This is Part Two of Kylen’s article “The Art of Journalling”. To read Part 1, please vist this link.
I have read a number of self-help books over the years and have often come across advice suggesting the benefits of keeping a journal. However, that advice was usually accompanied by more advice suggesting NOT to reread what I had written. I was often left with the impression that journalling was only to be used as an outlet — and that there were no benefits to be gained by rereading past entries. In fact, I was led to believe this could potentially be a bad thing to do so. Some books even advised burning my journal once it was full as a ritual to release the past rather than holding onto it for all eternity.
Okay, so that does make sense. If the only objective of writing in a journal is to purge thoughts and emotions that no longer serve us, then yes, I do see how the act of burning those memories can be an effective symbolic gesture toward releasing that negative energy from our lives.
However, what of the wonderful gifts that inevitably find themselves on those pages in the form of insights, creative ideas and invaluable pearls of wisdom that can facilitate our growth and serve as a chronicle of our process from where we were at the time when we wrote those heartfelt words to where we are now as we reread them.
So much can be revealed to us about ourselves by referring back to our personal history. Even though I am a firm believer that we are not our past, we are definitely a product of it. How can we know where to go if we never look back to see where we have come from…to learn from both our mistakes and our triumphs?
Allow me to give you a personal example. After a particularly bad breakup about eight years ago, I felt emotionally in tatters and wallowing in my misery. I was deep in my “Why does this keep happening to me?” victim mode when, for some reason, one day I just picked up an old journal from about three years before and began to randomly read it. Now, this was going against everything I had ever read in self-help books, particularly because this was an extremely vulnerable time for me to be doing so. But I felt compelled to read on and ventured forth regardless.
A few pages into it, I came across what proved to be the most valuable wake-up call I could have ever imagined. This one particular entry was about another break-up a few years prior. What I read shocked me into a harsh, yet necessary, reality about myself. The words I had written on that page were exactly how I was feeling at the very moment I was rereading them. In fact, I could have written that exact same journal entry word for word three whole years after a breakup from an entirely different relationship.
My heart sank and my jaw dropped as I sat there in tears at this eye-opening revelation. How was this possible? I realized in that time-stopping moment that the only real common denominator in both of those relationships was… me.
Now, had I adhered to the advice of countless self-help books and not reread this significant piece of my past, I would have never discovered that this was a pattern. “I have patterns?!” No wonder I was so profoundly unhappy on such a core level. By being unaware of the concept of even having patterns, I wasn’t learning from my past experiences, dooming myself to recreating the same miserable reality for myself over and over.
Since that fateful day, a whole new world had opened up for me. Of course, in my usual negative Kylen style, I felt awful and began to promptly beat myself up for even having “patterns”. Not knowing that this discovery would turn out to be one of the most important pinnacles of my human experience, my wallowing took on a whole new dimension.
At the time, I didn’t have the tools to properly deal with this new fact about myself. On some level, however, I did intuitively know that this was a good thing for me to know. It was an opportunity for me to learn more about myself and my unhealthy “patterns” (and yes, we all have more than one) in order to be able to change them and create new healthier ones to replace them.
In the meantime I had to find a way to be okay with simply being aware of this “pattern” without knowing exactly what to do about it just yet. (see my LAAH article “Awareness: Is it Really Half the Battle” for more on this subject). The tools would come with experience, study, self-reflection and personal time and effort. I had to find a way to be okay with that…and I eventually did.
Many years later, with a wealth of accrued knowledge and experience under my belt, I humbly share this and many other life changing tales with both my readers and my clients. As a Personal Life Coach, one of the tools I encourage my clients to engage in is journalling. Speaking from experience, journalling most definitely can prove to be an integral resource along ones personal journey. It serves as a chronicle of not only our process but also, and more importantly, our progress.
By revisiting our past from time to time (but not dwelling in it, of course) and by rereading our “chronicle”, we can see more clearly where and how we’ve grown and made awesome positive changes for which to celebrate. As well as where perhaps we still need to focus our attention to help shift out of old negative patterns that may be holding us back from truly moving forward towards creating more inner peace, fulfillment and happiness in our daily lives.
Keeping a journal can be anything you envision it to be. Yes, it is an outlet for purging emotions, however, it can be so much more. Let your creativity have some fun with the process. After all, it is a chronicle of your life and there are many wonderful things that happen along the way. It doesn’t only have to contain all of the doom and gloom of the not so pleasant thoughts and events in our lives.
As humans, it has been scientifically proven that we have a tendency to focus on the negative; for that reason, I encourage my clients to always end every journal entry with something positive to balance out the energy we pour into it …a favourite quote, clippings of beautiful images, empowering words or quite simply…”I love you!”
Soul searching is a beautiful and at times difficult process, but wouldn’t it be great to know that you have a true “friend” along the way to help you through the tough times, and when you look back, to remind you of all the amazing times and how awesome you are too?
Happy soul searching!
“Journal” Ferdifand @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Sarah always found journalling tough” Ewan Hector @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.