The simplest, most difficult, most useful way to start feeling better now.
by Wendy Keller, a woman with a past to heal from
If I told you there’s a simple way to make massive progress toward getting better despite the nasty, painful, wrong things that have happened to you, would you give it a shot? I sure hope so. Because in order for things to get better, you have to do something different today than you did yesterday, or things will stay the same. And we both know that deep in your heart, you don’t want things to stay the same. You don’t want to carry this pain, bitterness, injustice or anguish to your grave.
The method I’m about to reveal to you really, truly works. Problem is, it looks too easy. Most basic laws of the Universe are. Gravity, for example. Or that brushing your teeth reduces cavities. In fact, the simple-but-difficult technique I’m about to encourage you to try is something some part of your heart probably already knows and is trying to use, albeit ineffectively.
Write the incident.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not a good writer; if your spelling is bad; if the things you’d write about are so terrible you don’t want anyone to ever see it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t own a computer.
One of the single most effective things you can do to heal yourself is WRITE your story. Write the bad thing that happened to you, from beginning to end. Put in dialogue to reflect what you remember other people saying, as best as you can recollect. Write about what you saw, what you felt, how the whole thing made you feel. It can be long or short, hand written or typed, it doesn’t matter. Add every single last detail you can remember. Start with the first moment you realized something was wrong and go from there.
See? Sounds too simple to work, doesn’t it? How could that work? And what if someone reads it? And why re-open that pain up again by replaying it?
Here’s why this works: because what happened has changed as time has passed. Not the facts, of course. My children still died in the car accident. My house still burned down. Those are facts. But by writing my stories – over and over sometimes, sometimes just once – I see things differently. This especially works with things that happened to you in childhood.
It happens because YOU have changed. You’ve changed and the way you see things has changed. When you’re a little kid and you’re upset that your parents don’t have the decency to get that monster who lives in your closet, it’s all very real. But when you’re 25 or 45, well, that monster incident looks very different. Believe it or not, the process of writing your pain and making sure to include dialogue and what you saw and felt will give you a new perspective on what happened: the perspective of the adult you are today who survived it all.
You probably already do this in some ways. If you talk to people about what happened to you, you are trying to process it. Every time you tell another person your sad story, you hear it a tiny bit different. That’s why you do it (sub-consciously).
You don’t need sympathy – that’s worthless.
You need to hear yourself reframing your story.
This process, when spoken, helps a little and may depend on how the other person responds to your tale. But when you write it, that’s when you’ll really see the transformation, the healing in yourself. It’s when you can finally look at what happened objectively. It’s often the beginning of healing, of forgiving yourself or others.
I’m a literary agent by profession. That means I sell books to publishers on behalf of authors. I never handle life stories. But even so, my company gets offered about 6,000 life stories (memoirs, autobiographies) every year. Why? Because some of these people have accidentally or on purpose discovered the transformative power of writing their story. I always tell them “Your book has already served its highest purpose. Getting published isn’t relevant.” Most will never get published, but the healing and refreshed perspective the writer now has from the process of writing is priceless.
Today, grab a piece of paper and a pen, or open a new file on your computer. I dare you to write just the first five paragraphs of what happened to you. You’ll soon feel the story shifting in you – moving you toward profound and permanent healing.
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12 thoughts on “Healing Your Past: The #1 Technique”
Ernie Garcia says:
I love your work Wendy, I am a journaling freak. You hit this one out of the park as usual! Keep up the amazing work!
xoxo – thanks Ernie!
zahid durrani says:
WELL WENDY ,U HV UR THOUGHTS AND MAYBE RIGHTLY SO BUT I THINK ITS BETTER NOT TO REMIND THE SADDEST STORY OF LIFE,WHERE TO FIND ENERGY TO WRITE THE DESTRUCTIVE STORY THAT MADE UR 40 YEARS PLANS TOTALLY UPSIDE DOWN,ur story is old enough but i think u still r feeling severe pain,u r serving huminity this way thats very appreciable but nothing is helping to overcome the pain..
zahid durrani says:
wellll u maybe right and ur efforts to serve huminity r appreciable but its too hard to remined of a painfull story that caused your 40 years plan upside down , a huge dilimna u want to forget it u cant at the same time dont want to remined, Allah knows better the solution when he put us in this paining situation,
Zahid, if you had a sliver of wood stuck in your skin, would it be better to remove it or leave it in there and hope for the best?
I agree. I have journaled over and over the story never changes. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It may help some to see something they missed and it also may rip open a healing scab with no new information.It depends on the person. sometimes it’s best to see the story and accept it for what it is and release it and let healing begin. Not what you wanted but what it is. Accept, forgive, move on and learn. Yes something new everyday looking to the future not the past
Ah, Beckie! You bring up a great point! It’s not just the writing that makes the transformation possible – it’s seeing it through new eyes. Imagine you are a therapist reading your story; imagine you are an old, wise man; imagine you are yourself at 50 or at 10; imagine you are your own sister. Read the story again and see if you can disconnect from the pain and see it from a slightly different point of view. WHY were your mother or father or whomever the villain is in the story they way they were? What happened to THAT person that made them think their behavior was alright? What was going on in their life when they did it? It won’t make it RIGHT or JUSTIFIABLE, but it will help YOU. Try to get a crack in the way you see it – that’s how you’ll find ways of coming to peace with it.
Thank you Wendy. I enjoy reading your articles. I find them to be helpful and they make a lot of sense 🙂
Thanks a lot, Stacey!
Wishing you much love, joy & peace.
Christine ( Denny ) Kenavan says:
I love it and will try this out!!
Wendy your amazing in 100 different
Ways!! Your out look in life is ….. I just can’t find words to express
However I will try….. Honest, positive, genuine, helpful & encouraging.
When you write ….. I feel like you just talking to ME!!
Thanks for being you!!
Thank you for your kind note! I had no idea you were a reader of this page. I’m honored. Sending love to you and your family. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them!
Thank you Wendy! I really enjoy reading your articles. Your articles help me a lot. To realized some things.