As a psychologist I don't get to write prescriptions, but if I could, I would most often write them for poems. The language of healing is the language of emotions. And the language of emotions is a hard one for most people to learn. As someone who teaches emotional intelligence in the corporate world, I can tell you that being able to sense your emotion, name it, and then be able to talk about it —and manage it—is a skill that everyone is working on. And when you have lived through long term trauma, this skill is even harder.
But once you can identify the feeling and want to talk about it, words can fail. I have found that the words often just feel too small for the feeling you are having—or somehow the words don’t connect to the feeling—it feels hollow. But one place that feelings learn to connect to words, and images and stories is poems. Poetry is the intersection of all things emotional. Poems allow your brain to begin to hold the images, feelings, and words in one place, at the same time, without the pressure of a full narrative.
Poetry?! I hear you saying…I know poems may not seem macho enough for some of you, but that’s because you haven’t met the right poets. You need to meet David Whyte. He’s a poet who, if you saw him, you could say: Man, that guy could kick my ass. Actually, he doesn't need to lay a hand on you-- the blows come anyway. His words help lost parts of yourself find each other. His words can give you the capacity to capture your courage to heal again. In this blog I will often bring in poems and pieces of poems—they are the often the best first start to the language of healing and the practice of living. Poems are invitations to the journey that so many have dared to make—the journey of loss and the journey of reconnecting with life. When you read a poem you join an immense group of fellow pilgrims. You are not alone in your work, in your healing. So in order to heal you can start with this poem—an invitation to start, to find your voice and your courage. David Whyte’s poem Start Close In ~ Here's the first stanza, and the poem read by the author below.
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
David's books are available here: Most are available on kindle as well.
© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2014