Many people are finding that getting out and walking helps in many ways to mitigate the conditions of the pandemic; not just the confinement of being at home for so long. This may result in many more people on the trails, open spaces are being shared with greater numbers. This can make solitude and silence harder to find but recently I, literally, discovered that
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference
Robert Frost - The Road not Taken
It really did make a difference to the experience. Each time the trail forked or another path turned off the way forward got steeper, there was more snow, and there were fewer and fewer people.
Think about the forks in the road, literal or metaphorical, you have come to recently in the continuing experience of the pandemic.
What choices did you make?
Where did they take you?
Where do you imagine
the road not taken have gone?
What are you curious about?
I am told that people really are writing more letters in these times as they seek connection beyond their immediate environment. Someone said to me that she wrote letters to people with no expectation they would write back – so a letter in return feels like a gift.
Someone else said to me that in the course of clearing out a cupboard she came across letters I’d sent her years ago.
If you re-read old letters there is the opportunity to use the Feedback Loop and integrate your insight:
"When I read this I feel.........."
"When I read this I notice........"
"When I read this I remember........"
Write an unsent letter to your post-pandemic self.
People who live alone have particular challenges in this time:
What has helped you? What do you miss most?
What is your experience?
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The second free mini workshop in the series Writing for Resilience: Shifting our Emotional Landscape is available for you to listen to here. (The link to workshop 1 is in the previous post.)
In this Mary Reynolds Thompson and I guide you through a two part write about a favourite literary landscape. This exercise is adapted from our chapter Inner and Outer Landscapes: bringing environment into the therapeutic relationship through expressive writing in Environmental Expressive Therapies.
There are many books with a strong sense of place, where the landscape itself becomes a character. I can remember many books I read as a child that featured strong or memorable scenery – some landscapes were familiar to me, others gave me access to new and different worlds. As an adult, reading books set in previously familiar but now distant landscapes is another joy and way to re-connect with my past.
Journal prompt: Make a list of landscapes in books that have made an impression on you. What do you notice about this list? Make notes on the significance of each one.
Do let me know what books with strong landscapes have made an impression on you, an impression that perhaps you have retained. Please leave a comment on this post.
Although the lake here is full at this time and we have snow on the ground, there is not the same calm and safety for many people and communities that we know. Perhaps you or someone you know is personally affected by the fires, floods, earthquakes indelibly changing the landscape, or perhaps the news brings it into your awareness with brutal immediacy. In these troubling times, when there are natural disasters affecting so many people and communities, it is so easy to feel paralyzed and helpless whilst simultaneously wanting and needing to offer something in whatever way we can.
So I was delighted when my friend and colleague Mary Reynolds Thompson suggested that we record a series of free audio mini-workshops on Writing for Resilience: Shifting your Emotional Landscape.
You can listen to the first of three mini-workshops here.
This episode offers a three-part writing prompt emerging from our joint work on the relationship between Inner and Outer Landscapes. The intention is to help you ground yourself in these troubling times, whatever challenges are facing you.
We hope it may be useful to you or someone you know.
Writing holds a special place among the activities that people use to calm and heal themselves. It is physical, patterned, organised, rhythmic, and directed at a goal. But it is more. It also creates meaning as it flows.
I am a compulsive reader – I read to learn about the world and to understand my own world. The urge to create a meaningful narrative from the events of a life, to understand and to learn, is one of the reasons people come to psychotherapy. Psychotherapists and authors might therefore agree that we read to make sense of our lives and our experience.
Sometimes our professional and personal lives align in a novel in ways that can illuminate both. Recently I picked up a couple of novels from the New Books Shelf at my local library. By chance, they both contained adoption themes:
I work a lot with clients with adoption stories (from different parts of the adoption triad). I run a group for adoptees. I am an adoptee. Perhaps this makes me particularly sensitive to these themes; I know I am profoundly grateful when I find them. These stories occur in adult fiction from Wuthering Heights to The Orphan Train. Children’s literature has always been full of adoption stories – think of Anne of Green Gables,The Secret Garden, The Once and Future King. Novels are extra resources I can suggest to clients and show me new perspectives on their stories and my own.
Leading up to the autumn equinox the aspen have started turning gold – some of them already bright, others yet to lose their green.
I’ve been thinking a lot about landscape as I’ve just submitted the chapter Mary Reynolds Thompson and I have co-authored (Inner and Outer Landscapes: Bringing Environment into the Therapeutic Relationship through Expressive Writing) for a new book (Environmental Expressive Therapies: Nature Assisted Theory and Practice eds Kopytin, A. & Rugh, M).
It gave us the opportunity to align our different ways of working (from ecological and existential therapy approaches) and really explore the common ground, looking at our shared favourite authors and discovering new ones. We consider the power of writing about landscapes, both real and imagined, and how that affects the psyche. There are three circles in the writing process we have developed, with exercises for each stage.
Here’s just one of the exercises adapted from our chapter:
Journal prompt: A Framed Literary Landscape
Sometimes landscapes in books can become as real and affective as actual inhabited landscapes. “Books, like landscapes, leave their marks in us” (Robert Macfarlane The Old Ways) As Jean-Paul Sartre and Robert Macfarlane remind us, we are all readers before we are writers.
Structure, pacing and containment are established by the idea of a framed picture which captures a moment, just as a photographer frames a shot through the camera lens or an artist places a painting in a frame. The use of a literary, rather than a physical landscape, allows people to be less immersed in the lived experience of their own lives an its potential for anxiety
1) Think of a book that made an impression on you at some time in your life, where the landscape has entered your imagination and memory because it was almost a character in its own right.
Allow the landscape to come into focus as though you are looking through a camera, or at a picture in a frame.
2) Describe what you see within that frame, as though you were looking at a picture hanging on your wall.
3) Use the present tense, notice the colours, imagine the sounds, smells, see the relationships between the objects that make up the landscape.
Feedback Write: When I read this I feel…
Let me know what landscapes in what books have left their marks in you. Leave a comment here on this blog.