Our journals are not just “something sensational to read on the train” as Oscar Wilde would have them in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Of course it is very cathartic to use our journals to rant about how wronged we feel, and how others are to blame for our hurt. But with the right intention our journals aren’t just dumping grounds for our sensational life-dramas.
When we turn to our journals we are granting ourselves some precious time to reflect on our experience and to get curious about how we feel. Raising our awareness of our thoughts and emotions enables us to achieve a level of objectivity which is beneficial to our mind and body, and it creates a space for resolving inner mental conflicts and achieving physical ease.
It’s heartening that in my journal the rants are invariably followed by contrite passages seeing things from the other’s point of view or seeking forgiveness. It would appear that we can’t be too cross for too long in our journal. Our still small voice of reason will eventually prevail, and it is this authentic reflex that heals and restores us.
Another powerful way that our journal can help us is in the process of healing physical symptoms. Many GPs now advocate the use of symptoms diaries in managing chronic illnesses and physical conditions. Making a record of when our aches and pains occur helps us to identify their triggers and then take preventative measures to keep them at bay.
However I believe keeping a symptoms diary carries other, more profound benefits. There is no suggestion here that journal writing can be a substitute for qualified medical attention, however by writing about our physical experiences we are able to create some objective distance between us and them. We can then let go of any notion that ‘we are our illness’ and begin to take control of how we might heal.
In a more advanced application of journal writing to the process of self-healing, we can use our reflective practice to engage our symptoms in conversation, and ask them direct questions about their message to us. Physical tension, aches and pains need not just be ‘the way things are’ that we have to put up with. They can provide us with a rich entry point to enquire of ourselves whether the way we are living our life is enabling our body to be as healthy as it can be.
Simply put, the physical act of writing reflectively about our body’s experience is a way of aligning body and mind towards getting well. And that truly is sensational.