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It is an appropriate companion for any difficult change.

Julia Cameron

It is during times of adversity, challenge and change that quotes like the one above often create anchors of hope, when we are vulnerable and when our deepest wounds, our trauma, surface to be faced and healed. Trauma that has either not been acknowledged, not expressed, or not dealt with.

There are many types of trauma, several ways to experience it and different ways of dealing with it. For purposes of this article, we will focus on how, through the medicine of writing, the burden or adverse impact of distressing or disturbing events can be eased.

If an event is disturbing enough – and if that impact is felt – it can be traumatic, especially if it is repeated – and even more so if it is suppressed. Remember, it is about perception and not whether the felt reaction – the hurt – is justified, accurate, intended, or even something that happens to ‘everybody’. Every one of us is different. We each have our own filters through which we experience, interpret and classify events. What is a massive dramatic event for one person, may hardly make a ripple in another person’s life.

This gets us to the result of this felt perception; the hurt. It is in essence an energy, a consciousness. If not expressed, released, or moved, what happens to it?

Yep, it stays inside. It gets stuck. And because it may be suppressed, it can disappear into the vast unknown space of our subconscious. Gone, but not forgotten.

If it stays there long enough, it affects other things – our behaviour, our health, our esteem, our life.

How can journaling help, if at all?

Let’s look at the potential benefits of journaling:

  •  It is a tool for reflection and for making sense of our inner world – mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
  •  It can help us understand our life journey and lessons, highlight our strengths and potential harmful patterns.
  •  Journaling can help us to acknowledge, sometimes verbalise, or express emotions.
  •  It is a creative way of releasing stuck energy and, in a way, letting off steam.
  •  Journaling develops the imagination (which, according to Einstein, is more important than ‘knowledge’).
  •  It can lead to huge insights, a-ha moments and discoveries.
  •  Journaling can be meditative and can enhance present moment awareness.
  •  It simple, free and accessible to anyone.
  • All in all, very beneficial to identify, express and release the trauma energy.

So how do you start? How do you do it? How do you implement this ‘medicine’?

Whilst it really is as simple as to ‘just start’ it often helps to use anchoring, visualisation and storylines.

What do I mean by that?

Anchoring is when you select a topic to write about. It can be the sun, your cat, or the broken tap, or your life’s purpose. If you allow yourself enough space and freedom to continue writing, you will find you venture off the ‘anchor’ and into the real issues and insights, but for most people, it is an easy, more concrete way to start.

Visualisation or using any other sense, enables you to start exploring on a sensory level and helps to focus the mind. What do you see/hear/smell? Start scribbling away.

Storylines are about pretending. Let your imagination run wild and write as if you are telling a story. (Did I mention imagination as a requirement for journaling? It is – and it can be developed if you think you don’t have any!)

Then, just continue writing. Lift your pen and start putting words, (or images) on paper and do not stop until you have completed a page.

The key is to write, to flow, to FEEL and to release. The pen is your voice, an extension of you. The paper is your listening companion. Let it share and absorb your hurt. And then feel the freedom, the lightness.

I would love to share more. In my journaling workshops, I work through seven aspects to make journaling work for you. Tip – I start with the BREATH. Always the breath, to get us present and out of our heads.
That is also why it can be so beneficial for the introverted, shy, or wounded among us, to use journaling, as it is less intrusive. (Caution: be aware of ‘coping mechanisms’. They play an important role, but they can also falsely cover deep emotional wounds!)

It is often said that what is not revealed, can’t be healed. It starts with awareness. Yet, note – it STARTS there. Empowerment and true soul maturity happens when we take responsibility for our own healing. There are many avenues, instruments and tools for healing – therapists, modalities, diets, interventions, rest. And journaling. These can all assist, guide, or apply healing and are often the catalyst for it. They remain conduits, they are not the healing itself.

Lastly, remember that healing and curing are not necessarily the same. To cure something, even the effect of trauma, you may need professional help. The impact of a single event or series of events can be distressing or disturbing enough to cause emotional damage on a very large scale and outside intervention is often required to help release the effects on the psyche and on the body.

Journaling is a mirror, one I strongly encourage you to explore if you haven’t already. It is, however, up to you how you use that mirror and what you do with the discoveries, insights and awareness.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you

Maya Angelou

How can you use journaling in your life story – to heal and to thrive? Leave a comment below.

Celeste Du Toit

Celeste Du Toit is a transformational life coach, speaker and holistic therapist based in Durban. She uses NLP, Kahuna massage and bodywork, as well as self-awareness and empowerment workshops and retreats, to help people align with their true purpose and ZEST for life.

Connect with Celeste at www.yesparadigm.co.za