you've done but rather for what you are. "Shame is the cancer of the spirit," says Dr. Harold Bloomfield. "It makes you feel worthless and unlovable, undeserving of happiness."

Release the pain. Research shows that those who write about past traumas heal faster from illnesses, visit their doctor less often, and have stronger immune systems. 

Stop the slow acid drip of regret. The constant repetition of "If only ... " and "I should have ... " can destroy your health as well as your peace of mind. "An important aspect of healing is to stop punishing yourself for past mistakes," says Dr. Bloomfield.

Move from grief to gain. The emotional wounds of a devastating loss are as real as a contusion or a broken bone, says Dr. Bloomfield. Mending them requires moving through the three phases of grief: first, shock and denial; followed by anger, fear, and sadness; and finally, understanding and acceptance.

Practice acceptance. Nothing perpetuates the impact of old hurts more than rehashing them in your mind. It's like watching the same movie over and over again in the hope that the ending will change. "Bemoaning your fate does not help you heal the past," says Dr. Bloomfield. "Peace comes from accepting what was for what it was and moving on."

Cultivate gratitude. Even better than acceptance is gratitude. No matter what happened in the past, remind yourself that you have gifts to be thankful for. You may even find that you're grateful for your troubles because of what you learned from them.

Break the habit of blame. Blaming your problems on people and events from your past means that you're not responsible for anything that happens to you

Find inner peace. No matter how traumatic your past has been, you can always find a peaceful place inside you, says Dr. Bloomfield. If you can tap that source, you can stop stress from building up, allowing your mind to clear for new solutions.

Create a satisfying future. A great way to make peace with your past is to become the person you always wanted to be. The grip of old patterns and perceptions may be so strong that you feel like a helpless victim. In fact, you are the author of your own life story, and you can start a new chapter anytime you choose.

[excerpted from interview article on ivillagehealth.com]

**Making Peace with Your Past: The Six Essential Steps to Enjoying a Great Future by Harold H. Bloomfield, MD


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The Consolation of Literature   by Patrick Giles [LA Times, 2002] -
[Reviews of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon; The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton] -- Many dismiss or even ridicule any notion of the therapeutic, even redemptive potential of art. I am not suggesting healing and enrichment are literature's only values. But to claim that pages full of melancholic wisdom shouldn't console, inform, even inspire readers to take action.. is to miss a fundamental reason literature exists.

Metaphor and Image in Counseling the Talented - by Jane Piirto, Ph.D.
Dean R. Koontz "I began writing when I was a child, for both reading and writing provided much needed escape from the poverty in which we lived and from my father's frequent fits of alcohol induced violence."
Stephen King  As a child, "we had a pretty shirttail existence. I was prey to a lot of conflicting emotions as a child. I had friends and all that, but I often felt unhappy and different, estranged from other kids my age.Writing has always been it for me. . . Writing is necessary for my sanity.

> More articles: mental health

....books - including titles on journaling :

Christina Baldwin Life's Companion : Journal Writing As a Spiritual Quest
"When you choose to write using yourself as the source of the story, you are choosing to confront all the silences in which your story has been protectively wrapped. Your job as a writer is to respectfully, determinedly, free the story from the silences and free yourself from both." ~Christina Baldwin

Sheila Bender Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page [Booklist review:] "Sometimes it is difficult to face the truth. It is even worse to write it down. Fortunately, this book shows how to interpret life's powerful memories, overcome the fear of placing private truths before an audience, and, finally, form those experiences into personal essays. Bender uses classroom-tested methods to help professional and amateur authors master eight classic essay structures, including description, definition, narration, and persuasion."

Susan Borkin. When Your Heart Speaks, Take Good Notes : The Healing Power of Writing
Susan Borkin is a licensed psychotherapist and coach who specializes in helping people overcome creative blocks and achieve deep personal transformation through the use of writing. She is also the author of Writing from the Inside Out: Using a Journal for Personal Growth and Transformation. Borkin has taught journal writing workshops for more than two decades, and the same lively, warm and engaging style that has won her rave reviews from workshop participants makes her books a delight to read.

Eldonna Bouton Loose Ends, A Journaling Tool for Tying up the Incomplete Details of your Life and Heart   [review by Jan Forrest, author, "Coming Home to Ourselves":] "..a deceptively simple, yet powerful tool for personal and spiritual growth. Author Eldonna Bouton takes us by the hand with genuine warmth, compassion, and just the right dose of humor; gently guiding us toward closure of past hurts and pains. Through Loose Ends we can move forward to a new, brighter version of ourselves."

Julia Cameron. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Lucia Capacchione The Creative Journal : The Art of Finding Yourself   [reader:] "..clearly sets out how to uncover your many layered self through writing and drawing exercises and you don't need to be an artist to do them! Also a manual for discovering a creative self within you along the way. There are many examples of other people's journals which encourage the reader to let their child within take the pen or crayon and let go without inhibition."

Jan Forrest Coming Home to Ourselves: Journaling Toward Wholeness  [reader:] "... has been a perfect tool for my group of women friends who enjoy getting into in-depth conversations on personal growth. The author touches on topics and situations that seem to be pertinent to every one of us. Her manner of communicating through print seems to open up long-locked doors, helping us look inside and discover who we really are...and how very "worth it" we are to know."

Barbara Ganim, Susan Fox Visual Journaling : Going Deeper Than Words   [publisher:] "Journaling with images instead of words is a powerful way to access your deep inner wisdom, even if you can't draw. A six-week plan of exercises and interpretative activities teaches readers a lifelong practice that can reduce stress, anger, fear, and other negative emotional states and conflicts."

Suzette A. Henke Shattered Subjects : Trauma and Testimony in Women's Life-Writing    "This critical study explores the autobiographical writings of six 20th-century women authors who experienced life-shattering trauma and used their writings as a means for survival and healing. The literary testimonies of Colette, H. D., Anais Nin, Janet Frame, Audre Lorde, and Sylvia Fraser provide startling evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder precipitated by rape, incest, childhood sexual abuse, grief, unwanted pregnancy, pregnancy-loss, or a severe illness that threatens the integrity of the body. *Shattered Subjects* suggests that the powerful medium of written life testimony may perform the function of 'scriptotherapy,' allowing the psychological reconfiguration of highly distressing emotional experiences." [review posted on Psyart list (Institute for Psychological Study of the Arts)]

John V. Knapp and Kenneth Womack. Reading the Family Dance: Family Systems Therapy and Literary Study

As an interpretative mechanism, family systems therapy (fst) provides scholars and readers
alike with a revelatory social psychology for evaluating the nature of the familial structures that often mark our textual experiences. In addition to addressing the family dynamic through which a given literary character develops a fully realized sense of self, family systems therapy allows readers to examine the patterns by which characters function in their larger intimate systems, whether those systems be social, institutional, or even global. ...

[The book] includes interdisciplinary essays that address various literary works in terms of family systems therapies respective approaches to our understandings of the self, the family, and the world. The essays in this volume range through much of the imaginative literature in English, including British works, ethnic and canonized American texts, and even the translation of a Brazilian novel ... Essays examine a host of issues related to the development of the self, including the onset of
personal identity, sibling differentiation, and interpersonal communication. [from abstract posted by author John V. Knapp in newsletter of Institute for Psychological Study of the Arts]

Jane Lazarre. Wet Earth and Dreams: A Narrative of Grief and Recovery
[reader review:] More than just a story of surmounting physical illness (in Lazarre's case, breast cancer), this is a story in which physical survival becomes a metaphor for emotional healing. One of the book's great pleasures is its structure, for rather than tell her story from beginning to end, Lazarre explores how different memories echo and amplify one another: the bewildered pain of a young daughter at her mother's cancer death, the adult woman's successive responses to the loss of a therapist and a brother-in-law, and finally her own breast cancer diagnosis. While the subject matter may sound grim, the language and above all the author's quiet determination to honor her memories as part of her own living future left me with not only a sense of admiration for Lazarre's courage, but a heightened confidence in my own ability to make meaning in the aftermath of the deepest personal losses.

Stephen J. Lepore, Joshua M. Smyth. The Writing Cure: How Expressive Writing Promotes Health and Emotional Well-Being

Deena Metzger. Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds

Sylvia Plath The Journals of Sylvia Plath   "'It's the tally of my lusts and my little ideas,' wrote 17-year-old Sylvia Plath of the journals in which she confessed her judgments, her 'test tube infatuations,' her story notes, her cake baking, her dreams and her fears from the age of 12 until days before her death by her own hand at the age of 30. Plath's characterization of her journal stands in stunning contrast to the monumentally revealing document she created: more than a thousand pages scattered through various handwritten notebooks, diaries, fragments and typed sheets, the sum of it an extraordinary record of what she called the 'forging of a soul,' the creation of a writer and a woman whose many veils and guises have succeeded in forestalling anyone from knowing who she really was, despite her lifelong quest to discover the answer for herself."  [review by Kate Moses, Salon.com]

Tristine Rainer Your Life As Story : Discovering the 'New Autobiography' andWriting Memoir As Literature [publisher:] "Blending literary scholarship with practical coaching on how to craft short or long life narratives, Rainer traces the history of autobiography from Egyptian inscriptions through its recent evolution on the bestseller lists. Aided by examples from such writers as Maya Angelou, Russell Baker, Richard Rodriguez, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mikal Gilmore, and Carolyn See, among others, Rainer demonstrates how to write character portraits, how to remember what you thought you had forgotten, how to unify a story with thematic conflict, how to write scenes with dialogue and employ other fictional devices, how to use humor and perspective, and how to move through time. The author shares her remarkable techniques for finding the essentials of story structure within your life's scattered experiences. She also shows that autobiography need not be a linear, heroic quest, but may be assembled like a quilt, the pattern gradually emerging."

> More  Books: writing the memoir / journaling

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