In order to discuss the topic of trauma, it can be helpful to understand its definition. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines trauma as the response to a deeply troubling or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, overall affecting their emotional response. Following a traumatic event, feelings of shock and denial are expected. Furthermore, long-term feelings of stress, flashbacks, difficulty maintaining relationships, and even physical symptoms such as headaches or nausea, can hinder an individual’s ability to cope with trauma (APA, 2003). Everyone’s trauma is different. Clinicians alike suggest different coping mechanisms and other ways to handle individual trauma. One popular way is exploring emotion through journaling or writing, let’s talk about it.
Writing about personal experiences is one step closer to talking about them. The APA recommends that even though writing about difficult life experiences are challenging, it is beneficial for emotional and mental health (APA, 2003). As mentioned previously, everyone’s trauma is different, including their coping mechanisms. For some, it may be easier to ignore what happened to them, putting their trauma behind them in hopes that they will be able to move forward with their lives. Through writing or journaling, individuals do not have to ignore what happened to them, but rather participate in a universal, inexpensive, and healthy way to let out feelings associated with trauma; stress, anxiety, shock, and more.
Keeping a diary or a journal is a great way to account for all of your emotions, both the bad and the good. Disclosure and expression of especially the bad emotions are significant towards an individual’s health, wellbeing, and ultimate recovery of trauma (APA, 2003). Therapists, counselors, and clinicians not only agree but also encourage their clients to engage in writing exercises outside of the clinical setting (APA, 2003). This way an individual is able to freely express their thoughts in a safe place without judgement.
Now that we have briefly talked about trauma and the benefits that come with writing, know that understanding and working through your own trauma does not look the same on everyone. Your trauma is not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility.
American Psychological Association. Open Up! Writing About Trauma Reduces Stress, Aids Immunity. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/research/action/writing.
Want to talk to someone who can help? If you would like to speak to a professional counselor or psychologist about this and are in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.
Written by: Abrea, 2021 Undergraduate Intern