Sunday, June 23, 2013

Writing Takes Away The Power Of Bad Things

I am a huge believer in storytelling.  Whenever something traumatic happens in my life (and despite my incredibly lucky existence, bad things have happened), one of the most important steps I take to get past the initial emotional shock is to boil it down to a simple story, and lay out what I'm going to do about it.

It turns out that there is science behind this.  Here's a passage from Adam Grant, the author of the recent book, "Give and Take" (H/T PandaWhale):
"In total, well over a hundred experiments have documented the health benefits of disclosing thoughts and feelings about negative events. “When people write,” Pennebaker summarizes in The Secret Life of Pronouns, “healthy changes occur.” Talking into a recorder works just as well as writing, but it’s not effective to express the trauma without language, through mediums such as art, music, and dance. It seems that people need to express the negative experience in words—either through writing or speaking—to reap the health benefits."
Language has the power to define and crystallize our feelings.  It forces you to make rational decisions in a way that more inchoate forms like music and dance do not.  Not is this limited to helping with negative events:
"Research by Laura King shows that writing about achieving future goals and dreams can make people happier and healthier. Similarly, there’s plenty of evidence that keeping a gratitude journal can increase happiness and health by making the good things in life more salient. And Jane Dutton and I found that when people doing stressful fundraising jobs kept a journal for a few days about how their work made a difference, they increased their hourly effort by 29% over the next two weeks."
The great news for entrepreneurs is that you can even keep the writing private.  It's lonely in what I call "the big chair."  A founder/CEO needs to be strong for everyone else, even when her own heart is filled with foreboding and doubt.

But through the written world--whether it's a formal journal or simply a text file on your phone--you can be honest with yourself, and express all the things that are ready to burst out.

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