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Writing and Emotional Currency

Posted on Wed, Nov 4 2015 9:00 am by Rebecca Frost


Ten years ago my younger brother whom I adored, was burned alive in a fire resulting from his extreme intoxication in the throes of advanced alcoholism. He was my only sibling. During the two weeks he was kept alive in a medically induced coma, I put my hands on him every day to provide some kind of connection for him inside the mummy-like bandages that covered his whole body including his face. I needed that connection too. To say that his death from this tragedy, as well as the the strain of multiple decades leading up to it, and the unshakable smell of burned flesh in the months afterwards, was traumatic, is an understatement. Though I took periods off, somehow I also wrote throughout much of my healing since. Through this post, and within the curriculum of upcoming classes, I hope to share how I did, and what worked for me.

People talk about healing trauma through writing and other expressive arts. I'm all about that, have been out of necessity. I also facilitate others in their healing in my private practice, Embodied Arts, as a registered somatic therapist. As a writer, I'd been thinking about these connections between writing and trauma recovery long before my brother’s fire. But what if the reverse is also true? What if the reclamation of our whole selves also helps us to keep writing?

Exactly how the architecture of our brains interacts with its function, and vice versa, is still being parsed, like complex sentences might be. We as a species may not concur about whether or not mind and body are separate or generally the same medium, but we do need to solve some of the same problems. Writers need to find ways to write. We can learn to write through the climatic grip of trauma, as well as through our natural daily emotional weather patterns.

Don’t think you qualify? You aren’t a vessel of so-called trauma? That may be so, but I doubt it. The terminology I’m using here is not diagnostic, it’s empirical. And I’d venture that all of us navigate potentially disorienting complexities every day. What I’m aiming to do in my own writing life is to remain sufficiently current with whatever my experience is, in whatever era of my healing, to possess the capacity to keep writing.

Of course some actions must accompany our reclamations. Namely, the act of writing. But if we know that, what keeps us from writing when we think we want to be writing, and aren't? Besides all the garden variety, time-honored reasons, like checking email for the dozenth time, or suddenly needing to bake chocolate chip cookies (gluten free, of course), or a pressing urge to learn all there is to know—now—about biking safely in Minnesota's winter. Besides those reasons, presumably trauma, or some exponent of its expression in our lives, can take a toll on the writing itself. So, the bigger question becomes, how do we keep writing through incomplete healing?

What about when we have a nagging feeling that something ought be expressed? We may have gained some ground, some perspective, on the turbulence. We sense that our disequilibrium, collective or personal, and its rendering, would be useful to share. Our writing could be a balm, or a catalyst, to ourselves, and potentially to others. Yet, we still aren't writing. We are in drought.

But wait. There is another side of the equation. Some of us can't stop writing, especially when we are reeling. The rawness, the need to move through it, is rocket fuel. Sometimes the pain itself is a form of permission. We are driven to lance this wound or risk internalizing a toxicity that builds upon itself and becomes even more entrenched. By this threat, our writing is unleashed. There are flood times.

What then?

The workshop I'll be teaching at The Loft on December 12, Writing and Emotional Currency, provides tools for gaining traction on ourselves so we can stay engaged with writing regardless of the climate or weather inside or around us.

In true chicken and egg fashion, one begets the other. By finding ways to stay current: we reclaim, we write. As we write, we reclaim. It need not be wholesale reclamation in order to keep writing. The trick is to do what we can. And to gently expand what we can do.

The bigger trick is to know this is possible. Then to keep that knowledge in mind as we proceed.

Sometimes the reclamation is imperceptible as we are daring to spill ink in service to our larger goals. Occasionally, the reclamation is dramatic, and we shout it from the roof tops, or go eat one of those gluten free cookies we baked the day before.


Longtime performer, Rebecca Frost is teaching "Writing and Emotional Currency" on December 12 at the Loft. She is an advocate for all things related to human development, consciousness, and how we express it. As a Somatic Therapist, Rebecca’s passion lies in helping each person take his / her next step; providing support for that exhilarating reach beyond one’s own edge. Her poetry and fiction have been published in journals and anthologies. Her MFA thesis was a novel, and she is currently at work on a CNF manuscript. Rebecca co-founded the popular Dancers Who Write reading series, won the Verve Spoken Word grant, and as a modern dancer was the beneficiary of two McKnight Fellowships in Choreography. She taught poetry at Urban League High School, anatomy to medical students at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Mpls Yoga Center, and bodysourced writing at Shakopee Women’s Prison. Rebecca recently assisted teaching the Articulate Body course, at the U of M Dance & Theater Dept. www.embodiedarts.com