We’ve talked before about the power of journaling and writing to help you deal with whatever crisis you are facing.
Much like talking with a therapist or counselor, journaling allows you to process your experience. But what does it mean to “process” something, and why does it help?
Let me explain.
What does it mean to process something?
When you are dealing with some emotional issue (and nearly every issue in our daily lives has an emotional component) you always have more thoughts and feelings that you can possibly comprehend in the moment.
For instance, if you are in a minor car accident, your first thought might be very practical. How do I handle the details? Where is my insurance card? My wife is going to have a fit! Oh no, is the car even drivable?
But very quickly your hyper mind now conjures up a series of questions and concerns that might seem to have nothing to do with this particular incident.
Your mind can explore worst case scenarios – what if the car can’t be fixed, what if the insurance price goes up, what if we can’t make our next house payment?
And also it can play old scripts – I’m a terrible driver, why did I need to stop here for one more donut, I’m never on time anywhere.
These thoughts can be overwhelming. Some people handle these moments by completely giving in to tears and allowing other people to step in and handle the problem for them. Some people handle them by taking command and not allowing any stray thoughts to enter their mind, focusing instead on the next step of the process.
However, when you shove these scenarios and scripts down in order to take care of the matter at hand, they don’t go away. They will continue to push and prod until they escape one way or another. Maybe you break down later. Perhaps it comes out when you explode at the kids. Maybe you drink too much that night and do something foolish in front of your neighbors.
To process these things means to take the time to think about them and put them in their place.
How journaling helps with processing
Many people choose to keep a journal because it gives them a private place to deal with all of these thoughts and feelings.
You can take the time to write each idea down in your journal and then … explore it. Disprove it. Think it through to a logical conclusion.
For example, if you are worried that the car can’t be fixed, you can write down that fear and decide what the next step is. Do you need to take it to a mechanic? Did it drive fine on the way home and only looks bad? When will you have an answer?
Now that you have put it in a place, you don’t have to carry that worry around.
Processing means allowing the thought an opportunity to have its day in your mental court. You can play it out, look at it from all sides, and then make a final determination. You are the judge here, not the emotion.
This is important because it means that your fear and your emotion doesn’t get to hijack your feelings and thoughts whenever they want to.
It puts YOU in charge. You are processing now on your own schedule, when you have time, so your day doesn’t get hijacked.
Simple journal prompts to get you started
Journaling doesn’t have to be complicated in order to be effective. A full journal entry can be as simple as …
How did it make me feel?
What do I wish had happened instead?
What can I do about it now?
What’s the next step I can take?
Some people like to write without any prompts at all, saying that a clean piece of paper and a good pen give them all the space they need to get their thoughts down on paper and get it all out.
It doesn’t have to be in order. It doesn’t have to be neat. It doesn’t have to follow a format. It doesn’t have to be in complete thoughts.
It just has to get out of your head and onto the paper.
Do you have a challenging relationship problem that is costing you sleep, or robbing you of your sense of independence? You likely will benefit from talking to a licensed therapist like Sakina Issa.
Luckily, these conversations can happen discreetly and by appointment using the same tools you have grown comfortable using at work, like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Just click the button in the upper right hand corner.
Continue reading the blog, or maybe subscribe to receive one in your mailbox each week.