Journaling for Self-Discovery
Some years ago, I was going through a particularly difficult time, and took a class on journal writing. I found the process to be powerful and it helped me gain perspective on my current situation; it was also an opportunity to look back on my life to understand choices that I made which brought me to my present situation.
Many of the persons that I see keep journals, and often they bring their writing to our sessions. Journaling can deepen the therapy experience and allows them an opportunity to address their concerns between sessions. Often, I provide homework related to their sessions and they include the material into their journals.
Here are some suggestions to help you journal.
Eight Suggestions for Satisfying Journal Writing: by Kay Adams
There are no “rules” to journal writing. You owe allegiance only to those practices that serve and support you in your ongoing process of self-discovery and creative expression. However, here are eight simple guidelines that will enhance the quality of your writing experience.
- Start with an entrance meditation. Just about every technique benefits from a few minutes of focused quiet at the beginning. Use visualization, soft music, candles, deep breathing, yoga stretches. Quiet your head chatter and focus on the topic you’ve chosen to write about.
- Date every entry. If you only establish one habit in your journal, let it be this one. Dating every entry allows you to chronologically reconstruct your journal by date. It also gives you the opportunity to observe cycles, patterns, and trends. Over time, you’ll begin to notice and plan for your downtimes, your creative times, your introspective times.
- Keep what you write. Often the stuff that feels like junk contains seeds for future insight. You’ll find that you may write something that appears to make no sense or have little relevance, only to come across it later and discover it’s exactly what you need to hear yourself say.
- Write quickly. You can outsmart the dreaded “journal block” by writing so fast that the Internal Critic and the Internal Censor can’t catch up. Writing quickly provides more ready access to subconscious information because you’re not as liable to be thinking about what you’re writing.
- Start writing; keep writing. Just begin. Put pen to paper and start to write. Once you’ve started, keep going. And don’t go back to correct your spontaneous mistakes in word usage, spelling, or grammar. These glitches are often your subconscious mind’s way of asking for your attention. Let your Freudians slip!
- Tell yourself the truth. Your own truth is not your enemy. Don’t try to talk yourself out of knowing what you know or feeling what you feel. You’ll get the best results in your journal if you give yourself permission to write your own truth.
- Protect your privacy. Get in the habit of storing your journal in its own special place so that the temptation for others to read is diminished. Reserve the first page of any new journal for your name and phone number, along with a disclaimer: This is my personal journal. Please don’t read it without my knowledge and permission. Or you can be more direct: KEEP OUT! A nice, firm compromise: Thank you for respecting my privacy.
- Write naturally. If there is one inviolate rule of journal writing, it is that there simply are no rules! Writing naturally means that you do what works for you and don’t worry about what you’re not doing. Writing naturally means that you pick up your journal when the mood strikes and put it down when the mood shifts, and that you allow for changes in focus, penmanship, point of view. Writing naturally means that you give yourself permission to use your journal as a blank canvas onto which the rich and intricate portrait of your life can be painted as it naturally emerges. There is only one person who can write the story of your life. Writing naturally means that you let yourself be you.
Do not write for your instructor, write for yourself! Because you are in a course, you will send required writing to the instructor, who will send you feedback but will not keep your work. It belongs to you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I want to stress that it is also important to routinely walk or stretch; use mindful breathing or a five-minute nap with your feet up! Just about anything that gets you out of your mind and into your body. The research shows that therapists give this advice to others, but often fail to apply it to themselves!
In the next four weeks, I invite you to try journaling. Write every morning, first thing; write for at least 15 minutes, set a timer, and go. Follow this blog each week, and I will offer you structured prompts to help you get going. Or you can write unstructured journal entries if you prefer.