A few of you have asked me questions about keeping a healing journal. But what is a healing journal? It's a place where you write freely and openly about your emotions linked to the experiences you've had. And it's important to note that you'll never write anything you are not ready to handle.
It doesn't have to be a daily habit – you just write when you can. But try to make time about twice a week to come to your journal and be with your feelings.
Healing writing has a long history. In ancient Egypt a sick person would write sacred words on papyrus. They'd then soak it in water – and drink the lot!! There is no need however, for you to eat your healing journal when you've finished it. Some people find it cathartic to burn their words when they've written them out. Just feel free to do what you want when you've finished a journal – knowing that each one is a step on the road to your recovery.
Journalling is a great way to heal from an emotionally abusive relationship. The person who has done the most research into the phenomenon of healing writing is Pennebaker. He found that healing writing works best if it includes real events, emotions and thoughts about the emotions you've written about.
Here are four ways to dive into your healing journal:
- Use a prompt. This can be a sentence or a phrase. Something like: 'The worst day I remember was when...'
- Ground your writing by focusing on a single event that took place in a real time and place.
- Use creative writing techniques to bring the emotional reality to life. This might include writing from the senses i.e. smell, touch, taste, hearing and seeing. Another good creative writing technique is to include dialogue. Remember, it's not important to write exactly what was said. You don't have to recall every word. Just imagine yourself in that scene and write truthful dialogue using the kind of language that each person used.
This gets easier the more you do it. Especially if you use free-writing and don't plan out what you're going to say beforehand. This kind of writing is becoming more popular. There are loads of different names for it now: poetic medicine, creative journalling, scriptotherapy, narrative psychology etc.
Pennebaker also found that those who responded really well to healing writing had to deal with some pretty hard emotions to begin with. A bit like clearing out the negative to make room for the positive. But don't give up. In the long-run, if you stick with it, healing writing can improve your physical as well as emotional health. Many of the participants in Pennebaker's studies had significantly higher killer white blood cells at the end of the study. In other words, writing boosted their immune systems.
By writing fast and with an open heart, you'll allow yourself to be both vulnerable and courageous on the page. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it works. Writing out painful memories as if they scenes in a film, scribbling dialogue and your internal thoughts is incredibly powerful. It's both a validation and a release.
An emotionally abusive relationship can leave you suffering from a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. This means you'll be dealing with flashbacks and difficult memories about the past. But healing writing can ground all this stuff for you – often in ways we don't understand.
You don't have to write for a long time. Five minutes is a good way to start. Set an alarm or timer and perhaps build up to fifteen minutes of continuous 'flowing' or free-writing after a while. There's no right or wrong way to do this. Even if you begin by writing the same words over and over, finally you'll get to the place where you can say what needs to be said, what needs to be heard. By You. You don't have to share it with anyone. It's as though once you write it down, it's easier to let it go.
What kind of thing should you write about? Well, using prompts is a good way to take you straight into the heart of things. Are you anxious about your children? Write it out. Are you fearful or angry? Why? What was the trigger. Explore on the page. Dig deep and discover what is really going on in your head and your heart.
Don't worry about spelling or grammar. Make it real and personal. This way you'll be able to use your journal as a notebook of personal development. Change will happen on the page. You don't have to be a writer or a poet to write what you need to understand. Over the years you'll find that healing writing is a wonderful healthy activity. You might even grow to love it!
Love, writing and peace.