Chapter five, Writing as Healing and the Rhetorical Tradition: Sorting Out Plato, Postmodernism, Writing Pedagogy, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder written by T.R. Johnson of the University of New Orleans describes the different views of how language helps a person who has encountered a traumatic experience overcome and heal. Chapter nine, Pathography and Enabling Myths: The Process of Healing written by Anne Hunsaker Hawkins of Pennsylvania State University discusses how personal writing, such as autobiographies and biographies, promote healing in regards to illness. Both of these two chapters speak about writing in regards to healing, but chapter nine speaks about a specific writing that tends to be more effective.
Classical logotherapists believed that disease and illness inflicted a person in order to punish a person for something he/she had done. The illness was also viewed as a form of trauma that deformed one’s character by society of the classical era and healing of the illness restored one’s identity and moral purity. Healers used “verbal charms, prayers, and incantations” in order to drive out the demon that caused the illness from the infected person. Plato believed that healing occurred “in a plane of absolute, unchanging truths above and beyond the plane of lived experience.” In other words, Plato rejected the idea of that language could heal the diseased or traumatized person.
Postmodern healers believe that healing occurs through “self-actualization” which occurs through writing, another form of language. They feel that writing will provide an insight to the individual and that insight will allow the healing process to begin.
It is said that pathography allows a person to heal because one consistently remembers new details when one writes about a particular experience. The remembering of these details are imperative to the healing process because it not only allows the person to get through the experience by re-telling it also allows one to get beyond the traumatic experience.
The healing process often occurs through writing an autobiography or biography because the writer soon begins to feel that others should learn from his/her experience, which bridges self-suffering and the outside world. Pathography demonstrates that healing oneself often involves reaching out to others, which writing does.
I believe that writing about a traumatic experience helps a person over come the feelings that occur throughout the experience. I feel that this writing does not have to be purely narrative, but can also be poetic, musical, or even dramatic. I began to heal from the pain and suffering that my brother’s death brought by writing poems, songs and short narratives. Expressing myself through writing gave me the courage to talk to others about it, which helped me heal as well as those who read and listened.