25 September 2002
Paper by Laurie Cox.
WRITING TO CLARIFY THOUGHTS, FEELINGS AND ISSUES.
When facing a difficult situation it often helps to write down, however briefly:
· A description of the happening or issue.
· Our thoughts and feelings about it.
· Our conclusions-perhaps a plan of action.
To give two examples:
EXAMPLE #1: A Personal Account
I am presently on crutches with my left leg in a plaster cast, having injured my left knee a month ago. Two weeks to go before crutches and plaster cast are removed.
The .issue ~ been and remains how to cope with my ongoing activities of work and social relations with these two handicaps?
To clarify my thoughts-feelings about this situation I have written about it.
(You may have noticed that in the last sentence I hyphenated 'thoughts-feelings'. This is a writing device to indicate, as modern research has shown, that in fact we cannot separate these two- thoughts-feelings being inter-connected and inseparable, the one affecting the other.)
In writing for myself, I formulated 3 questions:
1. How did I come to injure my knee-what caused it physiologically, psychologically?
2. What were my thoughts-feelings about it at the time-and what are they now?
3. What are my conclusions and what can be done at this stage?
WRITING STEP #1: Bow did it happen and what were the causes?
I was hurrying along a suburban street, late for an appointment and carrying two bags. I slipped on hard pavement and damaged my knee which required an operation. An ambulance was called.
The immediate cause was that I didn't look where I was going. The psychological causes were that I felt under several pressures, with a number of commitments to meet, several of which I considered urgent.
Ironically, this meant that almost none of them would be done and I would have to take an enforced rest.
WRITING STEP #2: What were my thoughts-feelings, immediate and later?
Immediately I felt shocked, almost disbelieving. In hospital 4 days and nights, after the operation, I felt considerable pain and discomfort. However, I also began to see the pattern of my life in clearer perspective.
WRITING STEP #3: Conclusions
This kind of reflection continued at home after discharge from hospital. I realised that there were some gains or advantages to this happening. The enforced rest enabled me to reconsider some aspects of my life and my relationships. I am presently experiencing the beneficial effects of this. I have no doubt that writing to clarify issues involved has helped me a great deal. I formulated the following generalisation based on something I read a long time ago:
IF WE LOOK FOR IT,
WE CAN FIND AN ADVANTAGE IN EVERY DISADVANTAGE
EXAMPLE #2: Report of a Serious Car Accident
A high school student of mine, now facing his final examination, was involved in an accident in which he narrowly escaped serious injury. Charles, as I will call him, reported the accident to me over the telephone. In recounting it for you, I will use the 3-step method outlined above.
WRITING STEP #1: Description
Charlie occasionally drives to school and back. On this occasion he was driving home along one of Sydney's main roads. Traffic was heavy. He heard a squeal of brakes behind him and a moment later felt the impact of a vehicle hitting the rear of his car. The impact pushed Charlie's car into the rear of the car in front of him, which in turn collided with the rear of the car in front of it. It was a 4-car pile-up which happened very quickly. Charlie's car was a write-off.
WRITING STEP #2: Charlie's thoughts-feelings about the matter
Obviously, he was in a state of shock, which lasted some time. He said that two things which saved him from serious injury were, firstly, the head rest of the driver's seat and, secondly, his seat belt. He also narrowly missed other injury.
He felt glad to escape without injury. He did not blame the driver whose vehicle, a 4-wheel drive, collided with the back of his car. He accepted that his car was a write-off.
WRITING STEP #3: Conclusions, interpretations
I suggested to Charlie that he should write this up for his own benefit. I felt that this could be akin to the immediate counselling that is given to survivors of a major disaster of natural causes. I am not sure that Charlie did this but I personally feel that it could help.
As I suggested to Charlie, by thinking a situation through you can change your feelings about it. I also suggest that having written it down, you can at a later stage re-read what you have written which will lead to further insights.
In concluding this paper I have suggested that:
1. Most forms of criticism in everyday relationships are more usefully viewed as personal opinion rather than fact.
2. Constructive criticism, particularly of important social issues, may not only be helpful but very necessary.
3. When facing a difficult situation it may be helpful to ask oneself specific questions. Thinking the situation through in writing may be helpful.
4. 'Thinking' can never be divorced from 'feeling' or 'emotion'. Thinking-feeling can not, in reality, be separated.
5. If we look for it, there is an advantage to every disadvantage.