The Benefits of Journaling

Keeping a journal can help with self-expression, self-exploration, and healing.

A journal is a safe place where you can share what you wish, how you wish to share it. In many instances of our lives, we find ourselves in situations where we either cannot or will not express our true feelings. This is often because we do not feel safe or it may not be appropriate. To squelch these aspects of ourselves is to allow unprocessed unconscious motivations to direct our lives and thus live a life that we may not be satisfied with. With a journal, we can express such things without fear of attack or external consequences. Through practice, we develop the ability to express ourselves better in the moment and determine when it is safe to do so.

Through expression, we grow to understand ourselves better. We begin to explore new aspects of ourselves that don’t present themselves in regular circumstances. We discover what makes us who we are. We discover what gives us passion and what evokes our emotions. It is through this learning and understanding that we grow to love ourselves. Because we love ourselves, we seek out that which improves our circumstances and avoid that which harms us, and our quality of life is enhanced.

As our lives get better, there is a reprieve of the stress and trauma that has harmed us, and thus we can heal our psychic wounds. With the love, understanding, and acceptance that we have learned from exploring ourselves, we can heal our pains. We can release events and traumas that have so burdened our lives. The relief that comes to our psyche allows us to express, explore, and heal even more, thus shaping ourselves in a way so that we can live a fulfilled life.

There are other benefits to keeping a journal.

A journal aids in memory. If it is important, write it down. Journals are used to keep track of our habits. Many people keep a log of the sleep, exercise, and nutritional decisions. Undoubtedly, there are other benefits to keeping a journal as well.

Recording Parts Work through Typing

In 2010 I was introduced to the concept of “parts work”, or the idea that our psyches were made up of many different personalities that could be identified, addressed, and worked with as individuals. This revolutionized the way I approached myself in my quest for self-knowledge and has added a new element to my journaling, of recording conversations that I have with my parts. This article will focus specifically on how I use this style of journaling to connect with my protectors. 

The basic process, for those who aren’t familiar with parts work, is that I, as a connected and curious adult presence, go inside into my system and talk to the parts of me that are up around whatever issue I have identified at that point. It may be that I had an exchange with someone where I didn’t feel good about how I behaved, or questioning why I’ve lost motivation to do something I know is good for me, or any other kind of question. Once I make contact, I have a conversation with a part or parts of me who are connected to this issue in my life and try to learn what I can about why they influence me in the ways they do.

I usually start with my eyes closed and try to let myself freeflow type whatever is on my mind in regards to the issue at hand. I focus on how I feel and how the behavior affects me. I also will type out the things I say to my system in invitation to talk. An example of this may be that I’ll write “I’d really like to know more about why this happens. I’ve got space from the frustration (or sadness or whatever other emotion comes up in response to the behavior) and would like to know more.” 

Then, as the part engages with me, I close my eyes and hear what they say. After I make sure I understand what I heard, I’ll open my eyes and write a summary down. I use typing to do this because it’s faster than hand writing. While I do this, I am constantly checking in to make sure the wording I use is right, and will type out things like “No, the part says it’s actually more XYZ than what I just wrote” so that I can keep track of the corrections. 

I will also write out my response to what they say. This is how I keep track of my questions in response to the part and I think most importantly, show my growing understanding and appreciation of what they do for me. I place a huge focus on empathizing with and validating the work of my parts and I find that recording it as well as saying it to my parts is a way of giving that empathy and validation to them at double strength. When parts are seen and appreciated, they relax and open up to change and to updating themselves to the present day, so I find that being able to type out my statements as well as what I see in their reactions is a hugely powerful and often quick way to move closer to healing. 

Some examples of things I might say (when they come up genuinely) in this exchange are “Wow, your job sounds really lonely” or “I see where you’re coming from and I’m grateful you were there for me as a kid. Things would have been worse for me if you weren’t around” or “Thank you for telling me about you, I know it’s scary and vulnerable and I’m grateful you felt safe enough to share”. 

I use this approach to make connection, establish trust, and express empathy to my protectors. It is certainly possible to meet and unburden exiles and I have done so this way on occasion, but I primarily use this approach to get more understanding of an area in general.

Why I Audiojournal

I have been a recording musician since I was 18. Several years ago it occurred to me to talk into one of my microphones. What a thought! Since then I have used a number of mics and eventually settled on a setup that suits me. I audiojournal because I speak faster than I type, basically. I like having audio recordings of my thoughts because I can listen back to them when I’m doing some sort of activity that requires my eyes to be focused on something other than reading.

Being able to speak my thoughts as they come to me has been a revelation in my journaling process. I simply sit or lay down with the microphone and yack away until the emotions have been processed, the memory has been revisited, the dream has been documented and analyzed, or the conflict has been looked at from every possible angle. I am able to cover much more ground than I would if I were handwriting or typing my thoughts out. There is a lot of depth that can be captured in an audio recording that is simply too complex to convey in a written or typed journal.

My basic purposes for journaling, in general, are that I have a desire to revisit the thoughts later and/or I want to add some structure to the thoughts. A lot of my emotional processing and experience processing simply occurs in my own head throughout the day. Journaling adds a dimension of structure than can be very important for working through my blind spots and moments of discomfort. Having this whole chain of events documented gives me insight later when I choose to relisten or reread what it is I went through.

I would recommend audio-journaling for those prefer listening to audiobooks or podcasts, for those would like to add more structure to their private thoughts, and for anyone who is a musician or music-inclined as it can be a delight to simply study your own voice.

When to Journal

When is it the right time to journal? There is no perfect time to journal, but certain moments may facilitate inner exploration.

Upon Waking:

Writing in a journal at the start of the day can really help set a good tone for the following hours. This is the best time for recording dreams in a dream journal as well, as they are still fresh. Coming from rest, there will be very little external distractions and errant thoughts that arise from events of the day, allowing for a more focused journaling session.

Before Bed:

Conversely, journaling before bed is a great way of reflecting upon the day. Concerns and thoughts may rattle around in our minds and make it difficult to rest and relax. A brief note before bed to aid morning memory might be all that is required to slip into a slumber.

During a Strong Emotional Response:

This is definitely the most difficult–and potentially the most rewarding–time to journal. A standard that I believe would be valuable to anyone interested in self-exploration would be to reduce the time between a strong emotional reaction and the processing and understanding such a triggering. Most likely, how we feel and what we write will be heavily blended with our active emotions–whether they are fear, anger, sorrow, excitement, or numbness–and we might not be able to return to our core perspective of curiosity, compassion, and love. But recording what is happening in the moment can better help us access those emotions again when we do regain our composure and are ready to explore.

After a Strong Emotional Response:

Sometimes a feeling will be so overwhelming that we cannot process it in the moment. We may perform any number of activities that help us to get space from the feeling, some examples of which are: sleeping, eating a good meal, partaking in a hobby, etc. The feeling has come and passed, and we have returned to our center. From there, we can reflect upon how we felt, what might have triggered the response, and how it relates to our history.

Whenever the Mood Strikes:

If there is a moment to spare and the desire is there, then it is the perfect time for us to start journaling and learning more about ourselves.

What is a Journal?

A journal is a safe and enjoyable place for self-expression, self-exploration, and ideally, healing.

For us to be able to freely express ourselves, we must know that what we share will not be viewed by others–unless permission is given. We have complete control over our space with no potential for intrusion. In the act of making it our own, we shape it in a means and method that we will enjoy. Because journaling is pleasurable and helps us find comfort, we will seek it out. It is not a chore or burden to journal, but an experience we enjoy of itself.

A journal is a place for self-expression. We can share whatever is on our minds–from what we did earlier that day to our deepest fantasies and yearnings. By expressing whatever comes to our minds, our thoughts will begin to explore themselves. Areas not commonly approached will come to the forefront of our consciousness, and we may grow and learn more about ourselves.

By learning more about ourselves, we learn self-love. We may explore areas that are dark and painful, but as we witness our trauma and shame and begin to love ourselves, then we can heal, transform, and reintegrate our lost aspects and become more enlightened, functional, and healthy individuals.