Expressive writing - a way for us to express our emotions creatively - a method of storytelling in a safe environment. A positive way to express how we feel while nurturing reflection.
Storytelling & Expressive Writing
Community members came together for Soapbox’s Story Telling through Expressive Writing event. The event was hosted in Sydney CBD, and the primary purpose was to create opportunities for the community members to express their emotions and feelings by writing and storytelling in a safe environment. Our goal was that an individual's story might influence or motivate others in need of help facing challenges within their own lives and on a community level. The event was scheduled for one and a half hours. As our first activity, we held an introduction session—including an acknowledgement of country—in which we established the ground rules, roughly 5 minutes. Before rapport building exercises among community members, the facilitator engaged all the participants in meditation for 5 minutes and checked on their feelings; then the facilitator started ice-breaking activities for 10 minutes.
The event’s core included 30 minutes of expressive writing and 20 minutes of storytelling. We concluded the story-telling core of the event with 10 minutes of a final icebreaker game; we used a response card to gauge participants' feelings after the event in a 10-minute session of reflection and feedback. After the event itself concluded, there was an additional 30 minutes of informal relationship-building and snacks for the participants.
So, what were our reasons behind creating the event?
It is considered a form of therapeutic writing, where participants write their viewpoints based on their interests or traumatic events. Expressive writing and storytelling are powerful tools for building community by encouraging reflection and connection between speakers and listeners. It can also effectively promote the resilience of the community. Storytelling is actually a meaningful and effective therapy, provided it is managed and executed professionally. Some community members want to share their stories or traumatic events with others in a safe environment but hesitate to come forward. Our project arose so that the community members who restrain themselves from expressing their stories could pour it into writing. Expressive writing is believed to reduce the symptoms of psychological concerns, though it is for the short term.
It is possible to heal from traumatic experiences, events, and feelings when you write about them and share them with others; all meaningful ways to process your emotions. Stories can make us laugh, reveal strengths, and offer new solutions, thereby reducing feelings of shame or isolation. In addition to inspiring hope, they can enhance our perspective, ease the burden of troubling thoughts and emotions, evoke positive memories, and enhance our ability to process painful emotions. Simply hearing a story can be a pleasant respite for people struggling with depression, illness, or overwhelming stress as they sit back and listen. While selecting this topic for our community project, we considered the following benefits of storytelling through expressive writing: explore the factors that contribute to mental health issues; encourage community members to help each other and active listening; help community members find the proper way of self-care; provide a platform for people to express themselves; provide community member for valuing their feelings and thoughts, break down stigma, and increase their confidence.
The outcome of community project: storytelling through expressive writing
After the community project was completed, our team members realized storytelling through
expressive writing proved quite beneficial to community participants in a variety of ways. As
the environment for the event was positive and non-judgemental, participants were willing
and able to open up about themselves. It was a very free-wheeling event, where everyone
shared what they wrote on a piece of paper without any hesitation or fear. The participants
shared a variety of different kinds of experiences, feelings, and emotions through stories that
seemed entirely useful for healing from past traumatic events, relieving stress, tension, and
sadness, as well as learning something worthwhile from other people’s experiences and
We were glad for the encouraging feedback we received after the event. Overall, all
participants had the opportunity to express themselves through their writing and share their
stories with everyone present at the event. Many participants shared their dreams, their
expectations, their memories, even poetry they had created. It was a safe space for everyone
to pause and reflect on their thoughts and feelings. At the end of the event, participants noted
a greater cohesion amongst each other, and acknowledged the importance of opportunities for
self-expression. This event also provided participants the understanding that they can
continue their practice of self-expression through writing. Even through simple events like
this workshop, we believe community writing can help people and the community as a whole.
We highly encourage this kind of project as it not only helps you but also your immediate and
wider community. Through this form of community engagement, one learns to value and
learn from the experiences of others and boost self-confidence. It is also a particularly good
medium to build social connections, which are important in the highly individualised and
atomised society of the modern world. This project is budget-friendly and can be run both
face-to-face and online. When running this project, we ourselves felt proud and relaxed. We
also realised that we were able to develop a CAN-DO attitude; we would like other people to
run similar projects and experience what we felt. Participants noted several benefits,
including mental stimulation, improvement of memory, positivity towards social connections,
and assisting in understanding the imagination, motives, and perspectives of the individual. It
is also a natural way of processing information and meaningfully engaging with our
emotions. We would strongly recommend either starting or engaging in a community story-
Event hosted by Ming, Dhan, Nisha, Alina, Sushmita, Shagufta, Abish and Ramandeep.
Project supervised, and mentored by Tidus Artorius - Clinical Psychotherapist, and Marie Agapito - Social Worker.