Being able to express yourself effectively is one of the most important aspects of relating to someone on a deep level. Words can change reality. In fact, some would say that words ARE reality. When I started my first journal years ago, I was verbally stunted.
And although I didn‘t know it at the time, my lack of verbal skills was stunting my emotional intelligence. At the beginning what I was writing was little more than a shallow diary type deal.
I was afraid someone would read it and discover something embarrassing about me, so I wrote as if it were out in the open for everyone to see. Which didn’t amount to more than “today I went to school and so-and-so said this to him and I told him to fuck off” and so on.
Sometimes I would even put in a little emoticon “:)” or something. As if I were writing a post on Facebook or MSN messenger.
Digging through an emotional past
e thing. Journaling is deeply personal. It can become a way for you to dig around in the darkest recesses of your psyche. My journaling habit has evolved so much over the last five years or so, and I’m incredibly grateful to my younger self for sticking with it.
It’s gone from being a shallow, facile skimming of my most superficial thoughts to being a daily reaffirming of my life’s purpose, organizing of my thought processes and a working through difficult emotions.
I used to only journal when I felt like it, but now I never miss a day. I’ve journaled every single day for almost a year, and I’ll never stop. It’s been life changing, and the benefits are still piling up.
I don’t have much experience writing or speaking publicly, but my years of journaling for myself have given me an easy flow with words, in conversation or in writing. I write in my native Icelandic but my general capacity for language has improved drastically, so even my English flows more naturally.
And these benefits keep getting more powerful exponentially. I feel like this last year my speech is getting more eloquent than ever before.
I remember a period of a few weeks during my travels in Central and South America three years ago, where I decided to really delve into childhood trauma. I wanted to see if difficulties in childhood were still affecting me as a grown man.
My clearest memory from that time is of myself, sitting on a stone bench under some palm trees on a quiet beach in Montezuma, Costa Rica. I just sat there with my little notebook on the table, crying uncontrollably.
I had just uncovered a traumatic memory of my 9 year old self, around Christmas. We were sitting at the dinner table, my sister, my mother, her then-boyfriend and his son, and myself. I had a stabbing pain in my neck, as if I had sprained it somehow.
After whining and generally expressing my pain for maybe ten minutes, my mother had had enough. She dragged me into the bedroom and looked at me with cold resentment in her eyes. Her eyes are what I remember most vividly.
She then proceeded to yank my head this way and that, yelling at me to stop crying. What she was trying to accomplish I have no idea. But I remember the shame, the sheer terror when we came out of the bedroom and sat back down at the table.
They all heard what had been happening, but nobody said a word. I quietly finished my food and went to my room.
Now when I actually allowed this memory to surface, and actively put myself in my nine year old self’s shoes and felt what he had been feeling, I experienced utter catharsis. It was like this repressed ineffable feeling had been weighing down on me for so long, and I had finally pushed it off.
Just the beginning
Then years later I read a book called CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker and it all finally made sense. CPTSD stands for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, implying a web of traumatic incidents.
If you suspect childhood trauma may be affecting your emotional well-being as an adult, I highly recommend it. It cleared up quite a few misconceptions I had about my upbringing. But I digress.
Since then I’ve managed to work through loads upon loads of difficult memories, feelings and doubts, and I’m not close to being done yet.
This is just one example of the awesome power of keeping a journal. My final advice is to keep it honest. You will gain nothing from lying to yourself. Admit your deepest fears and longings, open up to yourself. That’s the first step to opening yourself up to the universe.
And then you’ll be on the path to true emotional fulfillment.