Lessons from Anaïs Nin: Writing The Self // Rebecca Marcelina Gimeno, M.A.
When I think of women authors who have radically documented their experiences in all of their fullness and vulnerability, I think most of author and lay analyst Anaïs Nin. Nin preceding the Women’s Movement, over and over describes in her writings the need for culture and artistic expression to return back to the subjective, and for women, especially, to write and document our lives. Nin, similar to other authors writing on femininity and women’s experience, believes that women’s accounts have historically been made absent from much scholarship. She beautifully asserts, “we are obliged to accept what our culture has so long denied, the need of an individual introspective examination. This alone will bring out the women we are, our reflexes, likes, dislikes, and we will go forth without guilt or hesitations, towards the fulfillment of them” (Nin, 1976). Nin (1976) believed strongly in “the woman of the future” who would create, and share her experience, without shame, hesitation, or reservation.
What can we, as women, learn from Nin? To write ourselves openly, deeply, and without censorship. It is through this kind of soulful writing that we come to know ourselves more, and are able to create a historical document that spans and honors our lived-experience. This document can be returned to over and over to remind us as to how far we have come, how we have developed our wounds into wisdom, and to recognize the continuously changing nature of our experience--In other words, to lift us out of a kind of melancholic sense of stuck-ness.
For many women, we have been taught by larger social and political forces, our developmental histories, and interpersonal experiences to privilege restraint, docility, caution, and, at times, even silence. Women such as Nin broke through these socio-cultural norms in order to express the richness of her life, in all of her ecstasies and pain. Her bravery and courage was a gift, an offering of The Self to those who would read her work generations later.
Similar to this kind of confessional writing, psychotherapy encourages us to explore and better understand our experience. When life begins to feel meaningless, or when we are overcome by suffering, this is when it is especially important to write. Through the darkness, perhaps we can create something new, and maybe even begin the way towards healing and meaning-making. During some of my own experiences of difficulty, I have had the privilege of having at least one of Nin’s diaries by my side. In reading her most intimate and precious thoughts, I received a wonderful gift--the gift of company, understanding, and, most of all, shared-experience.
Nin, A. (1976). In favor of the sensitive man, and other essays (1st ed.). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Written by: Rebecca Marcelina Gimeno, M.A.