Healing PTSD Through Writing

The powerful effects of healing PTSD through writing have been well-documented. From the work of James Pennebaker to my own award-nominated PTSD memoir many trauma survivors have discovered the liberating feeling of getting words out of your mind and into the world by putting them down on a page. Whether or not you share what you write the health benefits of writing are  enormous.

Author, Dan L. Hays

Author, Dan L. Hays

For those of us in the PTSD community I think one of the reasons that writing can be so instrumental in helping to heal PTSD is because through writing we find our voices long after trauma has stolen them. It’s a way of reclaiming our true identity.

It always excites me to see another PTSD survivor step into the space of reclaiming a sense of self and mastery in the healing process, which is why it excites me to share with you today a snippet from a new book written by my friend (and fellow Heal My PTSD forum administrator), Dan Hays. Today — and today only! — Dan’s new memoir, Healing the Writer: A Personal Account of Overcoming PTSD, is available for FREE on Kindle (you can access it here).

In celebration of this terrific book and the forward motion of another successful PTSD recovery, Dan’s allowed me to post an excerpt from the book’s prologue here….

Healing the Writer: A Personal Account of Overcoming PTSD

Dan hays book coverAn excerpt by Dan L. Hays

October 2003.

Here I was, a fifty-three-year-old man, about to do something to connect with his inner child. I had done healing exercises before, intended to access the wounded child within me, with a significant level of success. I felt a deep sense something was trying to come to the surface, and through the inner child it would be revealed. I stood in the middle of the library, the one place in the world where I felt safe, with my legal pad and pen in hand. I surveyed the floor for a secluded table. I spotted one in the back corner, where I would not be noticed or disturbed. I lay my legal pad and pen on the table and sat down.

The other times I did inner child work, it was a Gestalt, or empty chair, exercise. I would sit in one chair as the adult, and speak to the inner child. Then I would stand up, go and sit in the other chair, and answer as the child. But this time, since I was in a library, it felt right to do it as a written exercise.

I took a deep breath, quieted my mind, and allowed myself to relax. After a few minutes I felt ready to start, so I picked up the pen and began to write to my inner child, who I had named Little Danny Fear Child. As I wrote from the adult perspective, I sensed that the child answering was around eight years old, and I could visualize a frightened young child sitting in a corner. I was hoping to set him free, so we could let go of the Fear Child part.


“Danny. Are you ready to tell me what I can’t see, about why I get locked up with my writing? You know – the thing the therapist said was really buried. Danny, it’s time for me to write. Therefore I must let go of that old block. Can you understand that? You are safe now. I will take care of you. Letting go of this block will lead to great, great joy. Are you all right with all of this? If you are, just tell me – just blurt it out – no shame, no blame.”

Danny spoke. “I was afraid if I wrote something, and someone read it, they might not like me because I said what I saw. People would know what was going on in our family. They would know our family was not all fine, and someone would get mad at me.”

“What else? Go deeper – what’s underneath that?”

“You really want to know?”

“Yes, I do. Please tell me.”

“I always loved to read. I wanted to write stuff like that. I knew I would be good at it.”


“If I wrote a book and people read it, they might think I was weird or something, and not want to be around me. And I’d be lonely. I wouldn’t be like all the other people who didn’t write – and I’d be alone – again. I’ve been alone too much and I didn’t want that. So I would not write.”

“Why would you be alone?”

“Because writers are crazy – everybody knows that. And nobody wants to be around them.”

“Who told you that?”

“Mamaw did.”


“When I went to visit her in Fort Worth. She asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told her I wanted to write books. She said I didn’t want to do that. Writers were crazy and people wouldn’t want to be around me. They might have to put me away – lock me up somewhere. I didn’t want that.”

“Where were you when she told you that?”

“We were in her house.”

“How did it feel when she said that?”

“I felt smothered by her always, but right then I felt killed.”

“What did she look like when she said it?”

“She saw the look on my face, and she smiled. It was a cruel, ‘I won’ kind of smile.”

“What did that feel like, seeing her face?”

“My stomach hurt, and I wanted to cry.”

“Is there anything else?”

“Well, she kept saying it – all that week – until I wanted to go to Big Mommy’s to get away. But I couldn’t tell anyone about it.”

“Why not?”

“Because Mamaw was a nurse, and she had heard it from Doctor Crowder, that creepy old guy she worked for. She said only those kind of people knew about stuff like this. She said don’t tell anyone. They might think you were crazy just for asking and lock you up for that.”



“Do you understand that what she said was not true?”

“Kind of. Sort of.”

“Remember what Mom said about writers one time?”

“Sort of.”

“She said that writers were held in the highest regard. That they were revered in the world she grew up in – they were tremendously respected. Remember that?”

“Yes, I remember. But Mamaw was so sure. I didn’t know what to believe.”

“I understand. But it was true, and it is true. You will not be called crazy and get locked up if you are a famous writer. You will be honored, revered, and respected as a person who sees and speaks truth. That is the truth. We’ll take all the time you need for you to get comfortable with that. Alright?”

“Yeah, OK. I like that. Will you remind me?”

“Of course I will. How are you feeling?”

“My stomach doesn’t hurt so much.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Because I really, really want to write, and it made me very sad when I knew I wasn’t supposed to.”

“So you could write all along, but you thought you should not?”

“Oh yes, I could write any time I wanted to. I had fun with the stuff we wrote in junior high. But there was, you know, the crazy thing. So it was safer not to write, because I didn’t want to get locked up.”

“Danny, you just relax, and enjoy thinking about writing. You and I will release that old belief. So you can write freely and fully – with joy.”

“I can do that. I am happy now.”

Read Healing the Writer: A Personal Account of Overcoming PTSD for free here….


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