Creative Therapeutic Writing

foxy curling up in my garden

foxy curling up in my garden

Nurturing & The Naïve Voice

Nothing can make up for a lack of nurturing from childhood, adolescence or even as a young adult. Therapies of different persuasions may assuage and address these feelings.

Writing looks after me in the present and has done so for years now. Writing nurtures me because my assortment of diaries, journals and notebooks are always within reach, always available. Wherever I am. In the house. When I travel.

Perhaps my need to write makes up for an earlier absence of nurturing; perhaps I’m like the toddler needing their Mummy or Daddy when I am comforted by my writing’s supportive nature. At times it’s an addiction like my need for coffee. Equally so there are welcome periods when I don’t need to write at all. This blog is about one tiny way some writing proved to be nurturing: both in process and in content.

The first piece is prose written with a voice I call ‘naïve’; the second a poem drawing on the same material but using my adult voice. I prefer this term ‘naïve’ rather than the familiar concept of the ‘inner child’, as I feel my own inner younger self is imbued with adult knowledge and consciousness. This expressive voice feels naïve rather than childish, or child-like. I also think of the wider meaning around nurturing, as separate from mothering.

The Young Inner Self

My reflections identify with the mischievous eight year old I once was – before Mother woke up to the fact I wasn’t going to grow up into a nice little girl, pirouetting onto the front page of Vogue. I became a tomboy with a mass of curls which frizzed up in the sea-air. She is my favourite inner self when my explorations have felt playful.

Creative therapeutic writing, however, also allows feelings to emerge which are anything but playful: like the unacknowledged feelings of shame or abandonment from earlier years. When I touch the hurts of my younger self, when I become more aware of these feelings from the past, I feel my vulnerability. I cannot go out and play.

Hurt Feelings from the Past

My subterranean emotional material emerges through my writing and I need to acknowledge those feelings as I would in any therapeutic sense. I may work with these emotions and explore them every-which-way; add, subtract and fine-tune my writing until I come to a natural stopping place. Sometimes that process will be enough just for myself; sometimes I’ll need a listener for my once hurt feelings, just like the toddler running to Mummy; some trusted listener to hear my words expressing in the present emotional responses which belong to the past. Tricky feelings may fall away and I’ll be able to let go of them. And then I’ll be free enough to find again my playful creative self.

Nurturing Feelings in the Present

My two pieces here express just what I needed to say and are only about comfortable feelings, the nurturing of myself, expressed in different ways. The first piece of prose was written on holiday in Scotland.

My naive voice is reflected in the simplicity of language chosen; any grammatical rules I would apply to proper or finished writing have been broken. I did, however, give this prose-piece a grown-up title with upper and lower case letters. The writing itself, however, is all lower case with a few full stops and commas, merely to help make sense.

Achmelvich Beach: Western Highlands, Scotland
17.53 hours

and it is not warm. there is wind. and the woman curls up on the white sand in the dunes and rests. first on the right side curl up, and then on the left side curl up. and then she sits up after half an hour, not knowing she was so sleepy and needing rest, and she thought she would have a walk over the green grass sheep shorn hill where rocks jutted out all smooth. but she didn’t, she sat with her knees all tucked into her chest and felt the warm sun on her skin and the wind in her hair and the sandy cliff against her back and the sands hard under her behind and the regular sound of waves breaking on the beach. the tide is going out. she knew she would not walk but stay very still and hug herself tight. and something very still is inside her and she does not have words for this but she knows this sitting very still on the beach is a good thing for her to do.

Even though I called myself the woman, I hugged myself tight as if I were both mother and child inside my own skin. My naïve voice brought simplicity to the style, but included my adult perceptions through description; each phrase making use of colour, the sound of the waves, movement, texture and the physicality of the body. Writing in the third person usually distances the self from the content, but I feel this is an intimate piece and by the end I had expressed the inarticulate.

The precise time of 17.53 hours recorded in my notebook ten years ago (2005) meant it was early evening. I remember the lovely western ocean light bouncing off the sea’s surface; a moment caught which brought back childhood memories of pale yellow warm sand.

One winter’s morning some months later I woke up feeling cosy in bed, which reminded me of the previous summer in Scotland. After several free-writes, a poem eventually emerged transferring the feeling of curling up. I kept all the words in lower case and omitted any punctuation. The poem was written with my adult voice:

Comforting Myself

when there I lay under duvet myself
and no other first on the right side
curl up, then on the left side curl up
hands around myself and no other
it’s not as if the blood ever stops its pulsing
as I pivot and spin around a still-point
over fifty years it’s taken for my own skin
to hold me tight and only the soft whorl
of my fingertip branding my lips

This cosy snuggling up under the softness of my duvet took just the shifting from the ‘right side curl up’ to the ‘left side curl up’ with a more mature expression. There was no sense of restlessness as each side experienced a self-hug, but there were more layered meanings about movement, stillness and holding as the poem moved rhythmically to the last line.

Integration Through Writing

Child or adult, we need emotional support and physical affection to function to our full potential. The nurturing qualities of my expressive writing around the difficult phases of my life brings together the vulnerable and the strong me. My writing emotionally supports my daily life; as well, of course, as the hugs I give and I receive.

These two pieces are included in my book ms in a chapter which dealt with my mental illnesses: A Fox Crossed My Path. As I was enjoying a great sense of well-being during the process of writing that chapter, I wove in poems containing good feelings, a response to my healthy life alongside awful memories which I can not forget. The fox became the metaphor for my illnesses with its ‘hot stink’ entering ‘the dark hole’ of my head.* Yet like the photo above and from a distance, the amber furred creature is beautiful and looks cuddly.

Literature may explore the childhood and teenage experience through giving the narrator an appropriately authentic voice. Creative therapeutic writing directly accesses your own version of these younger selves. You may like to call this an inner child’s voice, or a naïve voice as I do.

********

Prose & poem: Chapter 9 of my book ms: A Fox Crossed My Path.

Writing Exercises

Since I discovered my naïve voice, I’ve always enjoyed its playful nature. Insights, however, I’ve found come later, leading to or helping with the integration of feelings belonging to an earlier self with my present adult.

Here are my guidelines:

* Forget rules about grammar
* Write intuitively
* Play with punctuation or use none at all
* Write in the present tense to find the words in the now
* Experiment with finding your child-like but not childish voice
* Bring your awareness into how you use upper & lower case letters
* Allow your spelling to be erratic, if that fits

* Free-write on the theme of: Comforting Yourself

ⓒ Monica Suswin April 2015

Read This:

* The Fox by Ted Hughes (widely available)

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