The quick answer: yes yes yes! Journaling is a powerful tool for healing. I’m passionate about teaching journaling to my clients (you can learn with me here). Often the most basic & simplest things are the ones that work! Yet, we find it so hard to believe that a pen and paper are the power tools for healing huge, insurmountable problems we’ve battled with for years. Ones that cause us so much pain.

You know what is right for you – all the answers are in there somewhere!

You might not always believe in yourself or feel confident enough to follow your own rules, but when you get out of your head and into your heart, that is where the magic happens. Your heart knows what feels right for you! I love seeing Wildhearts start to lean in and trust themselves. It happens when you decide that you’re ready.

So, are you ready?

There isn’t a one-size cure all approach to healing trauma

Of course, there are also some fundamental requirements beginning with safety. There are different stages of healing and you won’t know what you need until you get there. Again, it’s about learning to listen to your body and trusting it. You’ve very likely been taught to tune out from your emotional body and put your attention elsewhere. I would imagine on other people or somewhere outside of you. ‘Mummy knows best’ or some Guru or teacher is coming to save you and make it better.

Meet yourself where you are

When I first entered therapy in my late twenties, I was so emotionally dysregulated that there was no space for tools and techniques. I was full to the brim with pain, suppressed feelings masked by anxiety, stuck grief and frozen parts of me that I had pushed away. I was traumatised, and had been living my life in survival mode.

Safety first above all else

I simply needed to get it all out. I could have done that in my journal, but with a therapist, I was able to create safety. For the first time in my life, somebody was there for me. They really listened and heard me. They listened without an agenda, or without shushing me, or telling me to get over it, or dismissing my reality as absurd or over the top. Over time, I built trust with my therapist knowing that my words wouldn’t be used against me at a later date, like they had been in the past. It felt strange to sit with somebody so calm and friendly who knew how to be with me when my feelings were fizzing over like an exploding can of pop.  

‘You’re not too much for me!’ she kindly reassured me with a smile. I knew she meant it. Probably one of the many soothing things she said and I loved to hear.

Finally, I was safe and was welcome here

I had a strong trauma response which meant that I couldn’t be still and quieten my mind. I wouldn’t slow down. I kept myself busy. I was running from myself. This is the ‘flight’ trauma response.

I was rebellious to affirmations. Why don’t they work? This is BS. I didn’t actually believe a word of it. I couldn’t let it in. It’s all lies.

I winced at the word meditation. Sitting alone in the silence created too much space for a past, much younger version of me to pop up and flood my body with feelings of helplessness, powerlessness and terror.

I was allergic to the word mindfulness. I was not living in the present because my brain was on red alert, busy scouting out what might go wrong in the future, or being haunted by the past in ways which I seemingly had no control over.

I wasn’t listening to myself

I wasn’t ready to do those things that they said I should do. The more I tried and failed, the more I believed there was something seriously wrong with me.

This was not the case at all.

My therapist taught me that my body was having an appropriate reaction to all the hurt and trauma I had experienced as a child. She explained that whilst I still carried it inside of me, it would continue to control my life. She also explained that it made sense why I couldn’t do those things like meditate and chant affirmations. It hadn’t been safe for me to meet myself in such an intimate way. Again, her words were like a warm hug.

My initial response was one of anger: ‘Why don’t people know about this stuff?’ I felt ashamed for not knowing, but how could I know when nobody had taught me? On reflection, I can see why I was drawn to journaling. I wished I had an off switch for my mind so I could relax. In order to get some respite from the relentless chatter that plagued me day and night, I was going to have to try a different approach. I swapped ignoring, distracting and running from my mind for the complete opposite. I put my attention there. It was time for me to listen. Instead of seeing it as the enemy, I befriended it and I let it in. I began by writing out my thoughts. I had read that getting them out on paper lessened their power. This was true and it worked.

Having somebody listen to me helped me tune back in and listen

My therapist consistently responded patiently, with compassion, with kindness, with curiosity and with so much positive regard for me as a ‘good’ person. Through this safe relationship, I was able to become aware of my emotional body, listen to my gut feelings, and trust my intuitive hunches. Once I understood how these parts of me worked, then I could start to do that for myself. Journaling then became more than writing out streams of consciousness. It was another layer to that self-affirming process that I could do by myself outside of sessions.

Writing opens up a channel for self-expression. To heal, we need to be seen & heard.

Ultimately, trauma disconnects us from ourselves. So, if healing is reconnecting with the self, then journaling is the path back home. Writing fostered a more loving relationship with myself. Daily chats from me to me, quiet time to reflect and go within. I made time to listen to my thoughts, feelings, hopes, desires and dreams as much as I listen to everybody else’s.

Journaling was my form of meditation and mindfulness

Journaling was enjoyable once I had scribbled down the relentless inner critic and the intrusive thoughts. When I was able to be creative and bring myself to the paper, I began to develop my own daily practice.

Resistance to write is self-protection

Some days I didn’t feel like writing, but it turns out I wasn’t procrastinating or being lazy. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to write or I wasn’t asking the right questions. It was that I was afraid of what I might uncover about myself in the dark corners of my scattered mind. You can imagine my surprise when journaling helped me discover, there is so much right with me.

I see myself so differently now. The more I write, the more I love who I am, the more confident I feel.

I exorcised my demons and took back my power

When you get those words out on paper, it takes their power away. When they stay locked in your mind, they haunt you every day. They control the narrative. Over and over on loop that nasty inner critic, that shaming self-talk, that relentless taskmaster picks away at your humanness. Through journaling I discovered my voice, the truth that had been locked away, buried deep in the darkness. I found it under layers of guilt, shame and terror. I allowed ALL my feelings to surface – yes, I was allowed to have them privately in my journal without judgement. I stopped editing and judging myself so harshly. I was free to be me!

Coming back home to myself

Journaling soothed my mind and over time, I slowly began to connect to my body. I wanted to move. So, I took up dancing. I felt grounded and confident as I moved to the music. I didn’t resist or fight it. I noticed that I didn’t disappear into my head so much. I was present for the first time. I felt at peace. I smiled. The music brought me so much joy.

How to start a daily journaling practice

Remember what is in my healing toolkit (you’ll find it in this episode of The Wildheart Diaries), might not be in yours, but I highly recommend you give journaling a try. Here are some pointers to get your started:

1. Claim this as your private space to be you. Don’t edit yourself. Don’t write as if somebody else is going to read it. Just write the truth. The raw unfiltered you. If you must, write digitally on an iPad and then delete it.

When you sign up to my newsletter, I gift you a downloadable Pretty Podcast Notepad – you can journal while you listen to The Wildheart Diaries

2. Create a comfy space where you feel safe. Blankets, candles, relaxing music, a cup of tea, whatever you need.

3. Find your time of day where you can think and write uninterrupted. If you’re a night owl, you might prefer to journal before you go to sleep. I prefer to journal in the morning as my brain fires up as soon as I open my eyes and it gives me a clear head to focus on my day.

4. Write unedited for at least 10 minutes a day. Don’t judge it, get curious. Just let the words fall on the page. If you really are pushed for time, open a notes page on your phone and when you’re queuing or instead of scrolling The Gram, type out your thoughts. At the very least, this will bring your attention to the crap you’re telling yourself.

5. If you struggle with what to write, just write what your brain is thinking. Give yourself permission to be messy with it. Let your words amble around the page and over time, you will get more clarity, deeper insight and grow more trust in yourself. I share my daily journaling practice and some of the ways I stay inspired and on track here.

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