Writing as a healing voyage

Emily Nye’s work “The More I Tell My Story” was quite powerful in elucidating the personal and communal benefits of writing. Her focus on writing in HIV/AIDS communities was also very interesting to read about, especially when applying their experiences to that of the writers in SpeakOut. Throughout her piece, I contemplated this idea of “healing,” what it means to me as a writer, and what, in particular, it might mean for the men at LCDC.

Nye’s ample descriptions of the benefits of writing were much appreciated and provoked questions regarding my own intentions with writing that I had yet to consider. I particularly enjoyed her discussion on “writing about AIDS” where she noted that “the act of writing and the writing produced are ways ‘to resist the absurdity of suffering and death.’ Such narratives help interpret the meaning of a person’s life” (387). To this end, I do believe that narratives can restore “health” through introspection, education, heightened self-awareness and perception of [an individual’s] place in a larger communal context.

Several advantages of writing were discussed throughout the piece, including 1) writing being therapeutic and liberating for the individual, allowing them to create themselves through words; 2) writing can be used as a vehicle for imagining and dealing with “possible worlds” (390); 3) writing can be used as a tool for education, in this particular case, for those with HIV/AIDS to teach others and also so they may learn about themselves; 4) writing is empowering, allowing individuals to realize their own knowledge; and 5) writing lessens the distance between people by connecting our personal experiences and stories.

Each of the above also contribute to the “reconstruction” of self and restored health. This process of reconstructing the self was best described, I believe, in the following quote (title quote): “the more I tell my story, the less the bad stuff has power over me. It changes me as to how I look at the disease. As I change the story, I change myself. I’m evolving” (409).

I especially liked Nye’s discussion of intersubjectivity–the shrinking of the distance between the self as subject and object. This interplay between the self as “the subject of their writing, as well as the object of examination” allows for greater self-awareness and understanding (392). Through writing, individuals are able to discover and process their feelings about their disease, thus reconstructing and restoring themselves back to health.

In addition to the personal, therapeutic benefits derived from writing, a “communal wholeness” is also achieved (391). It is through writing that those with HIV/AIDS can educate those without, as well as establish themselves as part of a larger humanity. Narratives possess a healing power not only for individuals, but also for communities or those without HIV/AIDS. As Nye describes it: “a more general healing message for anyone who has ever experienced the emotional pain of being stricken, ostracized, and oppressed” (411).

When thinking about the SpeakOut journal publication, I am inclined to say that it would most assuredly produce a community healing effect. However, upon further deliberation, I was stopped by the issue of audience. Nye discusses how the speakers in narratives are of a rather privileged position of authority. A point that becomes salient when hearing the many stories of the men about their experiences while incarcerated and prior to. They are indeed the experts; they hold the power over the narratives they construct due to having lived through the scenarios they portray in writing. Their stories educate those who have not been incarcerated nor have lived through similar life experiences.

However, I wonder if the formation of community through writing is hindered if those having not experienced incarceration or HIV/AIDS are resistant to the “lessons” of others. I am compelled to think of situations of oppression and suppression [of ideas] where writing is perhaps not even allowed or welcomed among these particular communities. What if there are problems if distribution, in terms of the writing from these communities not wanting to be read or shared. How, then, are they to educate others, reconstruct themselves, and ultimately finding healing?

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