Why Writing is Therapeutic when Recovering from a Narcissist

Today we now have proof that writing is therapeutic. James Pennebaker, PhD., a psychologist and researcher, has conducted studies that show improvement in immune system functioning and emotional well-being when research participants write about difficult or traumatic events in their lives. When you share your story, you no longer feel alone or isolated. You feel connected and understood.

As humans, we absolutely must process our feelings before we can recover or heal from any painful experience. Until we do this, we remain stuck. This is not only important for our emotional health, but our physical health as well.

Research now exists to prove that unresolved emotional pain can cause physical illness. I had such a severe auto-immune response after my divorce that I lost the ability to walk for one month. It was a terrifying experience and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that my emotional health is directly linked to my physical health. Hence the importance of processing our feelings before they become toxic. We "Gotta Get it Out," as I like to say because we now know that unresolved emotional trauma floods our bodies with hormones, which leave our immune systems weak and vulnerable to attack.

People tell us to just move on and expect us to get over it, but we can't until we fully process how we feel about it, share our story with others who can relate, and organize our thoughts in such a way that we feel we have made sense of the situation.

You may ask: “How do I make sense of a senseless situation?”

Well, this is certainly not easy, but I believe sorting out our feelings and organizing our thoughts in a way that helps us feel we have given the experience some kind of form and structure helps tremendously. We have a need to organize the trauma and chaos we experience in life. It makes us feel better to express ourselves in a way that allows us to feel as though we can finally put the whole crazy mess to rest in our heads. Until that happens, we will always obsess about it.

Research tells us the main reason for the stress of psychological trauma is that our memories of these horrible events are fragmented. Psychologically traumatic events are ones that have no good explanation. You have painful facts that make no sense, right? This is what we call Cognitive Dissonance.

Our natural tendency is to avoid thinking about painful memories or events. We suppress them and hope they will go away. But, they don't. If you don’t process them, deal with them and get them out, they will never go away. This is because the mind is most settled when there is coherence to our thoughts.

The only way to resolve conflicting thoughts is by remembering them, processing them and making sense of them. One way of doing this is by writing. Sharing our story with others is extremely healing and cathartic. It validates our experience and reassures us that we are not alone in our struggle.

Telling your story allows you to link together your emotional memories, which makes the traumatic events more coherent. It makes memories of these events less likely to be repeatedly called to mind so they can be laid to rest. We have to feel and express our feelings about it and organize our thoughts in some way that helps us feel as though we have made sense of it all. This stage is imperative before one can move on.

“I will write myself into well-being.“
~Nancy Mair

As Louise DeSalvo points out in her powerful book, “Writing as a Way of Healing,“ many writers, like Virginia Woolf and Henry Miller describe their work as a form of analysis or therapy. Before treatment was available, many writers used their work in this way. Writing allows us to release pent-up feelings that otherwise may not have come to the surface by talking. I know this is certainly the case for me. I find writing to be incredibly healing.

I love the way DeSalvo describes the therapeutic process of writing:

“We receive a shock or a blow or experience trauma in our lives. In exploring it, examining it, and putting it into words, we stop seeing it as a random, unexplained event. We begin to understand the order behind appearances.

Expressing it in language robs the event of its power to hurt us; it also assuages our pain. And by expressing ourselves in language, by examining these shocks, we paradoxically experience delight – pleasure, even – which comes from the discoveries we make as we write, from the order we create from seeming randomness or chaos.

Ultimately, then, writing about difficulties enables us to discover the wholeness of things, the connectedness of human experience. We understand that our greatest shocks do not separate us from humankind. Instead, through expressing ourselves, we establish our connection with others and with the world.“

Jul 2 - 11PM
TruthbeginsToday's picture

Very therapeutic

Mar 6 - 7AM
TerreSpencer's picture

Information about NPD and writing saved my life

I needed the information/research to language the increasingly bizarre situation of living with a sex addict/NPD. Once the situation was diagnosed, I knew what i had to do, which was LEAVE. But even before I had the frame of reference, I had my daily journals. I have no idea why I knew that if I wrote all this down it would one day make sense. That one day I would be exonerated and found "not guilty" of being crazy—his accusation when I challenged him on anything. Getting those out of the house was my number three priority after me and my pets. All these years later, I read through those journals and I still cry feeling the sadness and isolation of what it was like when I was there. The feelings are from that time when it was not safe to feel them, and they reach out to me to be heard, vis-a-vis my journal, now that I am safely away from the abusive vampire that took me to the edge of suicide.
Mar 6 - 11PM (Reply to #1)
sistasoo's picture

Writing this post helps me...It's a long one, sorry!

I am new to this site, but each time I read a blog or post from someone, I am totally amazed at the number of other women who experienced the exact same emotional abuse! It's mind blowing to me there is such a huge subculture of men who, by all accounts look different and live in different areas, but operate in an identical manner! It's almost as if they arrived from the same planet or took the same seminar! LOL!! Today marks a week since I left mine. I lost everything two years ago, my house and business, as a result of my ex-fiance cheating and lying. A year ago, the very next serious relationship I got into was with this Narcissist and Sociopath! I want to learn how NOT to attract these men again! In this recent situation, I was 'lucky' because I found out about one of the 'other' women right before he was suppose to meet my family and we were to get a place together. I found out by accident through Face Book. She was 'nice' enough to compare notes with me for the past week (although she doesn't want me to tell him we communicated because she still considers him a 'good friend')...I found out she is the same age, has the same initials, we almost look alike, he took her to the same places and introduced us to the same friends....he even told me the same things in private that he told her...she lives in another state, (where he relocated back here from), and would come to visit him, apparently. Looking back, he would conveniently start a fight with me, and I would break up, or say he had to work a lot and couldn't see me when she came to visit...he even went to see her when he was supposed to leave for business and told me he was staying with a guy friend while there. I think I basically was a substitute for her...but he even talked about living his life out with me, etc! I squelched my intuition about him for an entire year because he would tell me I was "crazy" or "too jealous", "insecure", etc. when I commented on how much he held on to his past girlfriends or seemed to have the need to be noticed by lots of people around town. When you wrote, "That one day I would be exonerated and found "not guilty" of being crazy—his accusation when I challenged him on anything", I could completely relate. I too, feel exonerated. His second wife committed suicide after the breakup of her first relationship following their divorce...now I know why. He had her so screwed up, she even wrote about how he was 'the nicest person she knew' in her suicide note... He has shown no remorse or sympathy for her, only to say she was "selfish" for committing suicide..he showed no empathy or remorse for me when I found out about the other woman and was shaking, crying and had nausea...just sat there and said I was overreacting and kept denying he did anything with her while he was with me (the dates were stamped on her pics with him, so I had the evidence in front of me...he made up lies about the dates being wrong and just kept denying any wrongdoing). I wrote a letter about how I felt of him using me as a subsitute for her and how cruel he was to do this to me especially even when he knew I had lost everything recently because of trusting a man's lies. I almost sent it and just before I did, I found this site and others that said "No Contact". I have that urge to push the "send" button and let him know to what degree he has been exposed, versus him thinking I was just suspicious/crazy and don't know all the details. When I get that urge, I read the blogs posted here. Thank you for letting me get this out..it's very cathartic. I feel blessed to have found all the women on this site for support. Now, I have hope the road to 'recovery' won't be a long one!