Thursday, April 19, 2012
Thoughts on Personal Revenge Writing & Catharsis
A few thoughts that came to me when producing my own fiction piece from the previous post written in the pursuit of catharsis.
Keep in mind that to ensure your writing will result in the desired cathartic experience enabling you to put the experience to rest for good, you need to have put enough space between yourself and the situation. This will enable you to deal with the situation in a manner that generates the outcome you desire as opposed to experiencing the sense of being overtaken once more by the memories you will be purposely calling up.
Yes, writing from some degree of emotion is appropriate for this type of expression, but not if it causes you to revert to the same state of mind you were experiencing when the situation was at its worst. If after some introspection you decide it’s not time yet, put the memories back in a box, wrap it up tightly and put it back on the top shelf at the back of the closet until a later date. You can always revisit it from time to time, until you are know you are ready to unwrap it and expose the whole ugly affair without it having the power to overwhelm you anymore.
From responses I’ve received when arguing the advantages of such an approach, it appears that using fiction writing to create a revenge sequence may not be universally accepted as an appropriate coping strategy. However, while many would argue coping strategies must help you adjust in a socially acceptable manner, I would argue they simply have to be adaptive. (Don’t get me started on the term “socially acceptable” – it will likely appear as a theme in a future post when someone has thrown the phrase in my path like a gauntlet).
So the ability to use your revenge fantasies to create something that might actually have staying power, in the form of a short story, or perhaps even lead to something bigger such as a novel, I feel is highly adaptive. You’ll ultimately have turned your feelings of victimization into triumph, and maybe land a book contract in the process.
Even if it’s only a means to an end, weaving a story that lets you recreate the situation any way you choose, will result not only in catharsis, but it’s completion will lead to a sense of accomplishment. That, I also find, is adaptive. And one of the greatest benefits of fiction writing is you can craft as many versions of a story as you want, creating alternate scenarios until you’ve got the eliciting situation fully out of your system. Do I hear another book contract calling, this time for a collection of similarly themed short stories?
Developing coping strategies to help us through life’s turmoil makes the difference between the ability to continue to function during tough times and winding up as nothing more than a puddle on the floor. It is vital that we know the specifics of our own personal safety valves. Just like a water heater, we all need a functioning safety valve that we can open at will when the pressure we have trapped inside us becomes too high. This can prevent us from exploding like a water heater with a malfunctioning safety mechanism, the consequences of which can be devastating. Fiction writing can function as just such a safety valve, relieving built up pressure and channeling it in a safe direction preventing an unanticipated blow up and protecting friends and family from flying shrapnel.
“Exploding water heater rocks suburban Seattle shopping center, injuring three
The water heater . . . rocketed through the building's roof, over a Taco Bell restaurant and into a Pizza Hut parking lot 460 feet away. The whole front of the Mexican restaurant, the video store and the grocery store blew out. . . All the windows are gone.”
─ Mia Penta, Associated Press, 2001, theplumber.com.