I led a workshop today on writing personal stories. Eight of us (seven women and one brave fellow) spent three hours sharing stories and ideas on how to heal with story-telling. There are lots of reasons to write our personal stories, not the least of which is to leave a record of information and impressions to accompany the hundreds of photographs most of us have that record the last decades. But there is also a healing aspect of storytelling, and in particular, story-writing, that is equally valuable.
When I set out to write my memoir, I did so to heal my past. In AA, one of the 12 promises for a new life is that we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. Writing about the trajectory of my alcoholism, my not-very-healthy relationships, my myriad poor choices, my forays into sugar as sedative helped me see the patterns and the possibilities for different actions. Drafting the stories and then crafting them into well-written scenes helped me get the stories out of me, down on paper, and completed. In essence, I was able to declare those parts of my life story complete and to not have to tell them any more.
Many of us have had the experience of telling the same stories over and over in therapy. I no longer feel the need to do that with those stories. They're done, I've learned what I can from them, and I've moved on. There may be other childhood beliefs to deal with--in fact there are--but I don't have to deal with these particular stories anymore. That makes all the writing and rewriting well worth it.