Posted by: Marie | August 30, 2009

(135) Value in writing

Post #135
[Book study – Wednesday, May 27, 2009]

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
(Third Edition, 1994)
by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Introduction: Using the Writing Exercises

[Table of Contents]


Green text: Quotes/Summaries from the book
Gray text: My words

This transformative work (the entire series of blog posts relating to this book) constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright law.


So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault and responsibility of the adult. I was – and am – innocent.

On the Mountain by Martin Chen

On the Mountain by Martin Chen

By going back and writing about what happened, you also re-experience feelings and are able to grieve. You excavate the sites in which you’ve buried memory and pain, dread and fury. You relive your history.

A journal can help you figure out how you feel, what you think, what you need, what you want to say, how you want to handle a situation, just by writing it through.

Writing itself is very helpful, but sharing what you’ve written is important too. After you write, read your writing to someone who will listen attentively and be responsive. Make sure you protect yourself by not choosing anyone who will re-abuse you in any way.

If there’s no one you can read to right away, read out loud to yourself – at least you will be reading to one attentive listener. Just saying the words out loud can make them more real.

If you read your writing to someone who has no experience in listening to personal writing, tell that person what you need. You may say that you’d like them not to criticize or judge what you say. You may want them to ask questions, to help you talk about it more, or you may want them simply to listen quietly. You may want comforting and you may not. People usually respond in more satisfying ways when you tell them what you want.

Quotes 046


  1. Hi friend!

    Thank you for the reminder.
    This post just makes me breath deeper and feel present and remind me of just how true these words are.

    • Hi, Vicki –

      That is one reason I really like this book . . . it speaks the truth boldly and plainly.

      It is good to hear from you!

      – Marie

  2. I haven’t been abused and so aren’t using my journalling to heal this.

    I’m not sure about planning on reading it to another. I never show my journal to anyone else – so I feel absolutely free to write whatever I want and be completely uncensored.

    • Hi, Evan –

      I think that you have pointed out one of the most significant differences between the healing process of those who have a history of abuse and those who don’t . . . .

      Everytime I write something that feels “heavy” to me, I struggle to get it written and I really, really struggle to give it to my therapist (when I have one) or publish it to my blog. I feel I have absolutely no right to voice those parts of my experience.

      I’m sure it comes from a lifetime of being told I have nothing to complain about — and, if I did have something to complain about, no one wants to hear about it. I have been taught that my needs and complaints are subordinate to the needs and complaints of others.

      So, the idea of giving myself permission to complain and to express pain — and the idea of asking someone else to take the time to read/hear it — is far-fetched to me. I struggle with that concept everytime I write in my journal.

      However, I know that, for my healing journey, I need other people to hear me and to value/validate my voice and my experience. It is a key component in removing myself from the overwhelming oppression created by the shame and forced silence.

      In order to heal, I have to tell my story to an audience who will really hear me.

      I’m guessing that you feel you have the right to put your experiences and feelings into language — to give them attention and put energy towards them. I don’t [yet] feel I have that right.

      I’m guessing that you feel that you have the right to share what you have written, should you choose to. I don’t [yet] feel I have that right.

      I’m guessing that you believe you will be heard and your words validated if you chose to share. I don’t [yet] believe that would happen for me.

      And all of that stands in the way of my healing.

      I think that is the big difference in our healing processes.

      Thank for bringing this up!

      – Marie

  3. Hi Marie,

    I’m not sure that I do feel that I have the right to be heard.

    I think you are right that it is a big difference. For me knowing that others would read it would get in the way of me getting in touch with the experience.

    I do understand the need to be heard. And I do understand the need for it – especially for those whose needs were ignored and trivialised. I’ts just that writing a journal to be shared would be the way that would work for me.

    • Ah! I’m surprised that you are not sure that you feel you have the right to be heard . . . that is interesting!

      It is good that you know yourself well enough to know what does and doesn’t work for you. If I understand you correctly, you would need a “very private” journal and a “to be shared” journal . . that would be cool!

      Thanks for the additional thoughts . . .

      – Marie

  4. Yes, I think I’d need two journals.

  5. When I write it is in a very illusive way. I can’t seem to write about what actually happened. And I’ve only shared a few of the things that I have written wth my T. I guess I spend a lot of energy making it not real.

    But I do find that writing really helps me to hear myself and maybe even begin to accept myself.

    • Hi, lostinamaze –

      You know what . . . it isn’t surprising that you tend to avoid full disclosure in your writing . . . after all, isn’t that how we have managed the memories? I mean, we forget details and feelings and context and just remember a dislike for a place or a smell or a touch . . . our memories have been elusive . . why would your writing be any different?

      I’m glad you are finding that writing is helping you hear yourself and begin to accept yourself . . . thanks for sharing!

      – Marie

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