Why is there a poetry video on a mental health site

I have anticipated that people may wonder, but hesitate to ask, why a mental health therapist has a link to a spoken word poet on her website.  I also anticipate that some people may be reading this right now, wondering what the heck is she talking about, if that is you then take your mouse and poke around at the bottom of this page until you notice a you tube tab, click on it and you will be shown a video of Sarah Kay, along with some other videos.

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Sarah Kay, spoken word poet, Ted Talk

Okay, back to the original question; this is supposed to be a mental health website, so what’s with the poetry.  Well there are a few reasons I included this video on my site.  The first has to do with emotions and you can read all about that on the Emotional Awareness blog entry.

The second reason has to do with the poem that she performs in the first 4 minutes of the video.  Apart from the fact that it is an amazing and moving performance, she is delivering an uplifting and important message.  That message is: life delivers both good and bad and you have to experience the curse of the bad to be able to fully enjoy the gift of the good.  It is a hopeful, optimistic message that in no way ignores the pain and sadness of life’s challenges.  It is well worth the 4 or so minutes of your time to be reminded of this concept which can forgotten when we’re in the thick of it or even when we’re just caught up in day to day life.

The whole 18 minutes of the video is also worth watching; it is a TED talk and she goes on to talk about her path with spoken word poetry.  There is a quote in the midst of her talk that speaks to this same message and more importantly (to me, as mental health therapist), it speaks to being open to experiencing all of life’s emotions, even the uncomfortable or embarrassing ones.

“I know that the number one rule to being cool is to seem unfazed, to never admit that anything scares you or impresses you or excites you…You protect yourself from all the unexpected hurt or miseries that might show up.  I try to walk through life…with my hands wide open and yes that means catching those miseries and hurts but it also means that when beautiful, amazing things just fall out of the sky, I am ready to catch them”–Sarah Kay

And the last reason, from a mental health perspective, to include this video on my site, is another thing Sarah Kay says: “I write poems to figure things out.”  Writing is a way of working through complex matters.  The writing itself doesn’t need to be complex or lyrical or publishable, it doesn’t even need to be shared with anyone, including yourself–you can tear it up when you are done.  The act of writing gets you out of your head where the same thoughts can spin endlessly and unproductively in attempts to work through a struggle.  With writing you can clearly see on paper what the patterns of your thoughts are and you can satisfy that part of your mind that wants to make sure you don’t forget to take x, y, or z into account.  And, having your thoughts in plain view makes it easier to examine them and question how true they are.  The act of writing also engages your senses–sight, sound, touch, movement (possibly smell, but I wouldn’t recommend taste), so it engages more of your whole self, which is very useful when you are feeling stuck and can bring to light new things that you hadn’t considered before.

So my recommendation to you is, next time you find yourself feeling lost and overwhelmed unsure of what to do, or consistently pondering the same thing over and over, or simply stuck in a rut, try writing.  Your writing doesn’t have to become poetry on you tube, but Sarah Kay has some ideas about how to get started.

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One Response to Why is there a poetry video on a mental health site

  1. Kevin says:

    A great reflection on a wonderful message from Sarah Kay. I am glad I finally got around to watching it. I thought she was going to be a stand up comic the first few times I started to watch it without my mind in the here and now. I am sure I’ll watch it again many times — a great lesson. Thanks Ellen!

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