Truly we don’t know what we’re thinking until we write it down.
Our thoughts run riot while they’re still inside us. We chase them, grasping at the little buggers in the hope we can pin one down and interrogate it.
But this process becomes so much simpler when you just start writing down what’s on your mind instead. Don’t fuss over grammar or punctuation. Just let whatever comes, come. Consider it a stream of consciousness, a mental and emotional purge.
When I first started journaling it felt as though I was still chasing the thoughts onto the page. I couldn’t keep up or write fast enough. It felt as if putting them down on paper made them tangible, like I owned them.
Until I began to separate myself. Once you see your thoughts outside of yourself, made material through written word, you create a space between you and them. And this space allows you to become objective.
When you no longer feel their associated emotions, you realise that those thoughts were never really a part of you. They were moments that you’d clung to, moments that you’d turned into lifetimes.
False stories you’d tried to make true
You never owned those thoughts or stories. They owned you. And you allowed them to influence you, to change you and your life.
That’s okay, we all do it. But once you become the third party, the messenger between the head and the page, you can loosen your grip on old assumptions and attachments. Consider it self-therapy. We don’t always make the time for professional help. Nor do we always have someone to talk to in times of need. And there are things we’d have difficulty sharing with anyone anyway.
So purge as often as you need onto those private pages. Work through all the shit. And write like you talk, like you’re talking to yourself, which will help to uncover any unconscious narrative at play. The one that's running the show with all its learned histories and judgements.
We indulge in self-smack-talk all day, but often it's not until we see it written down that we wake up to it.
What you’ve written may not resonate at all with who you think you are or who you want to be. That narrative is the difference, the barrier, between what you have and what you want – between your external and internal worlds.
NLP tells we're running all manner of filters that separate our sensual-physical and mental-emotional experiences of the world. Whatever we see, smell, taste or touch will pass through a mesh of preconceived perceptions before it even reaches ‘us’. And, of course, those filters will mangle our response on its way out too.
So take note of what your unconscious tells you, of how it talks about you and to you. Are you abusive or compassionate? Do you have recurring patterns and put-downs?
Notice how your words shape your worlds, inner and outer.
Be impeccable with your word, as Don Miguel Ruiz writes in The Four Agreements: “It is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself”.
But don’t shy away from the shadow work. If you hide from the negative you will never be rid of it. Write about the shadows, draw connections between memories and beliefs, situation and emotions, unlearn the lies, rewrite your story and solve your mystery.
Transmute those shadows through the alchemy of your written word.
Julia Cameron encourages us to unleash this stream of consciousness as soon as we wake up. She calls the process ‘morning pages’ in The Artist’s Way , “they should be called mourning pages as they are a farewell to life as you knew it and an introduction to life as it’s going to be”.
Where your journaling begins to uncover ideas that need nurturing – when the cleansing process becomes creative. Dear diary may provide access your daemon, your genius. We all have one, an inner voice that just seems to know.
Only we don’t listen to it half as much as we should, all that inner wisdom is drowned out by mental static. Until, one day, out of that stream of consciousness pops a gem, an answer to a question, and something you’ve not been able to articulate takes form.
You begin to solve problems, to reprioritise your life and generally get your shit together, by getting over it first.
Let’s call it the meta-view, as if you were on a plane at the moment it breaks through the clouds, soaring up and out into those blue skies. That view never gets old. It makes us feel spacious inside. And infinite.
I love to journal and plan and dream when I’m up there. Something magical happens. And it can happen down here too – if we clear the cloud thoughts that crowd our inner infinite sky. The act of writing becomes an act of meditation. The thoughts flow out of our mind, through our fingers, onto the page. Gone.
The more you write about you and your life, the more you come to differentiate between what matters and what doesn’t. This is the alchemy, the act of breaking through, of turning your whining into your wisdom.
You are not your problems. You are not your beliefs. A very real part of you exists beyond your worries, doubts and stories. Your mind may encounter troubles, and yet you are not those troubles. You are something and someone infinitely more interesting.
Journaling is a lifelong practice of learning and healing. It is also a journey of self-discovery. Consider your diary to be your own sacred scripture, a means of witnessing yourself, reflecting on what you see and whether it is a reflection of who you truly are. It’s a way of awakening to the false context you’ve given your life so far, and discovering something much more expansive and exciting.
Your genius awaits.