Using Poetry to Process Emotion
I am incredibly emotional. For you astrology folks out there, I’m the epitome of a Cancer, forever floating along on the waves and surges of joy, sadness, fear, hope, etc. I am such a feeler, always going straight for the heart and the gut rather than letting experiences take a turn filtering through my rational mind. For a long time this was a hindrance for me and I couldn’t separate myself from my emotions. They controlled me, toxically informed my relationships, and squashed me down at every turn. Moving into an understanding of that pattern and committing to my own unraveling and transformation was the most difficult yet infinitely rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. At this point in my journey I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve been able to do the challenging work to both identify and gently disidentify from this piece of me so as to have a better relationship with it, that is to not allow it to take the reins at all times. I’m happy to tell you there are countless ways to do this kind of work. No matter your skill set or passions there is a way for you to tap into the bottomless, beautiful well that is you and hold space for yourself in ways that help you to feel more peaceful, resonant, and whole. You are your own healer. My favorite way to help myself make sense of me? Using poetry to process emotion.
I love to write. My mother bought me my first journal when I was seven years old and I’ve been keeping one ever since. It was through keeping a journal I discovered other modes of similar expression, such as writing poetry and short stories. I kept coming home to poetry more than anything else. During my angsty middle school years, a time when my “oddball” personality was really showing its true colors, it was a tool for me to express the deep sadness and longing I felt to be accepted by my peers. Also present for me at that time was a new and uncomfortable processing of the fact that there was a whole world outside of 7th grade and it did indeed include me and affect me in ways I couldn’t yet comprehend but felt so deeply. Poetry helped me to build a bridge to the connections I didn’t understand but knew were present and necessary. High school brought more of the same as I developed crushes, experienced greater responsibility, and battled more self-worth issues. The pieces I was writing were sad, hopeful and angry all at once. You know what that showed me? That I’m capable of holding all of those things and that I’m also in charge of how I hold them. I think this is something really crucial and beautiful we forget as we age and move in to our fast-paced lives where success and romantic partnership and deeper searches for meaning come into play. We are all so wonderfully complex and dynamic but our brains are conditioned to hyperfocus on pretty much everything but acknowledging our honest emotions when they arise. I want to call your attention to that so you can marinate on all the ways your life may shift if you actually feel what your experiences are begging you to feel. If writing is something that calls to you or is of interest, go ahead and sit down and freewrite. See what comes up when you allow yourself to be totally unfiltered. It may look like nonsense or it may be fluid, the point is to allow. We police ourselves all day long. It is such a gift to give our minds permission to do what they want, especially in creative practice. There are countless studies done (Google away!) about how creativity rewires and nourishes the brain. It’s not just emotional processing and healing taking place, it’s the turning on of an enormously helpful inner light which can illuminate all the ways in which you can shift and grow and trust yourself. In my own practice as a Psychospiritual Coach I utilize tools such as guided imagery to help my clients understand that the images flowing from their mind hold meaning and can provide invaluable insight into their hopes, dreams, traumas, and so on. One small image can conjure up the reframing of an entire situation. These images flow through you onto paper when you try free writing or poetry.
For reference, here is a poem I wrote about six years ago when I felt deeply stuck and depressed, unable to make sense of my life. I was also at that time trying to find the energy to hold space for what felt like an agonizing birth into some sort of spiritual awakening. I didn’t understand what was happening to me but I knew I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life sitting at rock bottom. I had questions and I knew the answers existed and would somehow reveal themselves when I was ready. So, I did what I could to help myself along and ended up writing almost every day. I was able to finally make sense of my experience through what flowed onto paper through my subconscious. Am I scared to let people see what came up for me during this time? Absolutely. But part of the magic of emotional processing is knowing when to forgive myself for the unfair expectations I’ve created and internalized as well as holding tremendous compassion for who I am at any given moment, including the me’s of my past.
I am the moon
Illuminating the darkness which paralyzes my trust.
At night is when I feel both familiar and yet not at all--
I could disappear. Evaporate.
I could Exhale slowly and become a living eclipse.
Am I the moon?
I am the owl
Sighing into the breeze with a long, aged heaviness.
Do you know how many lives I’ve lived?
I exist beyond illusion. Wait for me on the other side.
Tree limbs like train stations. Infinite platforms.
Am I the owl?
I am the farmhouse
Staring into the cul-de-sac with calm, focused intent.
Memories of nothing and pictures of no one come very strangely to mind.
I miss standing here alone. I miss the apathetic.
I used to feel only me.
Am I the farmhouse?
I am the wooden spoon
Stirring the pot filled with ancestor’s palates.
An unforgivable connection found deep in salt and simmer,
I taste a feeling I cannot find in another.
I wonder if I could hold a house together.
Am I the wooden spoon?
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