The written word can heal. If you’ve ever written in a journal and found it helpful, then you’ve experienced the benefit of Cathartic Writing. A catharsis can be thought of as a healthy emotional release that helps you to heal from some kind of pain. It can be grief, trauma, fear, or any uncomfortable emotion. In this article you will find an emotional letter from a dog to his human; it’s a masterful example of how words can heal even the most painful loss.
Most of us are familiar with the idea of writing our feelings and thoughts in a private journal. The idea is to get the cluttered thoughts and feelings out of our head and onto paper; the goal is to help us make sense of things, gain new perspectives, and typically to experience a cathartic release (i.e. a healthy emotional release).
When we write our thoughts and feelings, we are using more than just our cognitive processing centers in the brain; when we write, we are also engaging our visual cortex, speech and grammar areas, the auditory lobe (because we ‘hear’ our inner dialogue as we compose sentences), our fine motor skills, among others (like spelling). Because we are using so many parts of our brain to process our thoughts and feelings, we are able to get a much better handle on things than if we only use the cognitive cortex.
But journaling is only one way to use Cathartic Writing. A truly masterful example of this is below. I need to warn you, it is quite emotional and should probably not be read while at work or in a situation where tears streaming down your face would be a problem. Seriously–have some Kleenex handy.
The background is this: John Pointer, an amazing musician, actor and songwriter and all around quality human being, had an amazing dog, Benny, for 9 years. They were inseparable . . . it was widely known that when John played a show, Benny would be there. He says that they were a “package deal.” Their bond was well beyond what most people see between dogs and their humans. Benny developed some serious health issues and despite John’s and the vet’s best efforts, it was determined that the most humane thing to do for Benny was euthanasia. John was beyond heartbroken, so he turned to what he knows best as a healing force to help him heal: creativity. “Yesterday Was Weird” is an example of cathartic writing to deal with overwhelming grief, for a person, a pet, or anything really. It can be grief for your bedroom when you move off to college (in John’s style, it may be your bedroom walls telling the story of your life up to your moving out).
What he created went viral very quickly. He wrote a letter from Benny’s perspective about his final days. John remarks that Benny was so full of love and so eager to please everybody that he never even knew he was suffering. Those who met Benny know exactly what John was talking about. This letter on Facebook has been shared over 100,00 times and has been featured on the Today Show’s website, the Good Housekeeping website and has received comments from celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and George Takei; it has also been translated into well over a dozen languages around the world.
Having received so many requests, John is launching a Kickstarter soon to turn Benny’s story into an illustrated book. To see some of the sample art, and stay informed, just ‘Like’ Benny’s Facebook Page.
Learn more about Mindfulness-based Counseling in Austin.
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.