Once you realize that you were the target of abuse, coming to terms with what happened, gaining understanding and healing yourself is quite as overwhelming a prospect as it sounds. There is so much going on in your mind, that it is easy to lose yourself in the chaos. I have even spoken to people who developed stress related narcolepsy in that initial stage of recovery. Their brain and body would just shut down when the weight of that emotional overwhelm became too great.
Although for most people the emotional rollercoaster becomes far less extreme as we progress on our paths, there will always be times when we feel triggered, stressed and overwhelmed.
The Benefits of Journaling
We have spoken before about some of the benefits of journaling, and how to get started on your journal for emotional healing. Writing down your thoughts, helps you make sense of it all and helps you track your journey. Today I want to dive in a little deeper, and look at some effects of journaling that you maybe have not yet considered.
“As a therapist, I have found journals to be very effective tools for emotion management. Journals are like a checkpoint between your emotions and the world. They are very private but allow you to view your feelings from some distance. In a journal, you can clarify, release, organize, and soothe your feelings. You can experiment without consequences. Journals provide flexibility for approaching and understanding your own emotions”
(From Introduction of “Writing for Emotional Balance” by Beth Jacobs).
Building the Life of Your Dreams
I like starting the day with some writing. This became especially useful in times of emotional distress. I would regularly wake up feeling sad or anxious. By simply beginning to write about that, I was able to dig to the source of that emotion. I would remember dreams, and was able to gain understanding from those.
But even when I feel balanced and happy, beginning my day with some reflection and thoughtfulness sets me up for a better day. Writing often makes me realize what is great about my life, and gratitude is an outstanding attitude when it comes to creating a life you love. It also makes it very clear what is and what is not working in my life, and that gives me the insights I need to make improvements.
Not everyone will like writing first thing, or have the time to do so. You may find 10 minutes during your lunch break, or while you are enjoying a cup of coffee on the way home from work. An important factor in journaling is that you come back regularly. Even if you only write 5 or 10 minutes every day, do it EVERY day. That process will help you refine your thoughts and observations.
Getting Out of Your Head
This may sound very counter intuitive, but you can use your journal to shift your attention away from your thoughts too. Rather than digging through the same memories and pain, use your journaling time to use your other senses. Describe how the sunlight falls against the wall, what the texture of your morning cereal feels like in your mouth, what sounds you hear from outside… I could make this list endless, but you get my drift.
Talking in detail about something seemingly random in great detail will give your mind a break from the emotional healing you are engaging in. It also helps you develop your sensory and mindfulness skills. This too can be considered a way to meditate without meditating.
Getting To Know the Real You
Many survivors of abuse have no idea who they really are. We have received so much false programming, that we hold beliefs about our skills and abilities, but even about our likes and dislikes that are not in line with who we really are.
One of the journaling exercises I did early on in my recovery was writing about my accomplishments and happiest moments. I was not trying to boast, but describing those event made me think about the talents, activities and skills that truly belonged to me. This is what helped me see that I was not lazy, and that the job my parents told me “I would hate” was in fact my absolute dream job!
Writing about your life, both internal and external, will help you to connect with yourself again. In the end, that is what healing from abuse is truly about. This is what will elevate you from surviving to thriving.
“Some believe that journaling, like meditation and other spiritual practices, allows you to connect with the divine or a greater power than yourself. Others believe that journaling
allows you to connect with your own higher self, a source of inner wisdom.
Some believe these two are the same thing”
(From How journaling can change your life on Journal Wild).
Peer Journaling on SwanWaters
We introduced the term ‘peer journaling’ on SwanWaters, a way for your journal to give you feedback, advice and cheer you on. Over the years we have experienced how helpful it is to get feedback from fellow-survivors on our memories and thoughts. Specifically because we have learned not to trust our own minds, observations and memories.
Using the SwanWaters forum as your journal gives you some additional benefits.
Reading the responses and stories of fellow-survivors will help you make more sense of your own experiences. It is sort of a learning short-cut, but one that actually works.
The value of validation cannot be charged to ANY major credit card!
Your fellow-survivors will make observation about your writing that you did not. They will make connections that you could not see. They may link it to something you said earlier, or relate it to one of their own experiences that can help your healing.
The members of SwanWaters are some of the best cheerleaders in the world. We love seeing each other succeed and thrive after abuse. So when we see you do well, we will shake our virtual pompons in your honor.
We have all been there, we know what it is like and how crazy it feels! You do not have to justify yourself, you don’t have to convince it that this really happened (however strange it may sound).
So come join us and start on your peer-journaling journey!