Writing poetry in Rwanda: a means for better listening, understanding, processing, and responding

Pages 71-83 | Received 20 Mar 2016, Accepted 20 May 2016, Published online: 15 Dec 2016

This article reports on the early stages of a multi-year project using writing to facilitate healing among university-aged survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Working with genocide survivors carries with it expected and unexpected personal and professional complexities. Drawing on early versions of her own published and unpublished poems, the author demonstrates by way of example the role that writing poetry and the use of poetic inquiry played in addressing those complexities. The article includes an overview of the project that took place in Rwanda and describes the challenges inherent in working with survivors, then lays out the role that poetry and poetic inquiry can play as a means of engaging with this sort of difficult research. Through the inclusion of the poems themselves, the author explores the ways poetry affords opportunities for listening, understanding, processing, and responding to others. The article concludes with an explication of the broader implications of this work.

The healing power of writing: applying the expressive/creative component of poetry therapy

Pages 141-154 | Published online: 20 Feb 2007

The healing aspects of writing are explored in this article. This includes an overview of the evidence for the use of writing in therapeutic capacities, as well as a discussion of the limitations. A case study involving the use of journaling with a client suffering from Lupus is presented. Brief illustrations of the use of writing in couple, family and group modalities are also presented.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08893670412331311352

Mystery to mastery: An exploration of what happens in the black box of writing and healing

Pages 57-75 | Published online: 26 Jun 2009

In this article, a model of transformation-through-writing will be introduced that helps to explain how a transformative and dialogical-learning process occurs when narratives or poetry are used for healing. We focus in particular on how a “boundary experience” is processed—or how a painful “first story” can be rewritten to become a more life-giving “second story.” We propose that this occurs stepwise in four cognitive stages: sensing; sifting; focusing; and understanding. These stages are explained and underpinned by research on neurobiology, neuropsychology, and on identity learning. The case study used to illustrate this process, focuses on expressive and reflective writing in emotional recovery from domestic violence. To be effective, therapeutic writing requires a safe and enriching learning environment; we discuss how such an environment supports the dialogical self and what considerations a facilitator might take into account when working with a student or client.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08893670903072935

Writing my life: a narrative and poetic-based autoethnography

Pages 183-190 | Published online: 02 Aug 2010

This essay is an autoethnographic account of my life as a writer writing my life. I employ narrative and poetic inquiry as a way to learn, know, and become more aware of my journey with writing as a healing modality. The overall purpose of this essay is to offer a personal account of my writing experience as a means to contribute to the ongoing exploration of writing as a communicative practice and method of inquiry; with the hope that by sharing my story, my words will resonate with readers/writers/poets.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08893675.2010.498214

Randomized clinical trial of expressive writing on wound healing following bariatric surgery.

Writing emotionally about upsetting life events (expressive writing) has been shown to speed healing of punch-biopsy wounds compared to writing objectively about daily activities. We aimed to investigate whether a presurgical expressive writing intervention could improve surgical wound healing.

METHOD:

Seventy-six patients undergoing elective laparoscopic bariatric surgery were randomized either to write emotionally about traumatic life events (expressive writing) or to write objectively about how they spent their time (daily activities writing) for 20 min a day for 3 consecutive days beginning 2 weeks prior to surgery. A wound drain was inserted into a laparoscopic port site and wound fluid analyzed for proinflammatory cytokines collected over 24 hr postoperatively. Expanded polytetrafluoroethylene tubes were inserted into separate laparoscopic port sites during surgery and removed after 14 days. Tubes were analyzed for hydroxyproline deposition (the primary outcome), a major component of collagen and marker of healing. Fifty-four patients completed the study.

RESULTS:

Patients who wrote about daily activities had significantly more hydroxyproline than did expressive writing patients, t(34) = -2.43, p = .020, 95% confidence interval [-4.61, -0.41], and higher tumor necrosis factor-alpha, t(29) = -2.42, p = .022, 95% confidence interval [-0.42, -0.04]. Perceived stress significantly reduced in both groups after surgery.

CONCLUSIONS:

Expressive writing prior to bariatric surgery was not effective at increasing hydroxyproline at the wound site 14 days after surgery. However, writing about daily activities did predict such an increase. Future research needs to replicate these findings and investigate generalizability to other surgical groups. (PsycINFO Database Record

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28383927