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Journaling and Emotions

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021), Jul 25, 2014.

  1. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I've been watching a series of lectures on mindbody medicine by Jason M. Satterfield, a behavioral medicine professor at the University of California in San Francisco. One of his lectures includes a section on journaling and emotions. Those of us who have learned about TMS and techniques for healing know that Dr. Sarno and other TMS practitioners say that journaling is one of the most important tools we can use to get our pain to go away. Some say that journaling can be stressful, especially if it involves thinking back to childhood anxieties that we may have repressed for years.

    Satterfield calls journaling “A way to process your feelings.” He tells of studies he made with medical students in which they wrote each day for four days about the most intense emotional experiences they could remember from the first seven years of their lives. Many of these emotions were traumatic, involving relationships with parents, siblings, or others. What the students learned about their early years helped them to find peace with their long-held repressed emotions.

    Satterfield does not cover techniques for journaling in his video or his workbook, but suggests studying the work of James W. Pennebaker, PhD, on journaling and the emotions. He is the author of several books on journaling and the emotions including Opening Up and Writing to Heal.

    Pennebaker, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, has for nearly 20 years been conducting research on journaling and the emotions. He assigns students to write down their deepest feelings about an emotional upheaval in their life for 15 or 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Many who did this found their immune systems strengthened, while others saw their academic grades improve, and some said the journaling changed their entire lives, making them free of emotional or physical pain.

    I read up on his techniques on the subject of journaling and emotions and summarize them here, hopeful they can help those having any difficulty with journaling or who are reluctant to journal. Most prefer journaling by writing long-hand on paper, while others prefer typing on the computer, and yet others find they prefer talking into a tape cassette recorder. Either of these methods has proven to be very successful in recalling repressed emotions which leads to healing through knowledge, understanding, forgiveness.

    A pioneer in the study of using expressive writing as a pathway to healing, his research has shown that short-term focused writing can have a beneficial effect on everyone from those dealing with terminal illness to victims of violent crime, and those suffering from any variety of physical pain or emotional problems.

    “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker says. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up. People will tell us months afterward that it’s been a very beneficial experience for them.”

    In his early research Pennebaker was interested in how people who have powerful secrets are more prone to a variety of health problems. If you could find a way for people to share those secrets, would their health problems improve?

    It turned out that often they would, and that it wasn’t even necessary for people to tell their secrets to someone else. The act of simply writing about those secrets, even if they destroyed the writing immediately afterward, had a positive effect on health. Further studies showed that the benefits weren’t just for those who had dramatic secrets, but could also accrue to those who were dealing with divorces, job rejections or even a difficult commute to work.

    “Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives,” Pennebaker explains. “You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are—our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.”

    Many people have posted on the wiki that they are not sure how to do the journaling that Dr. Sarno and others say is one of the most important techniques of TMS healing. I like the suggestions on journaling from C. Loran Hills, an inspirational guide. Her e-course, “The Seeker’s Journey,” about self-discovery, is well worth going to on a google search.

    Keeping a journal has many positive benefits,” says Hills. “Journaling can help with personal growth and development. By regularly recording your thoughts you will gain insight into your behaviors and moods.

    “Journaling can be used for problem-solving and stress-reduction. It’s been proven to improve mental and physical health, and can lead to increased self-esteem.” (Low self-esteem is another cause of TMS pain.)

    “Writing has helped me to process not only failed relationships, but also to recover from grief and loss. Reading back through my journals has helped me reflect on where I used to be and where I am now in my life. It’s a method of allowing the light of understanding and compassion to shine on my past.”

    Hills mentions Dr. John Grohol, CEO of Psych Central, who estimates that one in three people suffer from a mental illness. Anxiety disorders, mood disorders and substance abuse can be treated with a combination of medication and counseling. In addition, writing in a journal is an effective tool for use in the healing process.

    Hills says just writing in a journal has not always worked for her, so she practices “art journaling” to help her better express her repressed emotions. “Using mixed media has helped me express myself in refreshing and unusual ways. There is a lot of power in the written word, but occasionally words are hard to find. By drawing or making a collage I have been able to create a representation of how I feel that moves beyond my analytical writing.

    Hills suggests these 10 journaling tips to help heal from pain and anxiety.

    1. Start writing about where you are in your life at this moment.
    Describe your living situation, your work, and your relationships. Are you right where you want to be?

    2. For five to ten minutes, just start writing in a “stream of consciousness.”
    Don’t edit your thoughts or feelings and don’t correct your grammar. Don’t censor your thoughts.

    3. Start a dialogue with your “inner child” (remembering how you felt anger when a child) by writing in your subdominant hand.
    Answer with your dominant hand. What issues emerge?

    4. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude by maintaining a daily list of things you appreciate, including uplifting quotes.
    Keep it in one journal or in a separate section so that you can read through it all at once. When you feel down you can read through it for a boost of gratitude and happiness.

    5. Start a journal of self-portraits.
    You can take pictures, draw colors or shapes or collage images. Learn to love and accept yourself just the way you are today.

    6. Keep a nature diary to connect with the natural world.
    The world we live in is a magical and mysterious place. Record the things you notice about the sky, the weather, and the seasons.

    7. Maintain a log of successes.
    Begin by writing the big ones you remember, then regularly jot down small successes that occur during the week. As you pay attention, your list will grow and inspire you.

    8. Keep a log or playlist of your favorite songs.
    Write about the moods they evoke. When you hear a song that triggers a strong memory, write down how you feel and explore that time and space of your life.

    9. If there’s something you are struggling with or an event that’s disturbing you, write about it in the third person.
    This will give you distance and provide a new perspective. Write down what you learned about yourself.

    10. Develop your intuition.
    Write down questions or concerns then take a deep breath and listen for a response from your Higher Self. Let yourself write automatically. If you don’t get an answer right away, look for signs during the day.

    Hills says, “We all have dark days, black moods, and anxious feelings. Use writing in a journal to explore the darkness. You will find your inner light when you do.”

    My own journaling led me to realizing my boyhood was a lot more stressful than I thought. I had been repressing anger all my life, and I am 84 years old now. The anger came from my early years in Chicago during the 1930s Great Depression when my parents argued over not having enough money for apartment rent, food, clothing, even paying the utilities. There were millions like us, but I only felt what I saw around me at home every day. My parents divorced, then remarried, and it is too long a story to go into but it left me with feelings of abandonment and guilt that maybe I caused their divorce.

    Journaling led me to put myself in my parents’ shoes and I realize they doubtless had their own TMS pain from any number of causes. I began to forgive them in my mind, since they both were by now deceased. Forgiving them led me to forgiving myself.

    My journaling was by writing in a ledger each day for about 20 minutes, remembering everything I could about my boyhood, especially the first six or seven years which psychologists say are the years that form our personality and which we carry with us all our lives.

    I hope this post on journaling is helpful, and suggest you read other articles or chapters of books about this very important tool of TMS healing.
    Forest and yb44 like this.
  2. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you, Walt, for the summary and list. I'm not the world's greatest journal writer. I kept a gratitude journal for a while but that fell by the wayside after a consultation with a doctor. I record my dreams when I can remember them but that's about it. I really fancy some of the ideas above though, especially the art journal. I watched a PBS programme recently. The final segment featured a psychologist giving students a choice before a major exam. They could either sit for 10 minutes in silence or they could write down their thoughts and feelings regarding taking the exam. Those who chose the latter option scored higher grades than the students who hadn't completed the written exercise.
    Forest likes this.
  3. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you, Walt, for this excellent post.
    This reminds me of the benefits that I see people getting from our Structured Educational Program. Just doing the writing has all sorts of positive benefits.

    Speaking of the SEP, how did you learn to journal, Walt? Dr. Sarno doesn't write much about journal writing in his books. Did you ever do the SEP?
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I found that instruction on how to do journaling was confusing, so I just did it my way.
    I didn't do it using the SEP because at that early time in my TMS knowledge I didn't know aboute SEP.
    Now I see that would be very helpful in journaling.

    I didn't divide my journaling into topics or times (boyhood, adult), or by topic.
    I just wrote each day for about 20 minutes about whatever came to mind that had to do
    with a stressful memory or situation, past or present. It led me mostly into my boyhood
    and I discovered I was a lot angrier about those years than I thought, and was repressing the anger
    against my parents and brother. That led me understanding them better, that they most likely had
    their own TMS repressed emotions, and that helped me to forgive them. That helped heal my back pain.

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