At nearly 27 years old, it is safe to say that writing in a journal has been my lifesaver for many years. Acting as a spiritual guide and detailed snapshot into my own subconscious, it has brought awareness to many areas of my life that I – at the time – wanted to ignore. In many ways, the personal habit of writing landed me where I am today – making a living by way of expression through words.
I, as I’m sure you have too, have gone through many difficulties and challenges in life. From the loss of loved ones to getting scolded by a parent, there have been a plethora of instances where in the midst of pain I have instinctively reached for my journal as a source of clarity and solace.
During pain of any sort, it can feel like we are free-falling. Writing helped me hold on to the pieces of myself during times where I wasn’t sure I’d make it. However, at 20 years old, after me and my then-partner called off our wedding, I began the most important journey of my life: the Inner Journey. We are all familiar with the feeling of wanting to run from our emotions, and yet the beautiful thing about writing is that while it can still be difficult, writing allows for a safe space to navigate life’s ebbs and flows.
The idea I want to share with you today is this:
Writing, by hand, is a way to slow down and become radically present with your story as it is unfolding.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
you cannot outrun your own emotions
When I’m not writing for work, I’m writing for play. Specifically, writing as a way to facilitate healing. My purpose lives deeply in self-healing work and I thrive off of helping others (and myself, most importantly) see that they have all the tools to give themselves the healing they need. One thing I’ve realized is that you cannot outrun your own emotions. Inevitably, they will catch up with us, though we try hard to deter this truth.
Writing is bearing witness to your own story, and your journal and pen give you a safe space to show up authentically. Humans are innately narrative beings, and our identities hinge on the stories and beliefs we have about ourselves and one another. And oftentimes, we forget that we are in charge of the stories we tell about ourselves.
When life gets hard, we want to run. Run from every tsunami of emotions, every hard conversation, every opportunity to cry. What is much easier is choosing to be a victim. “Why me?” is a question I’ve asked myself many times, and while it would be easier to say life is unfair, it’s not. Life is challenging, beautifully terrifying, incredible and crushing at times – and the Universe allows things to unfold as they do for a purpose beyond my limited comprehension. Part of my healing journey is metabolizing my pain, integrating it into my life and discovering new ways to navigate it – and the most powerful way I’ve found so far is through writing.
Integration Welcomes Transformation
So, rather than running from our pain, what do we do?
Ask it some questions. Get to know it. Comfort the hurting parts of yourself that you’ve deemed too “dark” to show. Write someone who has hurt you a letter, and say everything you need to say.
Several years ago, during a rather depressive state in my life, I had a profound and simple realization:
that it was up to me to rewrite the stories I had about myself and my life.
You see, I grew up with parents who had rather difficult upbringings and have stayed in victim mentalities for most of their lives. They have adopted negative beliefs about themselves that they have carried for years and still do in many ways, that have impacted their entire trajectory of life. I love my parents dearly, and following this example was not something I desired for my life. Being the hero of my own story was what I truly wanted, and writing allowed me to see that the obstacles to be overcome in life are the potent, magical and dynamic moments in our lives that shape our personal stories.
Becoming the Hero
In order to become the hero of my story, I had to forgive those that had hurt me. I’m still working on this to this day, however I’ve made huge strides – reaching out to previous partners, writing letters to my parents, diving deep into my feelings and allowing myself the space to navigate them. I wrote many things down, things the people who had hurt me would never see. But the mere act of writing it all out, getting it out of my head and onto paper, was like soothing balm to every wound I’d been carrying for many years.
Writing is a way to release the negative narrative we carry and allow for something better to exist.
Self-compassion is the superpower I never knew I had that writing aided me in cultivating, along with gratitude. Having a gratitude practice is as simple as writing down five things you’re grateful for at the end of each day. However, humans are harsh storytellers of our own stories, we tend to dwell on the negative: the heartbreaks, the missed opportunities, the previous roads taken; and we allow our “inner editor” to manipulate us into thinking that we simply are no good. Writing is a way to release the negative narrative we carry and allow for something better to exist. It helps you slow down with your inner dialogue and change the script – because it’s all about how we tell the story of our lives.
Grief helped me see the healing power of writing, and grief can show itself in many forms: seeing a loved one struggle with addiction, experiencing divorce, losing a child, getting fired from a job, the list goes on. And the beautiful opportunity within each of those experiences and beyond is the chance to choose healing for oneself, to give yourself the space to feel.
If you were raised like me, you may have subconscious beliefs that say that the brave ones armor up and store their emotions away. Yet, the truly brave are the ones who welcome the unwelcome, and feel the difficult emotions life gives us.
I invite you to take ten minutes, starting today, to begin the healing power of journaling. Write down affirmations. Things you are grateful for. Maybe start with a prompt, like “Today, I feel:” or “What made today great?”. And maybe you’re thinking, “well, I don’t have ten minutes!” – yet, we scroll our phones. We send loving kindness to others in texts, emojis and voice messages; yet when was the last time you sent yourself words of love?
So tomorrow, simply begin. Allow pain to lead the way, and step into the role of the hero.