A debut guide urges readers to transform their lives and better understand themselves through a series of straightforward writing exercises.
At age 29, the author discovered the process of life writing—a way of using the written word to interpret and understand your own life story—as she was going through a divorce. She found the act of writing about her past gave her “a new sense of self-possession,” and over the subsequent 25 years, the university professor and narrative psychologist has refined the process she used and shared it with others. One advantage of life writing, according to Aihi, is that it can be largely self-directed, though she wisely suggests that readers identify mental health professionals they can contact if working through past issues becomes too difficult to deal with alone. Most people should simply be able to follow the eight life-writing exercises included in this book, all designed to help them come to terms with “a certain set of unresolved life experiences.” The exercises instruct readers to reflect on their names, relationships with their fathers and mothers, childhood homes, and certain significant past events, among other topics. The emphasis is not so much on recounting facts but rather on identifying the specific emotions those recollections spark. By returning to the past, life writing “allows the younger-you to express herself or himself in ways she or he could not at the time.” Easy-to-follow instructions for each exercise are delivered in a friendly, supportive style. Because the process is personal, there is no pressure to share the work that results with others, which should make the technique accessible to nonwriters. The goal is not necessarily to produce a clear narrative of a life or a publishable story but instead to achieve a kind of inner peace and overall sense of well-being. Those who complete all the exercises should “feel lighter, more relaxed, and more present.”
Those interested in reflecting on their personal paths could benefit from completing the insightful lessons in this workbook.