Lawrence Spann writes every day in a Mead notebook — with a fountain pen.
For him, this practice is more than journaling, it’s therapeutic introspection that allows the unconscious to become conscious. To accomplish this, he writes without an agenda, letting the pen rather than the mind lead the way. What results is a kind of waking dream where streams of memory and emotion coalesce in catharsis and insight. Over the years, this commitment to writing has helped him heal personal trauma, find self-love, and walk away from unproductive behaviors. This personal experience, as well as Spann’s interest in helping others, inspired a career in the healing arts.
After receiving a master’s degree in Health Sciences from Duke University, Spann went on earn a PhD in Creative Writing; facilitate workshops with Dr. Dean Ornish; and create the Literature, Arts, and Medicine Program at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. In 2007, he moved to Santa Barbara where his wife, Elizabeth Robinson, was studying myth and depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. It was only a matter of time before Spann and Robinson designed a new workshop format combining literature, therapeutic writing, mythology, and archetypal psychology.
These workshops typically begin with a poetic or visual prompt. Participants are encouraged to go deep, get personal, and write without knowing where it’s going or crossing anything out. Spann says that such “raw” writing helps “capture the ebb and flow of the mind,” allowing issues and feelings to flow onto the page. Treating the result as a piece of fiction gives the writer the comfort of being one step removed. Then, with group input, the layers are peeled back to “understand what’s really at core, what’s really important.” Including myth, metaphor, and imagery enrich the process and offer new ways to see hidden meaning as well as a pathway forward. Now, something transformational can begin.
What is the rationale behind therapeutic writing?
All of us have an emotional history. We’re sentient beings after all. We feel disappointed, sad, hurt, angry, scared when people let us down, plans fall through, or something traumatic happens. Intense emotional experiences don’t just disappear. They get recorded and tucked away in the emotional body. Occasionally, something happens that stirs things up and a piece of history floats to the surface. When this happens, it could be just an inconvenient hot mess, or it could be an opportunity to sort it out. The Spann-Robinson workshops offer a context where people can tell the story, step away from the drama/trauma and let some of the muck float away. Then, with a fresh outlook, they can address what needs to heal and what needs to change. Spann’s recent novel, intriguingly titled A Parable of Lies, is an example of how this works.
“If we never speak the truth, we live the parable of the lie.”
About the Book
A Parable of Lies is well-researched and beautifully written. It’s the story of a man standing at a crossroad where one direction leads to behaviors that are messing up his life. And the other direction leads to a deep dive into a painful past. The stakes are high, but he really has no choice. Prompted by the death of his brother, the narrator returns to his hometown. His traumatic past looms everywhere. Every corner, every encounter brings up old memories that won’t be placated until he owns them and tells the truth. Thus, begins a healing journey.
As it turns out, the old friends and places that shaped his story have stories of their own. Social, philosophical, and artistic events of the times have a role to play. New friends and wise elders show up as mentors. Following the compass of his heart through the tangle of the past, he is guided by synchronicity. Ultimately, The Parable of Lies is about the healing power of love.
This book emphasizes Oprah’s point that shifting from “what’s wrong with you” to “what happened to you” is the key to healing. We all have baggage. No matter how deeply buried or cleverly defended, our unresolved issues control our behavior and undermine health, happiness, and success. Because they’re wired in the emotional body, they can be triggered by an old Fleetwood Mac song, the scent of smoke in the air, a random comment, or a provocative story. They can also be triggered by family drama, financial uncertainty, community discord, or a holiday gathering. Surprising enough, even joy and success can bring pain-trauma-hurt to the surface. No matter the catalyst, the next time you’re triggered, why not get out pen and paper and write a bit of healing fiction?
Spann has a MA in Health Sciences from Duke University and a PhD in Creative Writing from Union University in Ohio. For the past seven years, people in our community have known him as the compassionate Anticoagulation Specialist at Samsun Clinic. He stepped away from this position recently to focus on his writing. You can buy A Parable of Lies at a local bookshop or online. For a multi-sensory experience, the e-book includes a playlist of all the fabulous music in the book.