MENTAL HEALTH

The Doctor Will See You Now

Finding insight and healing in writing

We can attend to our inner wounds through self-reflective writing.

The boy sat staring at the blank page in front him, while his fourth grade peers wrote with gusto.

One word came to mind as I took in the 9-year-old with gripped pencil in hand:

fear

Writing as a Vehicle

The students were filling in their journals, writing about their family members. Kids were smiling as they wrote about their parents, siblings, and cousins. The giddiness in the room was palpable.

Writing about ourselves is a powerful vehicle for self-discovery.

Still, the 9-year-old-boy with the gripped pencil remained staring at the untouched page.

Me: You okay?

Student: I don’t know if my dad is a family member. My mom said, I can’t see my dad anymore and that he’s no longer my dad. So, do I include my dad?

Ouch. 

Sometimes, the vehicle of writing brings some rough terrain.

Fostering Self-Discovery

Education is all about offering tools to empower. Writing is one of those foundational tools. Our world is literally built on words; it is the machinery that drives innovation and self-awareness.

The young student’s question offered an opportunity for him to self-reflect and find the answer within.

Me: That depends. What do you think? Do you think your father is still your father?

Student: Yes.

Me: Then that’s your answer.

Writing LightBulb Moments

Immediately I saw the boy’s eyes light up, his pencil no longer gripped with fear, but instead, moving with great energy in the no-longer empty journal.

When we lean into the painful questions through writing, sans judgement, aha moments abound.

Writing puts us in the driver’s seat of our life. It offers an opportunity for us to slow down and consider what we think, not what the cacophonous world at large says to think.

When we go within to write, we literally slow down our brain waves and decrease anxiety. Slowed down, we find space to explore problems from a greater creative perspective.

Writing as Therapy

The 9-year-old student was eager to share his family tree and some of their personality traits with the rest of the group. The once anxious face he carried was now emanating pure joy.

Writing offers us the opportunity to go within for counsel.

I never told the young student what to think of his father. The power to perceive his father as his father is his choice. 

Writing allows us to take the reins of our perception.

It doesn’t matter whether we are 9 or 99 years old — our perceptions are ours alone. 

Metacognition, the act of understanding one’s own thoughts and perceptions, only grows stronger with self-reflective writing.

 When we write, we are no different than a radio dial, tuning into what we think about the world around us.

Writing as a Doctor

When we write reflectively, we are taking care of ourselves. We are nurturing our brain waves and self-esteem.

When we take the time to write reflectively, we are subconsciously sending a message to our psyche: what I think and how I feel matters.

Writing reflectively opens the door to the best doctor for you to visit with: your Highest Self. Stress hormones lower, sadness is articulated and addressed. Emotions — in all of their colors — are addressed. Self-compassion and self-awareness are cultivated.

A Tasty Writing Treat:

A delicious writing prompt for writers and teachers

Take a bite out of this writing challenge!

Writers know that good (fiction)writing involves basic ingredients:

  • an overall arc
  • main character
  • conflict
  • a theme

Hershey’s or Lindt

Just as with baking, we writers have our basic ingredients to make a story. After that, it’s all nuances and quality. Consider Hershey’s and Lindt chocolate: both are known for their cocoa-inspired taste, but the difference in quality is worlds apart. One only needs to look at their different marketing campaigns to notice the visual difference alone.

The Baking Mold

The talented children’s author, Laura Numeroff created her famous, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie picture book more than thirty years ago.

When we consider baking akin to writing, Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book is a delectable mold to study the craft of storytelling. Here’s a brief sample of her simple genius:

If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.
When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw.
When he’s finished, he’ll ask for a napkin.

The End is the Beginning

Numeroff’s story ends the way it begins:

He’ll hang up his drawing and stand back to look at it [on the fridge].
Looking at the refrigerator will remind him that he’s thirsty. So…
he’ll ask for a glass of milk. And chances are if he asks for a glass of milk,
he’s going to want a cookie to go with it.

Want the full version of Numeroff’s story? Click here🙂

Making Another Cookie

Numeroff took this clever idea and created several other “recipes” in her craft:

  • If You Give a Moose a Muffin
  • If You Take a Mouse to School
  • If You Give a Pig a Pancake

My Cookie

Here’s my creation based on Numeroff’s recipe

https://media.giphy.com/media/lojdXP2iv1MbFa925R/giphy.gif

If You Give an Ostrich Power… (GIPHY)

If you give Ostriches power
there will be chaos in the world
When there is chaos, the ostriches will bury their heads in the sand
When the ostriches tire of putting their heads in the sand
they will point their beady eyes at others for the problems in our world
when they see their saggy eyes on Instagram, 
they will want to spend money on themselves to look better
when they return from another trip to Mar-a-Largo
they will be energized to point their beady eyes at others again
refusing to take any responsibility
 the sand will start to look really good to them again.
And chances are, when they bury their heads in the sand
there will be even more chaos in this world.

I’d love to hear your “Circle Story” creations:-)

Feeding Our Creativity

A simple piece of cardboard decorated with illustrations and voila–there’s magic to feed one’s creativity!

As a middle school English teacher, I am a big fan of project-based learning. Projects provide that delicate balance between intellectual stimulation and creative challenge. Today, with the deer-in-the-headlights reality of COVID-19 and its domino effect on us emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I want to share a project much-loved by my students that you can do at home: creating a play.

The photo here shows a simple cardboard cut out for puppets to do their magic. The puppets can be easily constructed from socks, yarn—even raisins for the eyes. Much like our creativity that is emerging in the kitchen as a result of our current reality, our imagination can also find exploration through self-created theater structures and scripts!

Here’s a baseline to get you started with kids of all ages:

  • Choose a scene/setting
  • Create characters (give them unique traits/mannerisms/features, etc.)
  • Think of a juicy conflict
  • Consider whether or not a resolution is needed—cliffhanger anyone?

When you are finished with your script (or perhaps improv is the soup de jour;-), consider posting your creative production on YouTube or Instagram. Who knows? In an effort to feed your imagination, you might just stir up someone else’s!