What’s the difference between embodied writing and standard journaling? 

By Sarah Cannata

Learn the difference between embodied writing and standard journaling and diary writing in the video. You can find the transcript below the video.


Hello everyone, it’s Sarah Cannata, the founder of Storytelling for the Soul. I’m back for another video, and in this video, I want to explore the differences between embodied writing and standard journaling or diary writing. So first, let’s establish that embodied writing is not the same as how people typically journal or keep a diary.

What we are not aiming for with embodied writing is an out-of-body experience.

It’s not a massive brain dump or a recollection of our day with the intent to just basically get it out of our heads onto the piece of paper, and then we never have to worry about it ever again. With embodied writing, what we are really doing is we are tuning in to the felt sense of the body.

And at a certain point, with enough practice, we’re then allowing the body to basically guide our writing. That said, it is very much bio-directional, so there’s no such thing as quieting the mind, and that is not the intent with embodied writing in any case because embodied writing is about incorporating our whole being. So that’s mind, body, spirit. That’s the process of embodied writing.

Now, throughout the process, all parts of us are welcome.

Even those parts we pretend don’t exist. And so many of us, most of us, let’s face it, do that at some point in time. There are certain patterns, behaviours that we notice within ourselves and we kind of just shut them off, stuff them down and pretend they don’t exist. So with embodied writing, all parts of us are welcome. So what we are doing, we are creating a very safe space; a safe container for us to really be with ourselves and as we are writing, to feel our body. 

Really feel into the sensations. Whatever we are feeling, maybe we can feel our feet really heavy on the floor. Maybe we are getting pins and needles. As we continue writing, perhaps as we write a certain word or explore a certain topic, we are noticing a racing heartbeat. We’re noticing an overall anxious state. Maybe those pins and needles in our fingers. Lots of different things can happen when we engage in this process, so we are really enquiring into that felt sense of the moment.

It’s not just about brain dumping and having an out-of-body experience as we write.

The other thing I want to mention, and I did mention this in the last video, I always say when it comes to writing and embodied writing specifically, there are no rules. However, I will say that there is one non-negotiable when I practice this work with my clients. 

In my experience, and I’ve been doing this work, wow, since I was probably about 13. I didn’t know I was using writing as a healing tool, but I was definitely using writing in this way since I was about 13. For context, I’m 35 now, but what I’ve noticed is that similar to talking, writing can trigger us. I do not feel it’s healthy to basically allow ourselves to soak in the moments of our lives that are the most traumatic without actually doing anything with the sensations, the emotions and the feelings that arise.

So what I’m trying to say is that writing can be very traumatic and triggering, and what it can do is tip our nervous system into overwhelm and cause more trauma, which we do not want to do in the embodied writing process.

So we have something that we call a resource.

Now, I’m an Embodied Processing Practitioner (full disclosure, that’s my affiliate link), so that is a body-based approach to working with trauma. And basically the idea of resourcing is borrowed from those teachings and what a resource is, it’s a safe container, it’s a connection back to source, back to that place of safety. And for lots of people, the word safety means nothing. Or perhaps you’ve just never felt safe. And look, this did take me a little while to get this concept. I understood it at a cognitive level, but in practice, I wasn’t quite sure what safety actually meant or felt like.

So if you’re getting tripped up on the word safety, try thinking of comfort, support, stability, or if none of those terms are working for you, we’re just thinking about the opposite of overwhelm, and that’s what we’re aiming for. And a really condensed, shortened way to explain how we can have that resource is to say, think of something that gives you those feelings.

That could be a memory, a person, a pet. So a person or place. We can also find that safety in our physical body. Although I will say, if you are someone with a lot of trauma, it is going to be hard to find that safety within the body. And then if there are no other options, what we do is we go to an imagined place.

And when you find that sense of safety, comfort, support, opposite of overwhelm, whatever terminology you are using, really feel into how that feels for you. What’s the felt sense of that in the body in the moment? And then what we do is, anytime during our writing journey when we feel triggered, we’re not pushing ourselves.

Embodied writing is very much about listening to our body, so we’re not pushing through.

And look, so many of us are guilty of that because we have to in life. That’s not what we are doing here in embodied writing. As soon as we feel like we’re tipping into overwhelm, we’re coming back to that resource. We’re sinking into it. 

Almost imagine a sponge going back to that place of safety. And then what we do with the resource is that with practice, and yes, I do give my clients homework all the time which is basically to practice resourcing. Over time, we are growing our capacity to be able to feel these emotions and feelings that beforehand tipped us into overwhelm.

And then if we do have a particular topic that we’d like to explore more with our writing, what we do is over time we use the resource as needed. And we are slowly slowing, slowly growing in that capacity to be able to feel and process those emotions because the reality is trauma is stored in the body, which means it also needs to be processed in the body.

Now, if you’ve got any questions at all about embodied writing or anything else I have said in this video, please pop your questions into the comments. If you’ve got any insights or reflections, maybe you’re already using writing and massively benefiting from it. I’d love to hear your insights, experiences and more.

My inbox is always open, so email me, info@sarahcannata.com, anytime, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. And of course, you can go to my website, www.sarahcannata.com. I’ve got free resources, an online course and more will be coming soon. Thank you so much for your time and for watching.

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