Life Writing, One Facet of Living an Enchanted Life
by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
I started life writing in the fifth grade. My mother bought me my own Girl
Shout diary! Are you wondering what a Girl Shout diary is? It was a Girl
Scout diary kept by me. I had a minor learning disability, undiagnosed in
those days, resulting in funny spellings. Undaunted, I wrote to Dear Diary,
sharing the best of I Love Lucy, visits with grandparents, and weekly
meeting with the Girl Scouts. Then one day this dairy was put away. Junior
High School, High School and college were years when I took pen to hand on
loose leaf papers. I kept details of my love life, shed many a secret tear
and wrote some of my finest, darkest poetry. Adult life found me writing on
fragments of papers. These scraps housed everything from cute expressions my
children used to my less dark poetry.
When I decided as a psychologist to interview women who were not in my
practice, then incorporate my findings into a book, I never dreamed how much
my own life writings would play an essential part. I had interviewed women
ages 35 through early 80's, looking at how messages they received growing up
about themselves, influenced them as adults. I asked them when they felt
most whole, most joyful. In analyzing my data, I had an "Aha" moment. I saw
these women, no matter how dysfunctional their childhoods, and no matter how
many negative messages they had received growing up, had managed to find
pleasure and joy in their adult lives. This insight convinced me that we
have not utilized the history taking of our lives to focus enough on what is
giving us pleasure and joy. Also we haven't learned to harvest out past so
as to discover precious moments even in the most dysfunctional of times.
This included me.
In writing THE ENCHANTED SELF, A Positive Therapy, I began writing about my
past and experiences again, but this time looking for precious treasure: the
positive parts of myself and my life. In writing down my thoughts, feelings
and memories, I discovered many wonderful memories growing up. I found
myself remembering times where I felt delighted with life and full of
energy. There were moments of elation and successes when my true and
sometimes lost potential showed through. I discovered events that even
though they had felt unpleasant as I lived them, held within them so many of
special gifts. I began to hold and treasure these times as I wrote them
down, feeling deeply moved on occasion, to the point of tears ...
Ultimately what the women taught me and the personal journey I then went on,
has led to my writing to you. I hope this e-mail newsletter stimulates you
to recognize the best in yourself, in your history, and in your potential.
For you too, have a treasury inside.
This exercise involves making positive deposits in your memory banks. Over
the next few days, stay alert to when you are in a good mood. Try to use all
you senses to experience the present more fully, especially when you become
aware of a potential 'deposit'. When the moment is right, ask yourself the
- What is going on?
- Does it remind you of other good times in your life?
- Can you list several of these earlier events?
- What were the best parts of these earlier experiences?
Take the time to describe them by writing them down or dictating them into a
tape recorder. Now gradually refocus your mind on the present.
- What are you seeing?
- What are the aromas?
- What are the sounds?
- How do these sensations make you feel?
Try to be aware of the details, taking time to savor them as you deposit
them into your memory bank. If writing or dictating a narrative does not
come easily to you, try drawing a picture, writing a poem, or composing a
tune. Just do something to capture the moment in a way that is meaningful to
you. Your abilities as an artist, writer, or composer are less important
than your desire to relish life.