Writing for Therapy by Jack Popjes

The complete title of this piece is “Writing for Therapy, Not for Publication: A Testimonial.”

During the summer months I like to take a break from writing for publication, even from weekly blogging. Instead, I like to focus on reading widely, checking out books by authors new to me, stretching my mind with new ideas, and following mental paths I have not trod before.

This summer, as part of our daily devotional and prayer time, my wife, Jo, and I read a book together that God used to stir up some things that had long been dormant in my mind. The author focused on Philippians 4:8, in which the apostle Paul urges us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy.

Jo and I talked about our attitudes concerning numerous types of activities that married couples do in life together: sharing chores, having discussions, hauling garbage, maintaining vehicles, praying together, mowing lawns, cooking meals, making love, vacuuming floors, raising children, following a diet, planning vacations, and shopping for groceries, etc.

Jo pointed out an area of our life together where I had sometimes expressed dissatisfaction, bringing up memories of negative experiences. She suggested I think of some positive memories instead. I immediately saw the wisdom of this, and after praying together, I started a Highlights to Remember file to combat negative memories from the past and undesirable thoughts in the present.

I described in anecdotal form every good, positive, true, praiseworthy, and pleasant experience I could remember enjoying in this particular area. Since I intended to read some of the anecdotes when I was tempted to focus on the negative aspects, I wrote with vivid detail, including as many sensory areas as possible. I felt quite pleased when I finished writing and noted I had racked up nearly 2,000 words.

Later that day, as I walked alone along the beach, several more noteworthy incidents popped into my mind. After that I made sure I carried pen and paper to jot down the good memories that the Holy Spirit awakened and dredged up from the deep past to present to me.

By the end of the week, the well seemed to have run dry. I had written well over 7,000 words—all clear memories of positive experiences in an activity that, until then, I often tended to think about negatively.

Since then, I have read and reread those anecdotes, thanking God repeatedly for the privilege of enjoying these experiences. Currently, I am sharing them with Jo, one or two at a time, and we are happy that this therapy is working. When Satan brings up something negative in this area of life, I counter with several highly positive incidents instead and he takes a hike.

Although I have no plans to publish this project, it has already made a difference in my life and my relationship with Jo, which says something since we have been married well over 50 years.

How I wish I had started writing positive remembrances many decades ago!

Jack Popjes started writing stories for their missionary newsletters during the decades he and his wife were Bible translators in Brazil. For the past 20 years, he has blogged weekly on missions, church, Christian spirituality, and Bible translation. His current blog is INsights & OUTbursts. He has print published three books and e-published two books of story based articles—all selected from his blogs. His storytelling ability makes him a popular speaker. jack@jackpopjes.com

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1 comment

  1. Tracy Krauss says:

    What a wonderful idea, Jack. It’s so simple yet I’ll bet very few people write their positive experiences down in such an intentional way.

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