There is a profound connection between writing and healing. Dr.James Pennebaker of the University of Texas, after considerable research, explained in his book, Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, that excessive holding back of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can place people at risk for both major and minor diseases. More than simply a catharsis or venting, translating events into language can affect brain and immune functions. The subjects he tested had an increase in germ-fighting lymphocytes in their blood and lower stress levels. Writing was found to reduce anxiety and depression, improve grades in college, and aid people in finding jobs. He also reported that months after people had written about traumas over 70% reported that writing helped them to understand both the event and themselves better.
Writing provides a means to externalize traumatic experience and therefore render it less overwhelming. At the same time, as the upsetting experience is repeatedly confronted, the emotional reactivity one feels as s/he assesses its meaning and impact is weakened. Once organized, traumatic events become smaller and smaller and therefore easier to deal with. Having distilled complex experiences into more understandable packages, survivors can begin to move beyond trauma because the process of writing about it provides a means for the experience to become psychologically complete, therefore there's no more reason to ruminate about it. But not just any kind of writing will do. Dr.Pennebaker explains that the more writing succeeds as narrative – by being detailed, organized, compelling, vivid, and lucid – the more health and emotional benefits are derived. Likewise, over time, the work of inhibiting traumatic narratives and feelings acts as an ongoing stressor and gradually undermines the body’s defenses.