Friday, November 30, 2012

Get It Down In Black And White!


Barbara: I was just directed to this really interesting study done by Ohio State University professor, Richard Petty. Maybe you saw a blurb about it too?

Basically, he and his team of researchers discovered that when people write down their thoughts—in this case intrusive, negative ones—and then threw the paper away, it made a HUGE difference to their attitude. But it only worked if the participants actually did the physical work of recording the thought and throwing it away.

We read so much stuff about “visualizing” that it was interesting to discover that people who just imagined writing down their problem and throwing it away had no change in attitude. But those who performed the action were actually able to wipe the slate clean (maybe not forever, but certainly for the time-being).

On the positive side: writing your constructive thoughts down and tucking them away someplace (a pocket/a drawer) did help to “safeguard” them. These thoughts were more likely to manifest in a positive outcome (either you feel better about a thing, or you feel empowered to do something)—I guess much like if you write down a resolution and keep that paper somewhere, it will stick more than if you make the resolution and think about sticking to it.

Petty is quoted as saying this: “At some level, it can sound silly. But we found that it really works -- by physically throwing away or protecting your thoughts, you influence how you end up using those thoughts. Merely imagining engaging in these actions has no effect.”

Please read the article for more info and to make your own assessments, but what I find fascinating is how much this resonates vis à vis our current trend here on the blog to write down our Five Crazy Things, or to decide in writing in the comments section or on the blog itself how we feel about a variety of things, what bothers us, what we love, what we hope for, what things we want to change. We do commit it to paper in a way (and yes, interestingly, the researchers found that “writing it down” did count on computers—and trashing something, or safeguarding it, did work if you threw your comments into the virtual trash, or filed them away in a special file)

So thanks, Richard Petty, for the unwitting pat on the back for all of us writers-down-of-problems. Let’s encourage each other to keep writing them down—but also to throw away the crap and protect the loveliness.

Deb: I love this, Barbara, and am going to employ it more and more. I started a few years ago when I felt hard done by, betrayed, or hurt to type a full-out exploding spewing diatribe that I could save ... read ... save ... and delete. That has worked so well for me. Although they do say that the written word resonates so much more with the soul than the typed word. But it sure worked for me. Less and less I need it though. That’s a good thing.

43 comments:

  1. I really like this idea. I think I will give it a try soon, since I am going through a not so pleasant time at the moment. I could stand to get rid of some of the negativity currently circulating through my mind at the moment.
    I have always liked recording bits and pieces of my life, but I never though about it being a way to help me heal or deal with life. Truly amazing and inventive way to do this. Thanks for informing us! Hope everyone has a great weekend! (I will be working on some massive research papers....)

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    1. Sorry to hear that you're going through a hard time, Steph, but thanks for telling us, so now we can think of you and send you happy thoughts! Good luck with the massive papers! And hopefully today's little trick will help some.

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    2. Thanks, Barbara! Much appreciated.

      On a side note: A very very Happy Birthday to Colin! Hope it is wonderful!xoxo

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  2. OMG I'm already allocating time for this process.

    This is soo amazing! I knew this.. :D I did. But in a different way. And There is another way..something that a lot of my friends told me works is that...if you cannot write things down. Sit in front of the mirror and say them out loud. IF its a person imagine that the person is sitting in front of you and tell them what makes you feel negative. This is very effective too.

    This is really amazing that people are finding our that thoughts have power. You have no idea how much joy this gives me. Its soo delicious to know that people are getting more aware.

    I do believe that our slate is never clean. Every thought that has ever been thought still exists. We can deactivate thoughts... but we cant delete them somewhere in the corner of our mind it stays. But if its inactive its powerless. And I also believe in spending some time releasing the negative but spending more time empowering the positive. Because i think whatever we give our attention too or think about the most becomes our reality, it perpetuates so why not spend little amount of time to lock monsters in cupboards and spend more time creating rainbows and unicorns?
    And Ive got loads of processes for it if anyone is interested!

    and I had a question for you Barb. Do you post "such" posts just...casually like every other post....or think "Shalaka will DEFINITELY" love this one or do you just KNOW me???? :D

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    1. Beautiful, Shalaka! As for your question: it's funny, people always ask us how we can think of stuff to write every day. I always answer that I write about whatever enters my life that strikes me as interesting -- I used to worry that no one would get it or relate, but then I saw how often people would say, "Wow, that's EXACTLY what I was wondering about", or "needing to hear", etc. So I actually have started to just post what I think is interesting and assume some of you will think it's cool!

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    2. haha! and I resonate with it...EVERYTIME!!! :D

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  3. P.S. I hope Deb's having a WONDERFUL time celebrating Colin's Birthday! (Happy Birthday to him.... wishing him for the fourth time now. :D)

    Deb if you read this...We want PICTURES OF the celebration.....LOADS OF THEM!!! (Barb tell her we're waiting for the story k...you're a doll! :*)

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  4. Yay, Ohio State!!!!! Sorry, I'm from Ohio and almost went to college there. Buckeye nation!

    But yeah, I've heard of this too. Definitely need to try it. :)

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    1. What crazy Ohio State fans call themselves!! lol. It's practically a religion.

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  5. If only you could throw a cold away as easily.....I can certainly see the merit in this and it reminds me of when I quit smoking. I wasn't able to stick with it until one day I wrote down all my thoughts about why I wanted to quit and what I would gain by doing so and carried it around with me for months. I really do think it's why I finally succeded.
    It's funny how writing things down changes our perspectives. I think maybe when we write something down it brings more life to it because it engages more of our brains, giving us a visual and tactile reference rather than an abstract thought. Or saying things outloud like Shalaka said which would engage the auditory portion of our brain allowing us to literally think about it differently.

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    1. Yes! Exactly! I think most of the times we perpetuate negative things because we keep them inside of us and think it'll go away soon and it just grows soo when we speak them out loud.. They become sooo much easier!

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    2. Yes, I think this is a brilliant perspective of why this works! And to quit smoking using it just so proves your/their point, Erin!

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  6. Btw Deb, happy birthday to your rockin' awesome husband!!! :D

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  7. Interesting Blog Barb. I will give it a try. I also think the actual "writing it down" will be more effective. I think our minds can move so fast when we type and that we don't really dwell on what we are saying. It is a function of a fast world and why I always type spelling mistakes. And then press SEND before I even spell check. Oh, I am getting off topic....I believe it will definitely work. Have a great weekend! xo

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    1. Yes, something about this -- as much as I love my computer -- feels more "real" if it's on paper using a real-life pen or pencil. Have done it today!

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    2. Funny, I do better writing when I use the computer than on paper. Could be generational - I had a computer as a child in the 80s and have never been without one.

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    3. I do too, Hannah, (mostly because of my god-awful handwriting) but I still think there's something really basic about the pen (or pencil) and paper route for this exercise (for me, I mean).

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  8. That's an interesting idea - I love writing and acknowledging my positive thoughts, but I don't want to write about the negative ones at all. I hate reading people's negative status updates on Facebook and hearing people's negative views of places. I've tried to stick to my rule of only sharing positive thoughts on my blog. But I could probably manage to write the negative thoughts and destroy them if it's shown to be beneficial.

    PS - happy birthday to Colin!

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    1. Yes, I do think this study/exercise means us to do it only for ourselves. Let me know if it "works".

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  9. I have got to agree 100% with this. Having taken to keeping a diary the last year or so and it helps a lot to write thigs down and then just move on. I get a feeling when I'm stressed that if I just write it down I will feel better! It usually works out that way :) Not to mention I can then go back and reread and laugh at the now seemingly pointless things that were bothering me so much that day!

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    1. I used to journal quite religiously, but then stopped (although blogging is not far from it!). I have never ever ever read my stuff back. Weird?

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    2. I started keeping a diary/journal recently too. I feel like it helps me get my feeling out when I don't have someone with me to talk to or if it's something that I don't want to/not ready to discuss with people, like a certain guy I've been talking to recently. I've journaled about him but haven't told anyone yet (well, other than you all of course!).

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  10. I did the paper thing once. It felt REALLY silly. It takes a few times for the action to really start to mean enough to take hold. It did more good for me to talk the specific issue out with my therapist. It did seem to be cleansing for other people in the group who tossed theirs in.

    I'm not sure my blog helps me get things out so much as it is talking to others about how I feel. I know that sounds like the same thing, but it means something I can't explain right now. I'm heading out to Waltham, MA in a bit to be able to wish Colin and Brad happy birthday. :)

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    1. Oh, such a good point about it taking a while to NOT feel silly and take hold! I do know what you mean (or think I do anyway, is that the same thing ;)? ) and for me, it's usually because I don't get enough time to really process why I want to write something, but just write it (now).

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  11. Love this idea. I do journal on occasion and commit to write it down and I have found it does work too.

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  12. This accounts for about 90% of the files on my computer. Nice to hear that someone is scientifically proving it!
    (The only problem is that whenever I get bored and decide to look through documents, the way I write instantly evokes the emotion again so then I need to add a new file...)
    Happy birthday to Colin!

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    1. Hilarious, Sarah!! As for the instant evocation, that does seem to be an easy danger, isn't it?

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  13. Souzan Rezai from Vancouver, BCNovember 30, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    It's so interesting (or really I should say so "synchronized") that this topic has come up here now! I have been doing a book/"course" called The Artist's Way, and it is basically entirely about physically writing a lot of stuff down. I have been rather overwhelmed at how not just helpful but PRODUCTIVE the exercise of writing something down, then either keeping it or throwing it away has been.
    I will now share a procedure that I swear I should get patented for how crazy awesome it is. Just be warned, it makes me sound batshitty bonkers...

    The Christmas Ball Method:
    Last year I had a really difficult time for a number of reasons, not least of which was a traumatic 'break-up' with my best friend. The 'break-up' happened late summer, and Christmas was really difficult as it was the first milestone that I no longer had my best friend at. I was setting up my Christmas tree, and one of the ornaments I have are those generic thin aluminum Christmas balls. To make them more special I created what I call "quote balls" where I wrote quotes from my friends on different ones. I love it, seeing all those inside jokes and testaments to my friendships (which are very dear to me) honestly fill me with love. Except for the ones of my ex friend. Those filled me with rage. Before I knew it, I had taken the ex balls and was throwing them with all my might, shouting curses as they shattered.
    It. Was. Awesome.
    A key note is that I flung those things into the bathtub, because sure I was emotionally volatile, but I was also responsible for cleaning it up. When I was done, I simply took the vacuum to the bathroom, hoovered the tub, and went back to my day like I was not an emotionally deranged and unhinged human being.

    Breaking those things was an incredible release. The clean up was a breeze, and it cost about a dollar and sixty cents. There you have it; the Christmas Ball Method.

    Yes it sounds ridiculous and over dramatic, but honestly, the release it gave me was real, and my anger had a safe channel to express itself through, without causing any real damage or hurting any real things.

    happy Friday, all!

    xo
    Souz

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    1. Love that idea, Souz! I used to do the Christmas ball quote thing, but they were unbreakable plastic. But I can see how it would feel wonderful to destroy the balls of someone who did you wrong. (Smirk. Giggle.)

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    2. Oh my gosh, Souzan! This is gorgeous!! I would love to copy and paste it to the blog and do a 3-way with this one. I mean, we get sooo many amazing comments here, but this one just slips so nicely into our holiday theme-slash-helpful hints mode coming up. What do you think???

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    3. Souzan Rezai from Vancouver, BCNovember 30, 2012 at 10:22 PM

      Hannah: BAHA! You know, almost a year has past and I never put together that I destroyed the balls of someone who did me wrong. I feel vindicated all over again!

      Barb: I'd be honoured! You really do get so many amazing comments here, and I could already fill a book with all that I've been learning/realizing/loving here.

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    4. Wow. I love this idea.

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    5. OMG WOW! O_O *runs away to get loads of Christmas balls*

      I LOVE YOU SOUZ!!!!! xoxoxoxoxo

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    6. OHHHH YAY!!! A 3-WAY WITH THIS POST???? AWESOME!!!!!!!!! Souz maybe you could add more awesome tips for us ;)

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    7. So awesome!! and not to mention festive! Love it :)

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    8. Thanks, Souzan! I think it would be great to share this time of year so that everyone is sure to read it!

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  14. strange to say i have never thought about doing what you describe barb . with dad still in hospital things are getting very pressurised at the moment and i often thought about a way to release the pressure without causing a row between me and mom . thanks for a good idea .

    pass on my birthday wishes to Colin Deb .

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    1. It was a great find fr me too, Linda. Tried it already today! I do hope it gives you some help in coping with all your health stresses. Let me know!

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  15. It sounds like it could work. I might have to try it.

    And I'm a bit late, but Happy Birthday, Colin!!!

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    1. Let us know if it works (or does any good), April!

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We love it when you share your own stories and experiences! Welcome.