If you had to pin down one universal emotion that all humans experience, it’s pain.To be human means to suffer. We suffer on a daily basis as we deal with the disappointments and frustrations of everyday life. But we also suffer when we go through the occasional major trauma such as the death of a loved one, losing a job, a major sickness, or divorce ... or an entire year of a pandemic!
I recently spoke with St. Louis writer and author Kent Sanders about this very important topic. Here is a summary of our conversation. My questions are below in bold.
Kent, why do you think we often don't process our pain--especially as fathers?
Sometimes we hesitate to share our pain because we’re afraid to look weak. So we lock up our feelings in a box, set it on a shelf in the back of a dark closet, and try to forget about it.This is not a healthy way to deal with grief.One of the best ways of working through your pain is to write about it.
The Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho said, “Tears are words that need to be written.” So how exactly should you write about your tears?
Wow, that's an amazing quote. It really makes me want to write and make sure that I'm encouraging others to do the same. What are some ways you recommend we can handle pain as writers?
First, you can journal about them. Journaling it a time-tested method for working out your feelings and getting perspective on life’s disappointments. First, you can journal about them. Journaling it a time-tested method for working out your feelings and getting perspective on life’s disappointments. Over the last few months, I have actually doubled down on my journaling habit. Nearly every day, I take out my notebook and pen, and I write anywhere from 1-3 handwritten pages. I follow the practice called “Morning Pages,” which is outlined by Julia Cameron in her excellent book The Artist’s Way.
Basically, it goes like this: write three longhand pages each day, preferably first thing in the morning. Writing by hand gives you a whole different, and I would say more intimate and thoughtful, experience than composing on a phone or computer.
I don’t have any agenda for what I’m writing about. I write about whatever comes to mind. Usually, I’m talking about my feelings, what’s happening in my life, or sorting out some problem I need to solve. This morning, when I was journaling at a coffee shop, I spent a few paragraphs writing about a guy who was talking loudly and obviously had no social awareness … and then I promptly realized that I was being judgmental. As a result, I immediately became more aware of my tendency to judge people based on a tiny snippet of their life. And then I realized the need for more empathy and compassion in my heart.
That's so great. I'm a huge journaling fan too. Anything else you recommend?
Second, you can write non-fiction articles, books, or other types of material where you talk about your experiences directly. This is a helpful way to work through your feelings, with the added benefit of helping others as well.
And third, you can channel your experiences into fiction. This is an indirect way of processing your pain, but it can also be the most powerful way.Why? because you can say things through fiction you would never say in non-fiction. The way you’re saying them is through events, characters, and dialogue in your stories.Whatever medium you choose, don’t be afraid of your feelings. Don’t stuff them in a box or lock them away.
Writing about your pain can bring healing not only for you, but for your readers as well.
I love that. Thanks so much to Kent for sharing his thoughts on this important topic. I really appreciate it.