Documenting our thoughts feelings, whether through journaling, list making, letter writing or any other form of writing communication, is a priceless exercise. First of all, it makes your emotions public. Even if it’s only to you and the universe, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard creates a powerful reflective experience. Quite literally. The canvas mirrors back to you concrete evidence of your current emotional state. You are bearing witness to your own reality. Think of it as a psychological and physical accounting of your feelings. One that you can see and touch and smell and behold. Whereas just knowing how you feel inside your head and heart doesn’t have the same graphic impact. The second reason writing down your thoughts and feelings is so powerful is because the process cleanses you. Not only have you noticed and named your emotions, but you have purged them out of your system and onto the paper. This allows you to objectify your feelings visibly, proving to yourself that while your sensations are valid and real, they are not who you are. They’re just weather patterns that come and go. All feelings have a beginning, middle and an end, and while these emotional states might identify you, they do not define you. That’s the kind of detachment you need in order to know that these things inside of you are not personal, permanent or pervasive.
METABOLIZING -- Treating journaling as a psychological and physical accounting of your emotions
With this tool, you are processing your heart through your fingers. It’s a safe container for vulnerability. A psychological holding environment. You have permission to express the worst, ugliest and strangest parts of yourself, without the fear of judgment of anyone, except yourself. As they say in the journalistic world, you’re off the record. This metabolic process is a never before never again moment that nobody has to even know about but you and whatever form of universal wisdom you believe in.
Years ago, I wrote a book about how writing was the basis of all wealth. Perhaps it’s time for a sequel about how writing is the basis of all health. Goldberg, one my favorite writers who often writes about writing, says that the second time is the real life for a writer, it’s when we get to claim our existence. The best part is, you don’t have to be a writer to receive those benefits. If you’re going through something hard right now, or if you know you will go through something hard in the future, remember this. Writing down the difficult moments of your history allows you own it. The events belong to you, rather than you belonging to them.
That’s the beauty of paper. You can burn it, scratch it out, crumble it into a ball or slide it into the shredder, never to be read by a human soul again. Same goes with the computer. Throw it into the recycle bin, delete that sonofabitch forever, take a breath, and get on with your life. It’s liberating. Like a the weight of yourself on your shoulders has been lifted. Doesn’t matter who put that weight there, and it doesn’t matter why they put it there. Because now it’s gone. How might you treat writing as psychic chemotherapy?
Objectify your feelings quickly, visibly and safely
Gain concrete evidence of your current emotional state
Take ownership over your history and learn from your experiences faster
Depersonalize from feelings in a healthy way that proves they’re not personal, permanent or pervasive