Who ya gonna call?: Your journal, your friend

Originally published in my “All Write!” column in the Rutland Herald, Feb. 22, 2016 under the title, “Your friend at the end of the pen.”

ANTIQUE PHONEI think most would agree that the best kind of friend is the one with whom we can be free to be ourselves — our perfectly imperfect selves. With a friend like this none of the regular rules apply. We can leave the dishes in the sink when they come over, we can be dressed in our hole-iest sweatpants, we can say inappropriate things.

How many of us have that kind of friend? The one we can call any time, at exactly the moment we need them, to listen to our hurts and worries or joys? Who can be completely trusted with deepest secrets and problems?

Even if we do, sometimes there are situations and feelings which we aren’t prepared to discuss with another person (or it’s 2 a.m. and even your best friend wouldn’t appreciate being woken up to hear you gripe about your boss). This is exactly why a journal can be the best friend there is.

Kathleen Adams, author of many books written about the benefits of journaling and expressive writing for the personal writer, the client, the student, and many other populations, wrote in her first book, “Journal to the Self”:

There’s a friend at the end of your pen which you can use to help you solve personal or business problems, get to know all the different parts of yourself, explore your creativity, heal your relationships, develop your intuition…

However, based on what I hear people say to me all the time when I ask them if they write a journal, many are still resistant. Many times that resistance is based on memories of school-age rules — and sometimes rulers on knuckles — when it came to writing. So, let’s look at some of these things.

You shouldn’t write if your handwriting is awful? You can’t spell? You don’t believe you have anything important enough to say? And you have to write every day, right?

Nope.

It is your journal and rules do not apply! You can write whatever, however, whenever you want. In other words, you can be (or discover) exactly who you are and what you really feel and think (as opposed to what you “should” be, feel, and think). Just as you can with that best kind of friend.

Let’s say you are angry with your spouse and you know your words would hurt him/her. Get out your journal and write all those hurtful things on paper. Purge them. And once you are calm(er) you will be able to tell your loved one how you feel minus those hurtful words. This is productive — and loving. You can also use the journal to practice what you will say before you engage in the real conversation.

Your journal can take anything you say, whether it is angry, hurtful, illogical, or downright depressing, and keep it safe. Your journal is a place where you can purge your feelings and thoughts with no fear of judgment or retaliation. Swear, yell, cry, complain… whatever you need to.

Suppressing emotions or keeping them unexpressed is damaging to your health, and alternatively, expressing them in any extreme fashion can be detrimental to your relationships (and maybe yourself). The most helpful and healthful solution is to vent within the safety of your journal.

Writing in a journal is a gift of friendship to yourself, a friendship where you can be yourself completely, without judgment. The journal is a friend to lean on, rely on, and trust, where the rules don’t apply. Especially at 2 a.m.

Prompt: What I can’t tell anyone else is…

Authentic Voice Project: A is for Anger

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 1 (Full Moon)

AUTHENTIC VOICE

As we are beginning with A, I will take a moment to define Authentic Voice as I understand it.

I believe we all have an Authentic Voice. It is the one that comes to us from various sources:

  • intuitive insights
  • dreams
  • emotion-body reactions (such as butterflies in the stomach, the tight chest of anxiety or anger, the sore throat of suppressed tears, etc.)
  • expressive writing (“I didn’t know I was going to write that!” or “where did that come from?!”), and other artistic expressions
  • gut reactions and “Freudian slips”

It is the voice that many of us suppress in the name of “reason” or convention. It is a voice many of us don’t even know – on a conscious level – that we process. It is that voice that, as Carol Gilligan records in her book, In a Different Voice, caused a female student to stop short when she heard herself say, “If I were to speak for myself…” Deep down we do know we have this voice and the suppression of it causes pain. It triggers emotional reactions in us we may not completely understand. It is the wisdom of our body, of our unconscious, of the collective unconscious. And if we are to pursue our full potential as human beings we must access it because it holds the balance of the truth of who we are.

And now onto the first word of our project…

ANGER

Society says: Anger is dangerous. Anger is violent. Anger should be suppressed. Anger is particularly unseemly for women. Anger is an unhealthy emotion. A “nice” person doesn’t get angry. Anger is not productive.

I say: Anger is a flag on the field, a check engine light, a high temperature indicating an infection. Anger is an emotion, which like all emotions, is a message. And like all emotions, we must heed it. Notice it. Acknowledge it. Listen to it. When and why did it get triggered? Where in the body is it manifesting? And how? Is it a pressure, a pain, a tingling?

Many times anger is the only emotion we can notice or it is the go-to one when the grief, hurt, pain, disappointment, rejection, sadness, frustration, loneliness, powerlessness, anxiety or fear is too uncomfortable. But then the guilt kicks in because we are not supposed to be angry. It’s not socially acceptable. Well, it hurts and pushes other people away. In fact, sometimes we use to push them away. Use it as our barrier… and then wonder why we are so lonely and sad.

BUT, anger can be useful if we take as an invitation to dig deeper into our unconscious to find our true, unexpressed feelings. All our feelings are legitimate. It is how we choose to use them that makes the difference. Anger expressed in rage, manipulation, violence, suppression, or physical or emotional attacks on others is merely a way of pushing our discomfort onto others, hoping it will relieve us. But by taking  our anger and working with it – using it as an positive energy – we can use it to take action in our lives. As Sue Monk Kidd did, take your rage and turn it to outrage, as which it can help usher in change.

Anger: Just a message.