I was debating what to cover this month, and what repeatedly kept getting my attention was the practice of journaling.
Journaling is a great tool in conjunction with psychotherapy. Why? Because there are a lot of thoughts floating around in your head. The practice of writing them down can be very freeing as well as clarifying.
Let me be clear – journaling is not a diary of the day’s events, although it can be. It is not scrapbooking either, although there can also be that component if that’s a medium you like. Journaling is bringing focus to specific issues, thoughts, and feelings that need some space and attention.
Many people dismiss the practice because it’s concrete – there is “evidence” of your inner life. Especially for people whose trust has been broken, keeping a journal can be a stretch. However, you can journal on a blank piece of paper. You can tear it up when you’re done. You can shred every last bit of it, or even burn it!
For those who like keeping their journals, there are many ways to use it – it is a concrete expression of you – the good, the bad, and the ugly! You can include photos, song lyrics or quotes that touch you, insights that you have, ticket stubs, collages you make, poetry, drawings, dried flowers, and anything else that you can think of.
But most importantly, journaling is about getting your thoughts on paper. I tend to think in bullet points, so my entries often look like lists. As a teenager, my journals had more of a narrative feel (I pity the person who ever reads those – they’re a real yawn!). There’s the free association don’t-lift-your-pen-off-the-page journaling. There’s the chronicling of work-out goals or career goals, the findings from nature hikes, and the capturing of dialogue. If it’s personal to you, then it’s important.
Journaling can often elicit insights that may be important to bring into therapy. It may not. Try it out. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
1. What are the parts of myself that I really love? What are the parts of myself that I really hate?
2. What is working in my life right now?
3. What am I ashamed of about myself, or secrets that I never want others to know about me?
4. Who do I have to forgive, either within myself or to them?
If you like journals, there are many beautiful ones out there, some are even environmentally-friendly. If you’re a “burn it” type of person, I suggest a notebook with perforated pages, so you can tear as you go.
I hope this is helpful for your self-awareness journey.