My clinic advisor never missed a chance to remind us: “if you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen.” With a background in the med-legal world, he placed a high premium – and rightfully so – on the importance of documentation. We needed to document what was reported, what was observed, and what was done so that we not only had a record of it (for clinical and legal purposes), but more importantly to witness change over time.
We write to remember, to enshrine an experience in time. Just as the marks on a page are irreversible once made, experience is written in the body. If the body and mind cannot fully be present for and process an experience as it occurs in real-time, the energy of memory will be stored in the tissues and the structures of the body. Often, this leads to a pattern of tension in the body, which leads to stress physiology – the body (and mind) go into defense.
Just as a journal will reflect the evolution and complexity of a person over time, so too will their body. The vital element in the development of both is expression.
Have you ever had a thought or a problem – a to-do list, what you really wanted to say to that jerk, a schedule, what you wished you said to someone you cannot or will not see again – and tried to keep it in? In writing it down, you give it a chance to be expressed. It no longer has the same hold on you because you have allowed it to exist in a different medium.
I see chronic stress physiology and the patterns of tension held in the body as anchors to the past. When in this state, your mind fights to defend the sense of self of the person you were.
When the communication between the brain and the body is permitted to be expressed, those patterns of tension and the need to defend a sense of self you have outgrown will cease to inhibit who you are now.
I like to write because it helps me to keep a record of where I came from. It serves as a point of reference, a measure of success, and an instrument to acknowledge how the unpredictable, unexpected, and sometimes unwanted is ultimately shown to be exactly what was coming and what was needed.
Writing is a way to honor experience, create memory, and revisit a time and a version of us that in every way contributed to who we are today and what we will have the opportunity to write tomorrow.