Extending the Learning–Oct. 22

“Restorying Our Lives” Reading  / Viewing Recommendations 

Our Zoom session consideration of “writing for wholeness” and our elder task of personal integration was necessarily brief. If you wish to extend your learning, I recommend the following, listed in order of preference.

  1. James W. Pennebaker and John F. Evans. Expressive Writing: Words That Heal

This work has a range of writing activities, as well as helpful statements of rationale. The activities Pennebaker recommends have been tested, not only with participants who have trauma to deal with, but also by medical research. Expressive Writing is available and affordable as a Kindle e-book, ready for immediate download.

Pennebaker also has a subsequent volume, co-authored with Joshua M. Smyth, MD (Opening Up by Writing It Down: 3rd ed. How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain). It also is good, especially in noting health benefits of expressive writing grounded in medical research. For those of us concerned with the ways Writing for Wholeness contributes to physical health, this work is of much interest. In terms of an initial written exploration of pain and hurt, I am inclined to recommend the Words That Heal volume first.

2)  Louise DeSalvo. Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives. 

The late Louise DeSalvo was a professor, literary scholar, and a prolific writer with at least two memoirs to her credit, Vertigo (1997) and Crazy in the Kitchen (2005). Those memoirs reflect DeSalvo’s Italian-American upbringing and have been influential on subsequent writing about ethnic experience. Known for her scholarly studies of novelist Virginia Woolf, DeSalvo considered the role that abuse played in that English writer’s life. DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way of Healing is probably her most popular work. It suggests writing activities and offers an extended discussion of how writing can serve in therapeutic ways.

3) Lori Gottlieb. TedTalk on YouTube: “How Changing Your Story Can Change Your Life”

Dr. Gottlieb is a practicing therapist, a magazine columnist for The Atlantic (“Dear Therapist”), and the author of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone. Her 16-minute TedTalk considers how changing your story and your point-of-view can change your life.

4) Richard Stone. The Healing Art of Storytelling: A Sacred Journey of Personal Discovery.

Richard Stone developed “Journey into the Healing Power of Storytelling,” a nationally recognized American program used for counsellors, social workers, nurses, chaplains, hospice workers and others. This “Healing Art of Storytelling” book evolved out of a course that Stone created for the Elderhostel program.

5) Jen Cross. Writing Ourselves Whole: Using the Power of Your Own Creativity to Recover and Heal from Sexual Trauma.

The survivor of sexual abuse, Jen Cross is a writer and writing workshop facilitator who lives in the San Francisco area. Having completed an MA in “Transformative Language Arts,” Ms. Cross is a social-justice advocate. As the author warns, Writing Ourselves Whole uses “explicit language about sexual violence and living in the aftermath of trauma.”

6) Gary M. Kenyon and William L. Randall. Restorying Our Lives: Personal Growth Through Autobiographical Reflection.

Published in 1997, this brilliant book is in many ways at the top of my list of recommendations. It explores in comprehensive detail the metaphor of our lives as story and the possibility and ethics of “restorying” our current lives. For more than 20 years, I have heard this work referenced at social work conferences, educational gatherings, and in books dealing with personal change. It provides an excellent theoretical background for anyone reflecting on writing for wholeness. The only downside is that it is not readily available, even as a used book. My copy was custom printed in New Delhi and very expensive. Even so, I consider it to be a valuable investment in my learning.