The Journal

Written by on May 1, 2012 in On Healing

The idea of healing is one typically associated with sickness, trauma or damage of some kind, but the world heal comes from the old English word “haelan” which means, literally, “to make whole.” I like this term “to make whole.” Feeling less than whole is near universal feeling. When we are born we are united with our mother and with the cutting of the umbilical cord we experience our first separation. I don’t want to sound too Freudian here, but feeling separate and fragmented is one of our first experiences as a human being.

And after that the experiences of life breaks us apart into thousands of little pieces and like a machine whose parts have been separated we put ourselves back together seeing how everything intersects and understanding our natures with new clarity and wisdom. Sometimes I watch my kids take apart some toy or appliance that is no longer useful and the joy they derive from figuring out how it works by putting it back together or simply observing how it belongs together is similar to the joy of putting one’s psyche back together through healing, or making whole. Healing therefore is not fixing what is broken as much as it is reassembling what has been separated. There is tremendous satisfaction and joy in not only the reparation process but in the education of the self that inevitably follows.

Just as each of us are unique individuals, the process of making ourselves whole will also be unique. There are many modalities for healing and all them all tools for doing just such. I am often asked at speaking events or book clubs how I healed from my childhood trauma. It is quite a loaded question too in part because there is no easy answer. I am not entirely clear on the matter myself. Healing is one part conscious and one part unconscious. There is a power that moves beneath the surface of our awareness that facilitates, motivates and inspires healing. It is purely mysterious and probably not meant to be understood with the conscious mind. The other power is in awareness and action.

The Journal

One very helpful tool for healing has been the journal. There are some who say that they don’t like to write, it’s cumbersome and boring. Others say, they get a journal or a notebook only to forget to use it. Still others say “I am not a writer.” While each one of these reasons are valid I have found the journal to be far more versatile. Here are some uses I have found for the journal:

1. Free Writing: Writing quickly and without forethought whatever comes to mind no matter how silly or irrelevant it seems. Letting what is inside flow onto the page. Free writing can be a very effective tool for relieving stress and getting a window into what is going on beneath the surface of my thoughts.

2. Imaging: This practice is similar to free writing only I use images to express feelings, ideas, worries etc. Stick people can be wonderfully expressive. Doodling is relaxing and informative as symbolism of the unconscious. It feels good too, like I am releasing onto the page what I had previously been holding inside.

3. Writing with my non dominant hand: This technique is useful for getting in touch with my inner child. It has helped me on numerous occasions when I had conflicting feelings that I couldn’t sort out. I discovered that my adult self was censoring my child self. By giving my child a chance to speak I have been able to bring aspects of childlike wonder and humility back into my life.

4. Recording Dreams: While dream work is a separate modality for healing I still think it is useful to simply record dreams that seem different or dreams I find myself thinking about long after I awaken in the morning. Just the act of writing them out can relieve stress if nothing else.

5. Letter Writing: Sometimes I will write a letter to myself, either past or future self to gain insight. Or I will write a letter to a parent or some other individual with whom I am harboring resentment or anger toward. If I know that the letter will not be sent I allow myself to vent, rage, and spew my feelings all over the page. This is not only cathartic but informative. We often lie to ourselves about how we feel toward others because we shouldn’t feel the way we do. Letter writing can help us see what we have hidden. I always keep the letter until I don’t care about it anymore and then I ceremoniously burn it to let it go.

There are many more creative uses for the journal in terms of healing but I have found it to be a simple and basic for of deepening my understanding of myself and greater awareness of my patterns and behaviors.

Books and References:

Walking in This World by Julia Cameron

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

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