Another piece of the book “Happy: poems and reflections for writing and healing the self” which will be out this fall…
You are not who you think you are
Research on writing and healing and family systems therapy reveals that secrets clog up our working memory. They can even make us sick. What is inherent in healing processes is that we come clean and dare to say something that is at least closer to reality than what we said the day or hour before.
This is difficult work for humans; we are full of lies that help ensure our survival in the groups and families we are loyal to. We uphold grand, false, and sometimes even unforgiving images of others and ourselves. Poets have the “happy” task of flouting those rules; maybe this is why some of these misfits even become national heroes. We need the work of poets, but we don’t always like what they have to say. If anyone writes a poem that reveals your truth, don’t take it too personally – it’s their archetypal role and it probably applies to more people than you thought possible.
Writing is a reflective act and the training writers submit themselves to is quite relentless; as Allen Ginsberg says, “Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s the time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.” It is the antidote to another truism, spoken in a work of fiction by Robert Heinlein, “The human mind’s ability to rationalize its own shortcomings into virtues is unlimited.”
Fascinating isn’t it: that we hide shit to survive and we also have a built-in shit detector that we can hone to start thriving. Naming is a powerful thing.