Facing the Truth as Your Write Your Memoir

I didn’t want to know what that small voice murmuring in my left ear had to tell me. I’d noticed it for several months, the sense there was something dark waiting that I needed to discover about me, something in the past. I tried to prepare myself, meditating to be ready for whatever might come forth. Finally, through several traumatic circumstances in my life, I was forced to face the knowledge that I’d grown up with a grandmother who’d had psychotic episodes. I had known that much of my time with her was dark and frightening, but the realization that I had to put that name to it was terrifying. What did it mean about me? Was I doomed to be crazy too?

I was stricken with both despair and relief. Because I’d faced one of my worst fears, I became less afraid, stronger, and more able to continue healing. The voice in my left ear stopped. I integrated the knowledge that came to me, and eventually realized I was not my grandmother; I was not doomed to her fate. It took many years to trust this, and to develop more strength and fewer fears.

In my coaching, writers tell me they are afraid the past will come rushing out without permission–and soon find out that what they intend to write is not always what emerges. Sometimes our writing takes us past the barred gates unwelcome memories come rushing out. How can we cope with new knowledge? How can we face our truths, no matter how unwanted?


Recently, as I watched a Harry Potter movie, I noticed a technique that helped Harry confront terror. His mentor told him to hold in his mind the best memory of his life while he cast a spell on a terrifying apparition that represented his deepest fears. If the positive image was not strong enough, the spell would not work. He remembered his parents with love, and the power he gained from that image helped him to conquer the demon he feared. Pretty impressive!

I have suggested a similar technique with my students, though we have had to make do without a magic wand or a spell! I talk with them about light and dark stories. “Light” stories bring light and healing, happiness and hope, love and forgiveness. Dark stories are about wounds that are still unhealed, pain, loss, grief, and fear. Jung talks about the repressed shadow in human psyche, the parts of us we don’t want to know about. However, when we face the shadow side of ourselves, we become more integrated and free to be whole.


  1. Make a list of the dark topics or stories that you know are there, but you aren’t ready to write. List them by title or theme.
  2. Make a list of the light stories, stories that bring you a feeling of well being, happiness, contentment, and safety. They may include love, spiritual experiences, and miracles.
  3. When you are ready, choose from the “light” list to write your first story.
  4. As needed, write one of the dark stories.
  5. Rebalance by writing another light one, and so forth.

One thing is certain: facing our truths, whether major upheavals in our lives or smaller day to day events, helps us to grow. Each time we face ourselves, who we are and who we have been, we build strength for the present and the future.

Begin with lists. Begin with “no” to move into “yes.”

Begin with your light stories. Tell the stories of your life in a safe way that inspires you to move forward in your writing. Know that what you are doing is brave, it’s a path to healing. That your voice and your truths are powerful!

Keep writing!

Image from Wikipedia.