Recovery Tool: Blackout Poetry
Studies 1 have shown that writing (in all its forms) is extremely therapeutic and is often used in both therapy and coaching to help survivors work through their trauma and aide in recovery.
In another post, I'll talk about how writing (in general) can be used as a tool in a survivor's recovery. But today, I want to talk about poetry. It's one of those topics that either thrills or bores people. As a lover of any form of literature, I adore poetry, but I've found that it resonates best when you find a form that suites your personality and what you want to get from it. That's why I want to talk a bit about a specific kind of poetry.
I was introduced to blackout poetry through a friend and then became obsessed with following blackout poets on Instagram. As I viewed poem after poem, I realized that there was often a common denominator... the way the poets were able to work through their trauma by using this form of poetry.
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So, how does blackout poetry help trauma survivors?
For so long so many of us struggled with using our words. We were beholden to our abuser, never fully in control of our words. For years, we may have suffered from self-loathing and hatred and shame at knowing we don’t fully own ourselves. With blackout poetry though, the point is to literally take the words from someone else and transform them into what you want them to say. It's a form of taking back power. You choose the words, the meaning, the end result. It's liberating and empowering to take back control, even in a small way, and see that you can create something beautiful or meaningful from someone else's thoughts/actions. Perhaps the original page of words was a hate letter addressed to someone but what you create speaks of beauty and acceptance. How powerful is it to create love out of hate?
Sometimes, the things we've gone through as human beings (and especially trauma survivors!) render us incapable of talking about the particular issue or situation. Sometimes, it's easier to let silence bring us down rather than face the truth or lies or hurt that we know might come from speaking about it. That's why literature and poetry is such a powerful medium. We rely on others to say things we cannot say ourselves. We relate to a character and feel less alone. We recognize the emotion in someone else and feel less burdened by our trauma.
Blackout poetry is a prime example of letting someone else's words speak the truths you can't say yourself yet.
You may not be able to write or create what you want from scratch yet, but chances are, you can find words or phrases within a poem, put them together and make a statement that means something to you.
Blackout poetry has a way of unblocking minds who are stuck in a creative rut but it also works similarly with conversations surrounding a heavy topic. Utilizing blackout poetry to guide or start a discussion on past trauma could be exactly what a survivor needs to move to the next stage of their recovery. It's not a tool that everyone will need or appreciate - but it is a tool that can be useful for those survivors that feel blocked by the pressure to talk about how they feel about their trauma.
This in turn, helps those of us who work with trauma survivors to understand a bit more about where they're at in their recovery, their emotional state of being, etc.
Writing (in general) has this strange way of making us self-aware and in-tune with ourselves. While this might be a very difficult thing for trauma survivors, it also helps them identify the lies vs the truths they have going through their minds. Becoming self-aware is never a bad thing, even if what you become aware of is bad. Understanding yourself is a huge battle but once you chip away at the wall you've built around yourself, you begin to see the holes and fill them back up.
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There are so many more benefits to using writing as a therapeutic and recovery tool - and it really depends on where someone is at in their recovery journey. But it's one of the easiest forms of expression to get started on, so I highly recommend trying it out to see if it works for you or someone you know that might benefit from it.