Uses Of Reflective Writing

Reflective writing is a form of meditative storytelling. Reflection refers to the mental process by which we gain emotional insight. This technique has several uses. For people in the educational and helping professions, this type of writing can become a useful training tool. By analyzing the people and situations they encounter, these professionals can gain self-awareness and develop more empathy toward the people in their care. Psychologists, social workers and counselors now assign such exercises to their clients to help work out difficulties in relationships, resolve grief issues, or confront phobias. For people devoted to a spiritual life, it can be a tool for personal growth. This storytelling style is more structured than stream of consciousness or so-called free writing, which are sometimes used for similar therapeutic purposes. But it should not focus on mere facts. It is not straight journalistic prose, but a complex process involving careful thought and analysis of details. The writer must explore elements of a fact or incident, his own emotions, his interactions with others and their perceived reactions, and whatever other associations come to mind. These thoughts may sometimes take the writer to a mental place radically different from where he started. It’s up to him to decide whether this new perspective will be a source of further self-discovery or merely a distraction. A typical session begins with a detailed description of the fact or event in question. The writer must describe his personal feelings and emotions as well as the reactions of other participants. He then asks himself what he has observed. He thinks carefully about the subject until he has observed something new about it. The session continues with questions such as “What have I learned from this?” or “How could I handle this situation differently in the future?” It is important for the writer to record successes as well as failures and aspects that need work. There is no one “correct” answer to the questions that arise out of a session. Complete understanding is neither required nor possible. While this style can be used to solve many kinds of problems, it is emphatically not solely a problem-solving technique. The writer might wish to leave the work for a time and engage in further meditation. Keeping a journal and periodically rereading the entries can be valuable in demonstrating changes in perspective over time. Learning to understand self and others is an ongoing lifetime process. The point is to use the writing as a tool for exploration. These writings can be private, or shared in group therapy sessions. By listening to stories as they unfold, other group participants gain further insight. The writer will probably find that other people have a completely different view from his own. Where his writing might focus on failing or falling short, others in his group might point out successes and improvements. These perspectives can be taken into account and used to create further writings. Besides describing actual events, a piece might describe an imaginary or speculative scenario, a thought or idea, a memory or even a dream. Playwrights and authors might write such pieces on behalf of their characters. Anything that can be contemplated in detail and studied from all angles can form the basis of a reflective writing.