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January 11, 2007

Writing and Healing Idea #20: Finding a Benefit in Adversity

For this writing idea I’m going to set down, first, the instructions that Annette Stanton and Sharon Danoff-Burg used in the study that I wrote about earlier this week. These instructions are specifically written for a woman with breast cancer. Following these instructions, I’m including a slight revision, a set of instructions that might be applied in the wake of any adversity. An adversity I’m going to call X.

What is your X? An illness? A loss? A setback? X can be whatever you would like for X to be. And you can, if you like, choose the first X that comes to mind. You really can’t do this wrong.

(And of course if it’s too soon to find a benefit in X feel free to skip this writing exercise—to save it for next year—or for your next life for that matter. If you would prefer to deal with the part of X that hasn’t been so beneficial you may want to look at Writing and Healing Idea #12 or Writing and Healing Idea #14)

1. The Stanton-Danoff-Burg Instructions: Writing About Breast Cancer
[from The Writing Cure]

What I would like you to write about for these four sessions [of twenty minutes each] are any POSITIVE thoughts and feelings about your experience with breast cancer. I realize that women with breast cancer experience a full range of emotions that often includes some positive emotions, thoughts, and changes, and in this writing exercise I want you to focus only on the positive thoughts and feelings that you have experienced over the course of your cancer. Ideally, I would like you to focus on positive thoughts or feelings that you have not discussed in great detail with others. You might also tie your positive thoughts and feelings about your experiences with cancer to other parts of your life—your childhood, people you love, who you are, or who you want to be. Again, the most important part of your writing is that you really focus on your positive thoughts and feelings. The only rule is that you write continuously for the entire time. If you run out of things to say, just repeat what you have already written. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or sentence structure. Don’t worry about erasing or crossing things out. Just write.

2. The Stanton-Danoff-Burg Instructions Revised: Writing About X

What I would like you to write about for these four sessions [of twenty minutes each] are any POSITIVE thoughts and feelings about your experience with X. I realize that people who have undergone X experience a full range of emotions that often includes some positive emotions, thoughts, and changes, and in this writing exercise I want you to focus only on the positive thoughts and feelings that you have experienced over the course of X. Ideally, I would like you to focus on positive thoughts or feelings that you have not discussed in great detail with others. You might also tie your positive thoughts and feelings about your experiences with X to other parts of your life—your childhood, people you love, who you are, or who you want to be. Again, the most important part of your writing is that you really focus on your positive thoughts and feelings. The only rule is that you write continuously for the entire time. If you run out of things to say, just repeat what you have already written. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or sentence structure. Don’t worry about erasing or crossing things out. Just write.

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