January 3 - The "J" Word

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January 3 - The "J" Word
Journaling Exercise
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The “J” word…every day I get tired of hearing myself say it...many of my clients feel free to just roll their eyes when I suggest they do it . . . and yet they all seem so pleasantly surprised at the results once they have accomplished it!

The excuses for not doing it are many . . . perhaps they haven’t bought “their special books” yet, or they don’t have pens handy when the moods hit, or they are afraid of what they might find if they do. Most say they don’t have the time or the energy that it would take and that, even if they did, they wouldn’t know how to do it right anyway. I also might hear excuses that they wouldn’t want people possibly to see it . . . or that they doubt that it works like I have promised . . . or that they just plain are not very interested.

So today, my goal is to dispel some of these myths and, once and for all, to celebrate the virtues of the “J” word! What am I talking about here?I am talking about one of the most effective ways I know to progress through the development process and heal old wounds . . . and that is the journaling process.

It doesn’t take a lot of time; it doesn’t take a fancy notebook; and it doesn’t take a complicated formula. What it does take is courage and awareness of our feelings and a commitment to override our natural resistance to change. Its rewards are many, the most significant being, in my opinion, a better understanding of ourselves, our lives, others, and our world. There are many ways to journal, and most of them are very effective. Here is a handy and effective short version . . . you might want to copy it out and keep it everywhere you interact with others or life!

1. What just happened today (and what did I feel and think)?
2. It reminds me of __________ (something that happened between the ages of 0-13 and what I felt and thought then)?
3. What would I have liked to have said at that time?
4. What would I have liked to have heard in response?

Now, let’s expand on these steps just a bit:

1. Write down, “What just happened and how did I feel and what did I think about it?” What happened: Let’s just imagine that your husband (wife,partner,etc.) fell asleep while you were telling him about your day. Feelings: “I am so angry and hurt and lonely.” Thoughts: “How dare he do this to me? Why would he do this? I just hate it when he falls asleep or yawns when I am speaking. I can’t believe he did that. No one cares what I have to say . . . if he loved me, he would pay attention to me. I must not matter at all to him.”

 You continue to journal your feelings and your thoughts about this experience or trigger until nothing else new occurs to you. It is important that you say everything you think, holding back nothing, even when you know what you think is not true. No one is going to read this but you. It is a healthy way to get out all of your pent-up anger. Sometimes my pen actually tears the paper when I do it. Oftentimes my writing is illegible.
2. You then write the transitional phrase, “It reminds me of when...” and you continue with whatever might occur to you at the time. How does this event, especially your feelings and thoughts, remind you of a circumstance that occurred in your life between the ages of 0-13?
Thoughts: “My father would drink and pass out after he had promised to watch ‘The Lone Ranger’ on television with me. I had looked forward to it all day, and instead he just lay there snoring in his easy chair. What a bummer of a father! I really needed him, too. If he had loved me, he would have had coffee instead of those martinis. I didn’t feel like I mattered to him at all. I can’t believe he would promise to play with me and drink instead.” Feelings: “I was so hurt, so discouraged and so sad when he would do that. Most of all, I was just so lonely.”

Steps one and two are a very healthy way of genuinely expressing emotion…anger, sadness, remorse, or whatever might be coming up in that moment.

If you have time (and I always try to find it) ask yourself the following two questions as well:

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