Do you need help sorting out thoughts and feeling, have you tried journaling? Like all new techniques if you’ve not tried it before journaling might seem a bit odd at first, a bit strained, but like all new things, it’s just a case of getting started.
I have not always been one for writing, I started when I began my therapy work 8 years ago, I was seeing a therapist once a week. Events would come up during the week which I wanted to remember in order to talk with my therapist about, but then I forgot by the time therapy day came around. So writing about odd events and feelings gave me a basis on which I could choose some things to take with me to my therapist. I found by just noting down various things during a week and reviewing them just before therapy day, I could actually already start to identify themes that were relevant to helping me make sense of my life. So quickly I realised the writing was actually acting a bit like my therapist, making connections, seeing patterns, all the awareness that leads to healing and change.
Over the eight years since I’ve journaled on and off. I can’t remember how strained or odd it felt in the beginning but now I find it an amazing tool helping me sort through and make sense of things. I also find it quite calming, my thinking mind tending only to manage to wind itself up in smaller and smaller circles. I find the mere time it takes to formulate words on a page allows the mind to work in a different way compared with thinking. Thoughts are seldom in full sentences or indeed articulated at all. When we write we will also often write a few words to set a scene: ‘I was at work when …..’, this allows space and time for the mind before thinking about the actual event that is troubling you.
The sentence may continue like this: ‘I was at work when my colleague walked past me and didn’t say hello, it felt horrible’. So here is a simple sentence, very mundane, just identifying a horrible feeling. By writing it down we remove it from inside us in some way, it is put out on the paper, this offers us some distance from the feelings. With that distance we might be able to question whether the colleague intended for us to feel horrible or wonder if there might be some other reason why she didn’t say hello. We might then have a chance to wonder why we felt horrible, or be able to describe the horribleness in more detail. The journal text might continue in one of these ways:
– ‘why do I always feel so horrible in those situations?’. Questions are great. They do not need answering. The mere asking of the question allows for possibilities.
- ‘the horribleness feels so lonely, it reminds me of ….’ Sometimes we make connections to events in our past.
Each sentence allows our mind the luxury of being witness to the evolving thoughts, it allows time to step back from the feelings. In the same time it has taken to write those short sentences the non writing alternative might have been a confused mess of ‘I feel horrible, no one likes me, I’m worthless, I’m horrible, I’m miserable, I hate my job, I hate my life, I’m unlovable, I’m shit’ ……. stretch for the chocolate, wine, computer game ……anything to make this tangle of unintelligible horribleness go away.
Writing on a regular basis will lead to a heightened awareness of what your psyche is up to. how it works, patterns, strategies. Over time it becomes easy to identify themes or patterns. This is useful because it tends to be that there is one problem turning up in different guises in different situations. Before noticing a pattern one might think there are so many different issues which can be very overwhelming. One issue turning up in many places is a lot easier to handle.
So how does one go about starting to write if all this feels odd? Grab some paper and a pen and write something, anything. There have been many days in the beginning when I have started my writing with: ‘well I don’t know what to write about but here I am…..’. It’s great to make a habit of writing. Like anything it doesn’t help if you don’t do it. Some of my most interesting and enlightening insights have come off the paper on those days I’ve least known what to write about.
Some people choose to get a nice book to write in, an expression to yourself that you are worth a nice book, that you regard yourself and your feelings with respect. Some people keep and reread their writing, this can give perspective and further insights. I write just to write, sometimes it has felt necessary to honour myself and buy myself a beautiful book, then I find I write so much so next time I get a cheap notepad. Sometimes I will stumble across an old notebook and reread some, yes it always gives me insights and encouragement when I realise how far I’ve come. I do not keep them all in chronological order. I’ve considered burning some of my old ones to signify that I am not there any more, but have not actually been able to let them go yet. Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way has made the concept of morning pages well known. The idea that you write 3 pages first thing in the morning, like a stream of consciousness, just waffle about mundane things, or deeper things, the idea is – just write.
Whether you do it in the morning, evening, three pages or two sentences – just write. Connections are made in the process of writing in a way the mind can not do otherwise.
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