I have a particular fondness for this topic, and I am glad to initiate a response. Therapeutic benefits seem to happen quite naturally from writing, or any creative activity embedded in such a great tradition, like literature, that it has become part of the commonplace of everyday life. Their observation and understanding is rendered more difficult by the seamless nature of commonplace experience, and their artificial recreation in clinical settings is often a compromise. So, to make a long story short, I too have noticed that writing over the years (creative nonfiction in my case) has helped me to behold life in a unique way, but I don't know of anyone specific who can recreate it successfully in a treatment setting. Before I go on, let me just say in response to your question about the nature of writing characters in conflict: it's just good literary practice since the essence of good drama is conflict (intra- and interpersonal). Martin Perdoux, MAAT, ATR
I like James Hillman’s explanation for the value of “story awareness” in Loose Ends: Primary Papers in Archetypal Psychology (1975; Spring Publications, Dallas, Texas):
"My practice shows me rather that the more attuned and experienced is the imaginative side of personality the less threatening the irrational, the less necessity for repression, and therefore the actual pathology acted out in literal, daily events. In other words, through story the symbolic quality of pathological images and themes finds a place, so that these images and themes are less likely to be viewed naturalistically, with clinical literalism, as signs of sickness. These images find places in story as legitimate." (p 2.)
As I understand it, this goes for fiction and memoir alike, because of something we know as projection, which happens because of our need to make psychological sense of everything. Vivian Gornick, reminds us of the similarities between fiction and memoir: “Memoir writing shares with fiction writing the obligation to lift from the raw material of life a tale that will shape experience, transform event, deliver wisdom. “Why Memoir Now?” (July 1996, Women’s Review of Books).
Hillman continues to illustrate the healing that lives in story with a deeper look at case history:
"A fictional form written up by thousands of hands in thousands of clinics and consulting rooms, stored away in archives and rarely published. This fictional form called “case history” follows the genre of social realism; it believes in facts and events, and takes all tales told with excessive literalism. In deep analysis, the analyst and the patient together re-write the case history into a new story, creating the 'fiction' in the collaborative work of the analysis. Some of the healing that goes on, maybe even the essence of it, is this collaborative fiction, this putting all the chaotic and traumatic events of a life into a new story." (p. 2)
Hillman then proposes that literalism is sickness. (p. 3)
Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I am posting these Parallel Reality case studies of mine. I like what happens to pathology in the context of a story written in a creative style rather than a literal and scholarly one.
Thank you for sharing your awareness of this interesting byproduct of fiction writing, I hope others will join me in responding to you.
Martin Perdoux, MAAT, ATR
| Behavior OnLine Home Page | Disclaimer |
Copyright © 1996-2004 Behavior OnLine, Inc. All rights reserved.