Today I’m pleased to welcome journal therapy specialist Mary McCarthy to A Slice of Life Writing. Mary first started journaling as a form of therapy to deal with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). She credits her daily practice, not only with introducing her to her creative self, but also with curing an assortment of spiritual, mental, and psychophysical diseases. Today she’s sharing tips for writing about our emotions. Welcome, Mari!
One of the most common reasons that people start journaling is that they need a way to process emotions. I know I often make use of journaling as a sort of waking dream therapy. The freedom and intimate companionship that I find in journaling lets me fully express; and by expressing, I can release the pressure of anything that’s become overbearing in my life.
Some people can articulate how they are feeling much more easily than others. Do you have an easy time talking or writing about your emotions, or is it difficult for you to express feelings?
Emotions are elusive. In many ways this is a great thing: for example, when you’re oppressed by a feeling, you know it will soon pass.
But we also intuit that by examining and understanding our emotions better, we may lessen the pain of them when necessary.
Even though your journal is a place of comfort, without restrictions, you may still find yourself stumped when it comes to putting words to your emotions. Yes, you feel sad, or glad, or worried, or ecstatic … but can you describe these states in greater detail? Can you analyze them effectively?
Ultimately, can you work through your feelings by writing, and come out on the other side of them?
Absolutely you can, but only with practice and courage.
- First, it is necessary to pick up pen and paper when you are in the throes of an emotion.
- Second, you make marks that are pure energy, the non-verbal movement of your current state across the page. Slash, lunge, trickle, flow, tiptoe, spiral. Let your heart and nerves register their speed, momentum, intensity.
- Third, let verbalizations enter into the movement, so that you interrupt the mark-making here and there with a word or phrase or more.
- Fourth, you begin to write words in sentences directly proceeding from the movement that occurred in steps one through three. Do not think about making sense.
After you are done writing sentences, pause to relax with closed eyes for a few moments. Then open your eyes and view/read your journal entry so far, including the marks and the words.
- Now write about the person who created that entry (which is You, of course). Be that person’s coach and friend. Describe how they are feeling, so they will know you understand. Offer assistance as best you can. Be loving.
Positive emotions are healthy and rejuvenating. Joy, pride, fulfillment – these make life worth living. But it must be admitted that negative emotions are destructive and scary. Most likely, however, one kind of emotion cannot exist without the other.
This is why journaling is so essential to peace of mind. When you can write about emotions, describing and exposing them to conscious thought, you free yourself from being enslaved by them.
Mari L. McCarthy, journaling therapy specialist and author, owns Create Write Now, a website dedicated to all things journaling. The site includes hundreds of journaling prompts, personal journaling stories, interviews, a blog, and many other resources. Mari publishes many ebooks and e-workbooks to help journalers accomplish amazing things.
She also conducts online Challenges, and you won’t want to miss her upcoming Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days Challenge, June 4-10.