The Power of Our Own Reflection
A couple of days before the new year my partner of twenty three years made it very clear in their unspoken actions that our relationship was over.
At first I was in shock, then denial, then anger, followed by profound sadness and grief. I felt like my heart had been stamped on a thousand times and then more. The ending felt harsh, abrupt and disrespectful of the journey we had both travelled. In reality, it had been a long time coming. All in the same week I found myself at the end of my final session of weekly therapy that had been a part of my life for the last eighteen months. Talk about when it rains, it pours.
I quickly found myself up against the hard edges of life.
It felt like life had handed me lemons. Life felt raw, extremely vulnerable, and incredibly uncertain. The things I had taken for granted like a lovely home and a partner whom I still loved, had literally disappeared from the pages of my story in the space of twenty-four hours.
During this time my journal was an essential companion. Its pages past and present helped me to navigate a way through the turbulence, and to come through the abyss without collapsing into the black hole of depression.
I browsed through ten years worth of journals and there in the cold light of day, I could see clearly in black and white, was the writing on the wall. I could see re-occurring patterns emerging from the pages. There was no denying their existence. The patterns and themes I chose to overlook and dismiss were screaming out from the pages. For years my journal circumnavigated the truth about my relationship; the doubts, fears, and discontent I hadn’t wanted to face.
To a larger extent my journal already knew what the problem was. It just needed me to catch up.
I began to realize that my early history of childhood abuse causes me to freeze up when confronted with emotional difficulties and complexities. I find it hard to walk away when I feel deep love and tenderness for someone, even when it strangles and stifles me. I am really afraid of letting go first. Had I really paid attention to the truth of my own handwriting, I may have arrived at a different place in my life, having made different decisions and choices.
Women in particular benefit from the rigour and the undeniable grace that comes with keeping a journal.
The quiet moments of contemplation, inquiry or reflection in front of the pages of your journal can be incredibly revealing, insightful, and provide the inner guidance and direction that many women long for.
Whether your journal is a place for unravelling your day or week, further extending your thinking, or a container for incubating creative dreams and projects, your journal is essential to your growth in terms of your spiritual, emotional and psychological well being.
A journal provides the potency of a mirror, which may be one of the reasons many individuals resist journaling as navel gazing. It is human nature to fight against facing ourselves, to avoid hanging out in our own good company. But when used consciously and with awareness, your journal can be an accurate source of information and data for making sense of what matters, what’s important, and what needs to change.
So how can you harness this life force of energy and information that’s available through the power of journaling?
Here’s what has helped me:
Stay committed to creating a regular writing appointment with my journal each week.
On its pages I engage in writing about my daily encounters and experiences. Journaling does not require setting aside long periods of time to write. In my workshops I suggest writing in seven or ten minute blocks.
There are certain rituals I adhere to with my journal. Quarterly and annually, I retrace my steps. I do this using a highlighter pen as I trawl through pages, on the look out for re-occurring events and experiences. I question myself and hypothesize over what might be going on.
I also balance journal entries by recording and documenting the good stuff. I do like allowing the black and white of the journal to capture specific and concrete details of the daily or weekly good things. Like the towering buildings looming in a city skyline, you need the good things to stand out on your pages as monumental reminders, so they’re visible and easy reminders when it feels like life sucks.
Another way of interacting with my journal includes posing questions to myself that hijacks the familiarity of the comfort zone.
I stretch myself to answer questions based on journal entries that play with my growing edges, and challenge me to step beyond what feels comfortable and familiar. Questions like: What is the writing pointing to? What did you not write about that deserves to be written? What is difficult to absorb or take on board right now? What would your writing have you write about today/right now? What’s missing? What got left out? What have you overlooked?
Or perhaps you are more inclined to do as one of my clients does, to get down your thoughts in your notebook or journal and then without returning back to read, get rid of it all.
Whatever approach you take, know that you are the author of your own life and that you will know how to make best use of the time with your journal.
Sometimes I liken the pen I journal with to be a fishing net. I am the fisherwoman standing at the shore of my life casting my net into the ocean. The pen can stay on the surface of my life or it can seep beneath the surface into the deeper territory of my inner life, making contact with the unconscious and the invisible.
During this time the pen becomes the eye that Theodore Roethke writes about, “In a dark time the eye really sees.” It is during times like this that the soul is broken open, not for the worse, but for the better. In the process of writing about the recent changes in my own life, my journaling morphed into a journey of spiritual awakening and discovery. The words of this quote from the Course In Miracles lingers in the air, “The holiest of all the spots on the earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.”
Finally, I am in touch with the unmistakable self-love my soul longs to connect me with.
All wounds when witnessed and given loving attention will, in time, heal. Time and love are both essential healing modalities for the journey of life. I am on that journey and thankful to my journal for its guidance, truth telling and infinite wisdom.