Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Visit with Diane Sherry Case: Creative Writing as Therapy

"Writing is a door into your perceptions, emotions and thoughts, often revealing more to you than you consciously knew." --Diane Sherry Case

In 1942 psychologist Karen Horney, who had been Sigmund Freud's first female student, wrote a book called Self Analysis in which she proposed the idea of journaling for therapeutic purposes. I'd always believed in the value of journaling for untangling the nebulous emotional knots that get us all bound up inside. Journaling also helps us because of that oft-recited maxim, "The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory."

Life coach Diane Sherry Case takes this notion a step further. Journalling isn't the only form of writing that has healing power, she proposes. Creative expression is, in its own way, a powerful healing agent.

Tens of millions of Americans a stressed out, anxious or depressed, and as many as one in 10 people struggle with addiction, if not more. There are people whose needs may require professional intervention, but for the most part the road to mental health can begin the moment one takes responsibility for their own health. If I may put words in her mouth, "The pen is mightier than the pills."

Her book, Write for Recovery – Exercises for Heart, Mind and Spirit (Miraculous Productions) shares with readers how to use journalling to ease stress, better process their emotions, and improve their overall mental health. Ms. Case uses real-life stories and hands-on techniques to show how writing is a fundamental part of true healing.

Diane Sherry Case spent much of her life in Hollywood as an actress with appearances in numerous television shows over a period of decades. Her favorite role though was Lana Lang on the big screen in Superman, The Movie (1978). She is now a writer and filmmaker living in Santa Monica, California, a publishing author. Her first novel Elephant Milk won a best novel award in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and has been adapted for screen.

I reached out to Ms. Case to learn more about the ideas in her book.

EN: I know there must be books about journaling toward mental/emotional health. How did you come to the idea/concept of creative fiction as a pathway to health?

Diane Sherry Case: I first realized that art saved lives when I was an actress. I found I was able to express things through art that I could not safely express in real life. I have also used writing as therapy throughout my life. My first diary, when I was seven, had a little lock and that’s where I kept all my secrets! You can express things to your journal that you may not have another safe outlet for. And you can get in touch with your wiser self who has solutions and answers that you would never think of consciously. The trick is to write before you think. Surprise your self with wisdom you weren’t aware was within. I've seen amazing growth and changes in my students – big emotional shifts and even life changes, like suddenly moving to another home or quitting their job as a big talent agent and becoming a successful writer. It is so exciting to see my clients surprise themselves by what they write – like Wow, I didn’t know I felt that way, or Gee, that’s kind of beautiful and heartfelt, who knew?

EN: You break the book into the four elements of Fire, Air, Earth and Water. Where did this framework originate? Was there a trigger event that served as catalyst?

DSC: That was simply a matter of inspiration and I went with it. Just like I instruct my clients to delight in their imaginations – I delighted in writing the book with that structure. It was fun to play with those metaphors and associate fire with anger or passion, air with silence or atmosphere, etc…

EN: In the chapter on Air you mention silence as communication. Interesting. You also talk about music. Why is music such a powerful healing agent?

DSC: Music is magical! People with dementia for example, respond to music and remember lyrics from long ago. Music can evoke emotional responses, can serve to relax or stimulate. Music therapy is a field that has been shown to be quite effective as a healing modality.

EN: I like the Einstein quote: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Doesn't it seem like the creative process itself is something miraculous? The beauty of being creative is that when one is in the flow they can feel part of the miracle as both participant and witness. Your thoughts here....

DSC: Yes! Writing, or creating some kind of art is an absolute necessity for me, as I go a little wacky and spacy when I neglect to respect that need. One of my favorite sayings that I’m not sure if I heard or just made up is, “If you don’t use your imagination, it will use you!” So true! If you tend to obsess, or project weird scary scenarios into the future, well, that’s your imagination using you and it’s generally not comfortable. So honor your gifts by using them, whatever they may be. If you don’t have a good habit of respecting your need to paint or write or sing, then just devoting fifteen minutes a day to an experience of creative immersion will change your life for the better.

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Diane Sherry Case developed Write for Recovery™ while teaching creative writing in prisons and high schools, and has expanded her coaching to help therapists utilize writing to heal their patients.
She's overcome a lifetime of loss and trauma, and has used writing as a form of psychotherapy to overcome the pain caused by these experiences.

In closing: from her Forward...
Last but not least, creative writing is simply uplifting! I believe that people are by nature creative beings. And believe it or not, literary talent is actually quite common. So if you do not think you have it in you – I plan to prove you wrong. I’m excited to share my joy of writing with you!

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