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…

W.O.R.D.S.: Hell (or Unpeeling the Onion of your Psyche)

The W.O.R.D.S. Project (Words Open Resonating Depths of the Sacred): An alphabetical search for questions.*

Hell? There is no fire, no devil, no death that holds me in its hot grasp of fear,
Even heaven holds no charm to trick me when it is so clear, that, yes,
Life can be hell if it is fueled by fears of shoulds and musts, but this
Life is my heaven, a pearl ground by the rough sands of creativity and trust.

 

You know what is my own personal hell, my own personal devil? Me.

Me, with the rules I learned as a child; rules that aren’t real, that are meaningless, but yet still hold sway over my unconscious like a tightly corseted and hair-bunned school marm with a ruler slapping in her palm.

And most of these rules weren’t even specifically given, they were implied, and many, in my still squooshy and muddy child-brain, were misunderstood. But the connections I made, incorrectly fused as they may have been, were built into, and sheetrocked over in, the foundation of my being.

And so now, as an adult who is beginning to understand that not all my actions, thoughts, feelings make sense, and that sometimes I respond/react in a certain way despite any logical explanation, I am attempting to peer deeper into the depths of my unconscious for reasons. I have to be curious. Ask questions. “Why did I just feel a stab of pain when she said that?” “What was that discomfort I felt talking to him?” “Why did I just get SO angry about that tiny thing?” “Why am I feeling so sad right now?”

Or not even questions, just noticing. Without judgment. “Huh, I felt that in my chest.” ” Interesting, I just got really upset about that…”

Dismantling the walls and floors, or — to switch metaphors — unpeeling the onion of our psyche is not easy nor particularly fun. It takes time and courage and a lot of trust — trust that if you are willing to look into “hell” you will eventually find the “heaven” of a life less hindered by old messages and rules and fears which no longer apply.

And creativity is vital. To write, draw, paint, dance, sing, cook… anything that brings you deeper than Monkey Mind, which tends to gibber-gabber a bunch of bull-hickey most of the time. It’s all old tapes stuck on a loop. Turn it off. Write a new story.

——
*This project is an off-shoot of the work I did for my graduate degree where I used Words to help heal from my negative indoctrination from “The Word.” Words are powerful agents for transformation! (Thesis/Final Project: Calling Little Gypsy Home: Reclaiming Voice Through Expressive Writing and the Sacred Feminine; Memoir: Sing from the Womb: Leaving Fundamentalism in Search in Voice.)