Healing through writing
Can an emotional trauma flip a switch in the creative brain? Does profound loss offer a new perspective from which to peer into one’s soul?
For LeRoy Flemming, author of the Timelightenment series and Volume One of Soulsplitting, the answer is a resounding yes! And there’s psychological research supporting this idea.
In role-playing, veterans who’ve endured trauma resulting in PTSD “were better able to represent the boundary between reality and the role-playing, to immerse themselves in the scene, to enact identifiable characters consistent with their setting and produce complex and interactive scenes that told a coherent story,” compared to non-PTSD vets, according to researchers Robert Miller and David Johnson.
The non-PTSD group created more stereotyped and unimaginative scenes despite a higher education level and greater role-playing experience, the two wrote.
“I was never diagnosed with PTSD, but I know profound emotional trauma can trip all kinds of coping mechanisms in the brain and soul, including creativity,” Flemming said. “When I suddenly lost my mother, it was a profound, life-altering shock. She was fine when I saw her last ~ Dec. 25, 1999, and she died on Jan. 1. That’s what started me writing.”
Flemming’s mother was, by far, the most stabilizing and inspiring person in his life, he said, and losing her rocked him to his core. Rather than seeming abstract, the larger questions in life became the most important, and that’s when he knew he had to write.
“I didn’t have much of a background in writing,” he said. “But since her passing, I’ve been in close contact with a part of my soul that has spawned several books, all of which have helped me heal.”
The creativity caused by pain is a cycle, “because the creative process has significantly healed me,” Flemming said. “I’m not surprised that creativity increases within those who’ve suffered; it makes sense.”
How does a grieving individual make something good out of a heart-wrenching loss? Flemming offered his tips on writing after grief:
Don’t force it
One of the last things a grieving person needs is an assignment he or she doesn’t want. Grief is a process that entails a host of negative emotions: denial, confusion, anger and more. Prescribing creative therapy to oneself or another before one is ready for it can backfire.
Let it flow naturally
We are all unique individuals and, though we know in the backs of our minds that we’ll someday face the loss of a loved one, we can’t predict how we’ll handle it.
“Grieving and creativity actually share some traits,” Flemming said. “Both are processes, and both prompt individuals to express feelings in their own terms. When creativity can be used in conjunction with the grieving process, the catharsis can be profound.”
You have many options
When a person is desperate for an outlet, he or she will often gravitate toward what he knows. A onetime aspiring painter, for instance, may return to that familiar and comforting form of self-expression.
“But the mind can be unpredictable; it may be that gardening is the process that is most therapeutic for a grieving person, even though she never pulled a weed or planted a seed in her life,” Flemming said. “In other words, be open to where your intuition guides you. As most grieving people understand, life doesn’t always work out as planned. Be open to helpful new possibilities.”
Leroy Flemming is a graduate of Alabama State University in Montgomery, Ala. He completed his five-part series of novels, Timelightenment, in hopes of demonstrating to children that they can dream big and accomplish those dreams. Flemming recently completed Volume One of his new series, Soulsplitting. For more information, visit timelightenment.biz.