Journaling as a Coping Device
As an author and pastoral counselor, I often encourage clients to write as a way to express feelings. I know firsthand from penning my memoir, Gift of the Dreamtime – Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma, that often the synaptic processes fired in the creative act of writing stir emotions, memories, philosophies. Journaling can be a very catabolic undertaking, though the results can be intensely cathartic. From a spiritual standpoint, blending the chronology of events of your life with art is deeply empowering.
Often in response to my suggestion to journal as a means of coping with stress I’m met with conflict around why it won’t work. “I don’t like to write.” “I can’t write well.” “I stare at the paper and nothing comes.” “I don’t have anything to say.” I get some stern looks when I encourage folks carrying these ideologies to write even more than those who greet the opportunity openly. Why? Not because I, personally, love to write, but because if you can put something into words, you’ve already made progress in eliminating the stress. The ability to associate thoughts with feelings goes a long way in taking the charge out of those feelings. Once free of emotional involvement, you can make clearer choices about how to proceed in the dynamic.
Even if you don’t write, give journaling a try. Sit down and write whatever comes. There are no rules or boundaries. Your journal doesn’t have to be your deepest, darkest secrets. You don’t have to approach journaling with any specific intention other than to offer yourself the outlet.
And if nothing comes, write your grocery list. Write you To Do list for the day. Write about how you have nothing to write about. All it takes is getting started. Before you know it you tap into a stream of consciousness and start forming opinions about what you are writing.
Maybe you start writing your grocery list and the thought occurs that for your evening meal you’d rather have mashed potatoes than cabbage, but you have to make cabbage to satisfy your visiting uncle. In making that menu item concession, you have an emotional reaction. You don’t really want to concede the mashed potatoes because since he’s been visiting he’s already taken over control of the television remote, and you’re mad that you missed your favorite show…
This free association is your avenue into cathartic journaling. The synaptic process of writing taps into something primal, personal, pivotal. It appeals to our most basic emotional urges in the limbic system—where we blend metaphor with reality, symbolism with structure. How you react to what comes out gives meaning to your overall need for journaling. Follow where your awareness leads you. Just write it out and let the words come as they will. The more you practice journaling, the easier it becomes. Before long, you will anticipate the luxury of that release.
Originally published at Manic Readers.