Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friday's Faith - Writing My Heart Out in Poetry or "Name It to Tame It" ~with Dr. Daniel J. Siegel

Friday's Faith

Writing My Heart Out in Poetry


"Name It to Tame It"

~with Dr. Daniel J. Siegel

There are so many things on this planet which are simply unbearable. Impossible to be borne.

Life isn’t fair. Innocents suffer. The wicked seem to prosper. All our “strutting and fretting” ends in death. As Paul puts it, “The whole world groans as in travail until now...” Centuries of flawed mankind screaming through the painful process of metamorphosis. Against such a flood of pain, such a collective cry of anguish that crescendos to unearthly roar, what can be the response? How are we to address so much suffering? We can’t fix it all. We can’t fix anybody, especially ourselves.

Platitudes don’t help much.

Sometimes words are not only inadequate, they are next to impossible.

~Kim Arnold, Katherine Arnold Wolfe's Mom


Early on in my grief, I intuitively knew I needed to document my child-loss grief, so I attempted to journal. I tried it, but it felt too harsh, too graphic, too tormenting...having to d.o.c.u.m.e.n.t in cold hard data the one fact I never, ever wanted to happen?

I couldn't do it.

It was too stark, too traumatizing.

So I prayed and asked my Heavenly Father what I should do.

And He, very pointedly, whispered to my spirit,

"Write poetry."

I could not understand such a directive; it made no "sense" to me, but I started writing... I began writing out my anguished feelings through poetry.

As I began writing the poetry, I began to recognize an interesting process. Poetry is like picking up a camera to take a snapshot of something important. The poetry, like the camera, "captures" just a moment in time of where you are in your emotional angst. So in writing poetry, what seemed to be called for was for me to

1) Feel the moment in as much fullness as I could in all of its vitality (a right-brain activity), and then try to

2) Capture that moment in words to describe it in its true nature to the best of my ability (a left-brain activity).

Through my study of trauma and child-loss grief, I began learning the scientific importance of right-brain exercises to "enter the back door" of the brain to grab hold of some of the volatile emotional material trapped in the limbic system of the brain in order to move it out and up into the other parts of the brain, like the pre-frontal cortex, for it to be processed on through the brain. In enabling the other parts of the brain to receive such poignant material, the language centers of the brain could help me begin the process of ultimately integrating such horrific and unwanted material into the rest of my life, exposing the new Angie amidst her child-loss, helping me somehow to accept the unacceptable I never wanted to accept.

I recognized at the time that I was able to feel the true depths of the emotion (giving release to my right brain), and then when I would try to find the appropriate (and rhyming) words to describe the emotion (working my left brain) in order to write a poem, I could feel a transition back and forth from the heavy emotions. So just taking a breather from my emotions then to try to write about them was providing a "space" in which I was able to take a break from the intensity of the pain!

So today, I was quite surprised as I was perusing a book I had gotten from the library called Mindsight by psychiatrist, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., as I stumbled across a scientific description of the essence of what my writing my grief out through poetry was accomplishing in my grief-struck brain...


Dr. Siegel says the traumatized person is

"needing to find a way to bring balance to over-active feelings."

He goes on to say, (when a person is experiencing such volatility of emotion...)

Such people have an excess of right mode (emotional) flow without enough linkage to the left (language/cognition mode) and may suffer from emotional dysregulation and chaotic outbursts.

They can become overwhelmed by fragmented autobiographical images, filled with bodily sensations, awash in emotions that overwhelm and confuse.

For these people, balance entails gaining some mental distance in the sanctuary of the left mode.

"Since the right hemisphere is more intimately linked to the emotion-generating subcortical areas, we can see why raw, spontaneous feeling is more fully and immediately felt in the right mode---and why it makes sense that linking the right and left modes through the left-hemisphere function of language might bring about the necessary balance.

And indeed, studies done by my colleagues at UCLA have actually shown that

(N)aming an affect soothes limbic firing.

Sometimes we need to

"Name It To Tame It."

We can use the left language centers to calm the excessively firing right emotional areas. But again, the key is to link left and right, not replace one imbalance with another.

~Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, in his book Mindsight, (highlights mine)


What a sweet intervention given to me by my Heavenly Father without my even understanding cognitively nor emotionally what He was doing with such a directive! How sweet. How loving. How nurturing. How healing.

And how faith-building to know if He can gently guide in the raw depths of my grief when I don't even understand what He is up to, how comforting to know He can and will guide me each step of the way through the rest of my arduous grief journey of mourning my baby girl.

Picture thanks to

Kim Arnold's blog about Katherine's story is amazing ~ See

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. from his book Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, see Chapter Six


No comments:

Post a Comment