Writing in troubling times…….

 

winter lakeAlthough 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.

from Surviving Survival: the Art & Science of Resilience by Laurence Gonzales

 

 

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Books…..

Environmental Expressive Therapies: Nature-Assisted Theory and Practice (Paperback) book cover

 This is a  new textbook which covers a wide range of creative therapies, and how people incorporate nature into the work. Mary Reynolds Thompson & I co-authored the chapter:

Inner and Outer Landscapes: Bringing Environment into the therapeutic relationship through Expressive Writing

 

 Don’t forget:you can request this or any of the other titles from your local library

Journal Prompt: Explore your relationship with reading over your life – has it changed? Can you remember learning to read? Who was involved with your early reading?

What ‘bookish’ memories come to you?

A version of the following article appeared in the June edition of Integrating Connections

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:

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See

A Book of American Martyrs – Joyce Carol Oates

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.


The Novel Cure – An A-Z of Literary Remedies (Berthoud and Elderkin 2013) has a very short section on adoption – if you have come across any books (fiction, non-fiction – as I said, I’m eclectic) with these themes please do let me know at kate@katethompsontherapy.com or leave a note on this post.

Landscapes real and imagined…

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View from my window – aspen gold

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…

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Denali in summer

Let me know what landscapes in what books have left their marks in you. Leave a comment here on this blog.

Literature & Landscape

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Moose in Brainard Lake

Summer has come late this year, is still coming, not settling. Everything is damp, the air is humid. Visitors from England comment on how green it is here. The landscape is full and juicy, unusual for Colorado in July.

The period of the last two months has been filled with lots of events and activity. This started with the World Congress in Existential Therapy in London in May, where I taught a workshop:

Pourquoi Ecrire? Where Jean-Paul Sartre & Journal Therapy converge

This period has just ended with the July writing workshops I’ve been teaching with my colleague Mary Reynolds Thompson on Landscape & Psyche.

In our workshop Landscape Literature and Imagination: How we connect self and place, we begin by asking participants to think about a book, poem or song in which landscape is a strong aspect, a landscape that they connect to in some way or which made a lingering impression on them.

Journal prompt: List the books, poems or songs that have strong landscapes for you. Think about at what time in your life you discovered them. What spoke to you?

Thinking about this before the workshop I realized that I was brought up on the wild literary landscapes of northern England, in particular the Lake District. This landscape ran like a thread through my reading in the first 20 years of my life.

Copyright Chris Warren

Ullswater: Copyright Chris Warren

First there was Beatrix Potter in my pre-literate days, then Swallows & Amazons and Arthur Ransome’s other novels about children escaping supervision by adults to have adventures on the lakes and in the fells. Then later Wordsworth, The Prelude (to which I still return), perhaps the greatest landscape and psyche poem ever written.

This landscape was also physically real to me, the place of many childhood holidays, the Lakeland fells familiar from many walks and explorations.

Journal Prompt: Choose one of the books from your list. Imagine you are holding it in your hands. When you open the cover there is a picture of the landscape, a frontispiece. It could be a watercolor, a photograph or an engraving. Look at it closely and then, when it has come into focus begin to describe what you see. Describe it in as much detail as you can

Wild Soul Stories….

Wild Soul Landscape

Wild Soul Landscape

My friend and colleague Mary Reynolds Thompson (yes, really – no relation) and I love working together – see our upcoming workshop at the end of this post. This week she interviewed me and invited me to tell a Wild Soul Story. When Mary invited me I went to diaries I had kept in earlier life and found an experience from early adolescence to talk about. You can listen to our conversation by clicking here. I could have chosen many other Wild Soul Stories…..Landscape has always been a powerful agent for my relationship with the self.

A Wild Soul Story is an account of an occasion when you and your environment, your inner and outer landscapes engage in significant ways. Mary says:

No one Wild Soul Story is like any other.  To all of us, however, it bridges the false divide between inner and outer nature, Earth and Soul.

Living this story, we come fully alive. We embrace a sense of self that is connected to the Earth and to our own true nature.

Journal Prompt: Think about a time when you became deeply aware of your environment.Write a Wild Soul Story of your own. Write about how it affected you at the time and how you remember it. Has it changed your relationship with yourself or with nature?

Mary Reynolds Thompson and I are teaching our popular workshop on December 17th:

WORKSHOP: Literature, Landscape, and

Winter Landscape

Winter Landscape

Imagination

December 17 @ 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Book Passage,

51 Tamal Vista Blvd,  Corte Madera,  CA 94925 United States

+ Google Map

A strong landscape has an emotional effect; it creates a type of memory in which the landscape plays a vital role and becomes fused with the self. We will explore how landscapes––real, literary, and imagined––can create a topology of memory that infuses our writing and lives with deeper awareness and creativity.

We hope you can join us.

Let us know if you’d like us to bring our workshop to a location near you.

Spring Landscapes

 

Spring in Arizona

Spring in Arizona

I’m just back from speaking at the Center for Journal Therapy symposium, Passion to Profit, and the National Association of Poetry Therapy annual conference in Arizona. The temperatures  contrasted (96°F in Arizona, 33°F in Colorado), as did the landscapes. It’s always wonderful to connect with your community and these meetings were particularly stimulating and full of creative energy. 

Mary Reynolds Thompson (no relation!) and I facilitated our workshop called Literature, Landscape and Imagination at the NAPT meeting. Reading literature and inhabiting landscapes are both acts of imagination, framed by our perspectives and our perceptions. In her book Reading Middlemarch Rebecca Mead says:

Spring in Colorado

Spring in Colorado

 

 

..”when I read her [George Eliot’s] books I am restored anew to that place of childhood. She shows me that the remembrance of a childhood landscape is not mere nostalgia for what is lost and beyond my reach. It does not consist of longing to be back there, in the present; or of longing to be a child once more; or of wishing the world would not change. Rather it is an opportunity to be in touch again with the intensity and imagination of beginnings. It is a discovery, later in life, of what remains with me.” p253

 

Journal Prompt:

Think about the spring landscapes of your childhood. Choose one which has a particular resonance for you right now. Think about how old you were when you inhabited it (however briefly – perhaps a holiday place, perhaps your home). Who else was there?

Write about it in the 1st person, present tense, use the language of the senses to evoke your experience of it.

Read it through and write a few sentences of feedback (e.g. When I read this I notice…..When I read this I feel….. )

What does that place have in common with where you are now?

Writing in the wild………..

At the weekend Mary Reynolds Thompson and I facilitated our Wild Places Lost & Found writing workshops.

On Saturday the participants came up the winding road to the top of Flagstaff, to the views of the Continental Divide, to sit and write in forest and mountain.

On Sunday, people found places under trees, in sunshine, on grass.

They were seeking the wild places outside and inside themselves and came together to write and to share.

Saturday began with a visit from 3 coyotes. As we drove to Lakewood on Sunday for the second workshop a coyote crossed the road in front of us.

In Native American lore, a coyote is a trickster, a creature of duality and paradox, a creative figure, a creator of culture and a breaker of taboos.

Their appearance seemed to invite us into the wild.

Writing took people into their wild imagination.

We looked at archetypal landscapes: Mountain, Forest, Water, Grassland, Desert. Mary brought us images from her Reclaiming the Wild Soul work to look at, to choose from, to enter, to write about.

Journal Prompt

Which landscape are you most drawn to? What does it mean to you? What are the feelings it evokes in you?

What is that landscape in you?

One participant said she had always found writing outside too distracting, she preferred to have a ceiling – but on this occasion her written words belied her spoken words.

Writing in the wild

How is writing outside in nature, in a garden, different from writing inside, in a coffee shop?

What do you experience when you write outside?

What are your favourite places to write?

This I will Remember

This I will remember,

Everyone’s sharing,

The courage it sometimes takes to read out loud.

This I will remember:

How a child touches your soul,

The distance and closeness of stories.

This I will remember:

Beautiful are the hearts of the people

Who shared this workshop,

And the profound beauty of this place.

By the participants at the Wild Places Lost & Found workshop, facilitated by Kate Thompson & Mary Reynolds Thompson. Boulder, Colorado, 21st April, 2012 

Note from Mary and Kate: Saturday and Sunday’s workshops brought together an amazing group of men and women thirsty to explore the wild places within and without. Their only complaint–we need more time. To that end, please look for an upcoming October 2012 “Wild Places” weekend workshop in California, details to come.

workshops this week

If you want to treat yourself and explore your creative self in beautiful settings, there’s still time to sign up for exciting workshops here in Colorado this weekend:

Wild Places Lost & Found: Writing the places of our Hearts, Minds & Souls

Journalling and poetry with Mary Reynolds Thompson & Kate Thompson

SATURDAY, APRIL 21, BOULDER, COLORADO (in the mountains, watching the Divide)

SUNDAY, APRIL 22, LAKEWOOD, COLORADO (next to the park)

10:00-4:00       $95 

No previous writing experience is needed; writers and poets also welcome.

For information or to book your place:

303 443 3816 or e-mail kate.thompson@journaltherapy.co.uk

If you’re a therapist and missed the workshop on March 24th at Boulder Psychotherapy Institute then take the next opportunity:

People House 

Professional Development Series
APRIL 20th 

8:30am to 5:30pm

“Using the Journal’s Eye: Gaining Insight into your Professional Practice through Journal Writing”

Internationally acclaimed therapist and author, Kate Thompson shares the healing power of journaling. In this experiential workshop participants explore journal prompts writing techniques: Captured Moments, Dialogues, Unsent Letters and Perspectives and self-reflection. Relationship with self is central to self-care; journal writing develops intimacy with and knowledge of self. Presenter: KateThompson,MA;303-732-6823; Kate.Thompson@journaltherapy.co.uk
sign up for this class;
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