Words (written or spoken) have been integral to conveying ideas and inspiration throughout humanity. In Islamic culture, Allah (S) sent revelation, via angel Jabril (as), to the Prophet Muhammad (saw), commanding the noble messenger to:
Read! In the name of your Lord, who created …
One of the most powerful things about the Quran is the impact and influence of its beautiful words on people and entire societies. The revelations changed life for the first believing Muslims and the disbelievers, who had to adjust to the social and political changes
Islam brought. Indeed, even now the words continue to galvanize the hearts of believers and impress those who may not embrace the message it contains but cannot deny its exceptional literary style.
Much of Muslim culture reveres writing. Across subcultures, one can’t help but notice the presence of writing in multiple facets of society. For example, who hasn’t seen a poster of the Quran, framed Quranic verses or the word “Bismillah” hanging in mosques, homes and places of business? Words, and the power behind them, saturate Muslim culture, and we continue to use them in the deen to foster our faith.
We can also use them to heal our hearts and minds.
Life in this world is a test, and many must contend with events, relationships and environments that negatively impact us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The trials we face make it necessary to process any resulting trauma to heal and grow as humans. If we don’t deal with our trauma and instead bury it inside, it will resurface in our lives, which makes it essential to address them.
As a writer and coach, I appreciate the power of words in spreading ideas, thoughts and feelings. I spent years assisting college students in using words to express themselves scholastically and personally. I continue to help aspiring and current authors craft words to deliver their social messages and share their stories with the world, including healing journeys from trauma.
I talked with licensed trauma specialist Saadia Z. Yunus about writing as a way of healing trauma. What’s her insight and advice for anyone dealing with the impact of past and present trauma on their lives? Pick up a pen or click on a keyboard to process their feelings and get closer to healing.
What is Trauma?
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The general meaning of trauma involves intense painful or disturbing emotional experiences. These negative moments can be immediate and may not happen again. Still, they also may include long-term and repetitious external and internal instances that cause physical, mental and emotional harm.
We all experience traumatic events that leave indelible marks on our hearts and minds. Trauma may also negatively affect a person’s long-term mental well-being, producing emotions and reactions that require coping with and healing from it.
The American Psychological Association defines
trauma as, “an emotional response to a terrible event.” Long after the terrible event, trauma can stay in the body, affecting how we respond to situations through triggers. In the book The Body Keeps The Score, Bessel A. van der Kolk explains that trauma, “is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain and body. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present.”
Many of us may not know that our responses result from embedded trauma. Those who do understand the need to find ways to recognize our trauma and release ourselves from its effects on our lives. This is where writing can help, says Saadia.
Trauma Healing Through Writing
Trauma specialist Saadia Z. Yunus
Writing can be one of the multiple productive modes
to engage in productive trauma healing.
“Writing serves as an avenue to release the effects of trauma that are holding onto us,” explains Saadia. “The body and the brain ask us to release the trauma effects and responses in whatever ways we can. The process of writing allows room to release, to tell the story, and to open up avenues for self-reflection and self-understanding.
“Through writing, then listening to the self, validation takes place and self-compassion can ensue,” says Saadia. Self-compassion is the core to healing the self.”
Many forms of writing can help a person with their trauma healing. Journaling is a popular coping mechanism for mental health and an effective way to write through one’s trauma. It has become an essential part of my journey to heal from trauma, and I was thrilled to ask Saadia for advice on journaling. Let’s explore!
Journals provide a means for a person to release thoughts and feelings from their mind and body, giving them space to reflect on them. Benefits of journaling include:
- Managing anxiety
- Reducing stress
- Coping with depression [urmc.com]
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People with trauma and any mental health issues (mood disorders, PTSD, etc.) can use journaling to track symptoms, recognize triggers, identify negative thoughts and engage in positive self-talk.
A healing journey can seem like such a vague term. Many of us know ways to nurse something like a cut or broken limb, but caring for our minds, nervous systems and hearts can present a daunting endeavor. Constant survival mode from latent childhood traumas and current traumas may make it necessary to learn ways to regulate emotions and find ourselves. Journaling can help by setting a task to engage with healing daily.
Once you decide to start journaling to heal, it is vital to set a purpose and find ways to optimize those blank pages to promote post-trauma growth
and personal development. “It is all about finding the type of journaling that speaks to you, releases the burdens you carry, and allows space for self-actualization,” explains Saadia.
“The type of journaling I recommend relates to self-compassion, challenging negative beliefs of self and rewriting the negative scripts through a self-compassion lens. I also recommend journaling, allowing the inner child to speak their pain, be heard and understood, and be listened to like never before.”
Think of your journal as a safe expressive space for you to get to know and love yourself better and understand your trauma so you can live with it better. Your journal will be unique for you, and it is a good idea to shop around and find one that “invites” you to start essential healing work. Do you like the cover? What about the page lines? Decide on something that will make you want to write.
Find the right journal that suits your needs. You may discover that you want more than one to express your thoughts and emotions. I have quite a collection! Each serves me on my journey to healing.
Once you have your journal (or journals), it’s time to start using them to heal.
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Some people may find hundreds of blank pages daunting, especially if their trauma produces symptoms like anxiety or brain fog. I get it. When my therapist suggested journaling, I looked at him like he had lost his mind. I’m a writer with racing thoughts. No way am I going to open a blank journal.
“Write about what brings you joy, what instills gratitude and reminds you of the beauty within your soul,” Saadia advises. “Write to connect with your inner child
, the different parts of you (the angry part, the jealous part, the critical part, etc.) that take over in a given moment.
“Write to connect, understand, and integrate with different pieces. Write out your pain, and then write the healing words speaking to that pain. Find the topics that leave you feeling better after you write them; more heard and understood. Write [what] gives you a release,” says Saadia.
If you are seeing a therapist or coach, they may suggest topics for you. “I incorporate writing into my therapy and coaching with clients,” Saadia explains. “I integrate it into my groups and workshops. It can provide space for a deeper connection with the self, which is the fertilizer for self-actualization, [generating] an avenue towards healing.
My therapist gave me directions about what to put in my journal, and I went to work. I created a self-reflection journal that included gratitude and self-care. It has helped me a lot.
If thinking of what to write is too much pressure, consider a guided journal. You don’t have to create one as I did. Plenty out there focus on specific things like gratitude and self-love.
Wherever you are on your healing journey, whether you’ve been exploring your trauma for a while or just starting to address it, journaling can be a powerful way of getting it out of your mind. You don’t have to be an award-winning writer or feel obligated to fill pages and books. Start where you need to, and use journaling to heal.
Do you journal? How does it help you on your healing journey? Leave a comment!