This post is by Valerie Rice of The Tiny Couch.
Journaling: Good Vs.Evil
We have probably all heard about the therapeutic technique of journaling. Some of us might even keep a journal or diary on our nightstands, even if we only use it sporadically. Well, that’s cool, but do you really know why? I truly hope you are doing so under supervision. You may wonder why but like any technique used in therapy, there are good and bad outcomes. If you have mental illness, this is not something you want to wander into blindly. So I am more than happy to give you the rundown.
When you hear this term you probably think about pen to paper and deep dark secrets. You are correct. It is also a written record of your daily events. Or a collection of emotional vomit, artistic renderings frantically done at midnight, and post-modern poetry. It is basically any way that you purge your mind onto paper. For the average person, this is not a biggie. They just write how their day went, who they had lunch with, and possible plans to see the next predicted blockbuster. Cool, right? Helps them unwind, sort of a habit, and off to dreamland. For those with mental illness, this process serves a different purpose and has different results.
Starting a journal has many benefits for mental health. First off, it can help you identify your emotions. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between anger and sadness, but writing a few sentences about an event that spawned the emotion can help you sort it out. It also can help reduce the intensity of emotions. Like I said, the act of writing helps to siphon the emotion from your mind. And it helps you solve your problems. A journal is like scratch paper for feelings. By organizing your thoughts on paper you can see them better, much like you would arrange math factors, in order to solve problems. It is a nifty little trick that builds brain power and can help you feel better. For a closer look, click here.
There are a few things that can go wrong with this process. For some people, journaling can become an obsession. It takes over and you become lost in your own head, too focused on the negative to regulate your emotions. What does this mean? It means you are stuck in a negative loop. You can also end up disconnecting from your life, or viewing your life in third person, so that you are no longer participating but analyzing. Your life is not a nature documentary and you are not an otter. That whole thing about problem solving I mentioned above was great, right? Well, not everyone is good at math either, so sometimes you start finding the wrong answers and use your own thoughts to validate them. Don’t know what I mean? Well, If you are in a bad place you just might blame yourself for it, and reinforce those thoughts with your journal. We really don’t want that.
My brain automatically wants to tell you to journal with professional supervision. This is because a counselor will be able to help you better identify the thought patterns that are negative and assist you in solving the problems that end up with the wrong answers. It also helps to share your inner demons with someone empathetic. Just shedding light on them can make them shrink and keep them taking control. I’m not saying this just because I am a counselor but because I have done it too. I was not one who could journal without supervision. The difference between getting lost in my personal darkness and having a friendly voice makes all the difference, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Ready, Set, Go
Well, now you know. Are you going to grab a spiral and pe or chuck it in the bin? It is entirely up to you. At this point I am much more satisfied using a sketch book and a combination of pencils and oil pastels. I find them more effective for my expression. Besides, I spend all day writing things, I need a bit of a break. So whatever you decide, go into it armed with the knowledge to do what is best for YOU. And, as always, be well.
As a graduate of the University of Phoenix and a single mother of four rambunctious children, I decided to take my life lessons and super expensive education and put them to use. Thanks to the pandemic and a rapidly failing body, I just don’t have the option to work in person anymore. I joined the ranks of online writers and gurus who flood the internet with information. Having pledged to use my powers for good, I go the extra mile and make sure my information is backed by science and peer reviewed evidence.
You can visit Valerie Rice on her blog The Tiny Couch.