Poetry is an active method of therapy but there is no reason to spend hundreds of dollars visiting an office when you can put pen to paper in the privacy of your own home. Whether you’re going through an emotional time in your life or you simply feel the need to express yourself, poetry therapy can help you learn more about yourself than journaling alone.
Poetry therapy is an ancient practice dating back to the ancient Egyptians. According to The National Association for Poetry Therapy, “the first Poetry Therapist on record was a Roman physician by the name of Soranus in the first century A.D., who prescribed tragedy for his manic patients and comedy for those who were depressed.” It is no great surprise then, that poetry is still being used to treat everyone from mental patients to abused children. However, poetry therapy isn’t just for extreme cases. The average person can find great benefit from writing poetry and examining the result of their emotional creativity.
You don’t have to be a writer or even interested in reading poetry to write poetry. Though writing in a journal can help relieve a person’s stress by allowing an outlet for ones secrets and feelings, poetry taps into subconscious emotions on a different level than prose or journaling. What does poetry do? It makes sense of emotional roller coasters and confusing feelings, and it provides a log of that emotion that can be analyzed on a personal level. Through reading your poetry, it becomes clear what emotion you’re truly feeling.
One of the best ways to express yourself through poetry is to keep a notebook just for poetic outbursts. This will be a private book much like a journal or a diary where you can go for an emotional free write. Also, when going through an especially emotional time, you may want to write several poems on the same subject matter or repeat the same line throughout one poem. Go with your instinct. Allow yourself to communicate the emotion with as much intensity as your pen will allow. In other words, get it out of your system. Think of poetic repletion much like listening to a song on repeat. Eventually, no matter how great the song or how it makes you feel, you’re going to find yourself sick of singing along. You’ll want to find new music to listen to, and in poetry therapy, the process is much the same. Eventually you will repeat your emotional state to the point where it no longer bothers you. When you reach this point, you’ve overcome that part of your subconscious.
After you notice a difference in your poetry, whether your repetition has stopped or not, it’s time to look back at what you’ve created. As mentioned earlier, there’s much to be learned from reviewing your older poetry. You’ll be surprised to find that your emotions have progressed towards a more realistic, and oftentimes more positive, direction. For example, your early poems may have been expressing hate towards an ex-lover, but, eventually, they will progress to an acceptance of a life without your old partner. Perhaps, you’ll find that your hate has become pity or resolve. Or maybe you have had conflicting feelings about a relationship. You might learn through reading your poetry that you are emotionally against making a commitment. No matter your circumstance, one thing is guaranteed: poetry will teach you something about yourself.
While some individuals lean very strongly towards secrecy, others find it difficult to keep their emotions to themselves once they’ve uncovered the root of their conflict. For these poets, it may be time to share their creative works with others. Several online forums exist for poetry writers, and the majority of readers provide positive feedback to poems posted on the internet. If you feel a need for someone to know about your poetic revealing, then such forums can be a valuable asset, and they are private, in a matter of speaking. Pennames and the sheer number of writers on poetry sites can make it impossible for friends and family to read your poetry unless you direct them to the collection.
Next time you find yourself in a state of emotional upset, sit down, take out a piece of paper and a pen, and become a poet.