Being a teenager might not be a terrible thing. It comes with emotional passion, exploding creativity, and inspiration for the future. However, being caught in the middle between childhood and adulthood may not feel easy. As a teen you might feel the discomforts of having to discover who you are. At this stage of life, you’re reaching for your independence, your uniqueness, and the role you will play in life. However, doing this in the midst of other confused teenagers, family conflicts, and the lingering need to hang onto your childhood is the mountain you must climb. Not to mention the presence of drugs, the pressure of new romantic relationships, and maintaining good grades! It can get rough.
Yet, there are some tools that can offer reprieve and relaxation in the midst of a stressful teenage experience. There are some significant ways to help uncover the deeper and more meaningful parts of who you are, and poetry is one of them.
Poetry can point to what’s important in life. It can guide a teen to their inner resources and help them uncover who they are. Poetry can also ignite significant images which activate a part of the brain that talking cannot. For instance, notice the kind of images the following poem, written by Donald Hall, invokes:
when my father had been dead a week
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed
and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door
white apples and the taste of stone
if he called again
I would put on my coat and galoshes
For a teen who has lost a parent, reading this poem could be life changing. Or for a teen who has lost a close friend, this poem might speak to the power of his or her relationship with that friend even after death. The meaning and images behind this poem can speak directly to the heart. And this is the power of poetry. Although poems are made up of words, words often come from the intellectual and logical part of the brain. However, the words of a poem create images in the mind, and that’s what activates a different part of the self.
The unconscious mind speaks mostly through images, symbols, dreams, and metaphor. Poetry that invokes inner images can be a means to access this particular part of the mind. Talking concerns out, as in traditional individual therapy, can also be therapeutic, yet at times; it can be necessary to reach for those deeply embedded images that can have a significant part of life.And it’s not only reading poetry that can be significantly healing and rewarding, but writing poetry can have it’s own healing effects. The same reasons behind the healing effects of reading poetry are also true for why writing poetry can be helpful. Teens who express themselves through poetry can activate a different part of the brain that seems to speak a different language.
Poetry works with a teen’s images and provides an opportunity for self-expression. At times, when the mind is inflicted by stress, inner images can be enlightening, leading a teen to self discovery and insight. Poetry can provide the opportunity for teens to:
- Express themselves in a creative way, which is different than talk therapy
- Replace old images with new ones
A recent report published in the International Journal of Academic Research indicates that poetry therapy is finding its place in the treatment of teen depression. It is seen as an effective method for reducing symptoms. The report included the results of a study done on the effects of poetry therapy. The study took 29 girls whose scores on the Beck Depression Scale indicated significant symptoms of depression. The girls underwent seven sessions using poetry therapy, and later reported less symptoms of depression. The results of the study revealed that poetry therapy plays a significant role in reducing the symptoms of depression.
As teens are navigating the terrain of adolescence, poetry can be particularly useful for them during this life stage. Writing about inner images or describing them in poetry can be a therapeutic tool to use when feeling the full range of emotions that comes with being a teenager.