Journaling is Cathartic

pen writing notes studying
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“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

Way back in my school days it was general practice for teachers to hand out lines for some minor infraction in behaviour or class work. This would consist of, for example, having to write out one hundred times ” I will not misuse the blackboard in the teachers absence”. I took this punishment seriously and used the repetition of lines to improve my italic writing. Some creative teachers elected for students to copy a page or two from a book of their choice. This was much harder for me as I would haunt the library for hours trying to find the perfect book, the perfect page, to impress the teacher with my wisdom and knowledge. Where other boys dreamed of being a famous football star or leader of the known universe I would fantasize about being a monk in a monastery copying the ancient texts. I also loved the images of Bob Cratchit in the Christmas Carol sitting at his high desk, head bent over the Day Book keeping accounts for Scrooge. Even though I’m glad I never lived the actual experience of Mr. Cratchit, I found these imaginings calm and restful

After leaving school at fifteen I tried to write creatively for fun but my mind would not respond and so I became content with copying down my favorite poems and keeping a diary. I was very much a loner in those days, had zero confidence and would blush furiously whenever anyone told a dirty joke or talked about sexual escapades. As a teenager it was impossible to escape the sex topic. Even though I had a group of friends I felt that I had nothing in common with them, rarely participated in their discussions and just nodded and agreed to their comments. I often found speech so inadequate and wished that people could just communicate with their minds.  I understand now that this was extreme laziness on my part. When I was sixteen I fell in love for the first time. We worked in the same office and every time she spoke to me I would just blush and stammer and look down. It was then that I started writing my thoughts in a diary/journal. I would write how much I adored and loved her and would do anything for her. I would write a hundred times I love you, still practicing my italic writing. She was in a long term relationship with a boy so I knew it was pure fantasy on my part but a very nice fantasy. I eventually got over my shyness with her and we came to enjoy each others conversation. Then she came into work one day and confided that she had split with her boy friend. I asked her out, we dated for two months and then she got back with her boy friend and a year later they were married. I was invited to the wedding. I found that when I was under stress or had some difficulty concerning people I would return to journaling my experiences and thoughts. It certainly helped to clarify my feelings and work out any emotional issues I had.

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time
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People who spend time writing carefully about themselves become happier, less anxious and depressed and physically healthier. They become more productive, persistent and engaged in life. This is because thinking about where you came from, who you are and where you are going helps you chart a simpler and more rewarding path                    Jordan Peterson

In my early forties I was part of the RCIA team (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) for St. John of the Cross Catholic Church. We used journaling as a counselling method to help people coming into the church to feel a renewal or awakening in their life’s journey. We asked the participants to spend the first fifteen minutes in prayer reflecting on any negative emotions they were holding for family members, co-workers etc. We then asked them to spend an hour journaling these negative emotions and come up with some ways to dispel them. We then gathered all the journals, placed them in an urn and set a match to them consigning them to the past. This was a symbolic gesture to erase negative emotions from the mind and rise like the Phoenix from the ashes. Putting problems in writing helps to understand them a little better by actually thinking them through as we put pen to paper

When I was fifty we moved and in decluttering I decided to trash all my old journals as I no longer read them and had not journaled for a while. I stopped journaling and reading non-fiction and instead turned to reading fantasy fiction (elves, dwarves, magical swords) just for the sheer escapism of it all. Now twenty years on I have discovered Jordan Peterson on YouTube…. and he said Tidy Your Room, Stand Up Straight, Pet a Cat If You See One In The Street….and I said but I’m seventy years old…..and he said Pursue What Is Meaningful Not What Is Expedient, Be Precise In Your Speech, Do Not Lie (to yourself or others). So I’m now trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. See. It never ends, it just keeps on going.

The last entries in my journaling ( I never trashed this book for I had only used two pages) :

Friday. September 2,1988.  While jogging had strong visualization of birth of creation as mating of good and evil energy. Evil as anti-life and Good as allowing life to exist and flourish, Two forces forever competing.  Jogged 10K. 46min 3 sec.

Saturday: September 3, 1988.   Went to library. Selected following. Human Engineering- John Langone;  Test Tube Life-Gerald Snyder. Decided to start scrapbook on development of life, articles, pictures etc.

Sunday: September 4, 1988. Kevin White (my nephew) cycled with me while I jogged 10k. 45min. 25 sec. Started practicing my yoga asanas using visualization in assuming postures.I am hopeless at head stand. Find I am not able to get sufficient time for meaningful meditation. Will have to work on it.

Published by lensdailydiary

Born Stepney, London, England. Emigrated to Canada. Married, two children, six grandchildren. Retired. Conservative and cultural catholic. LOVE soccer. Tottenham Hotspur. Read historical and fantasy fiction..

2 thoughts on “Journaling is Cathartic

  1. I learned that just trashing my old journals never helped me alleviate the painful emotions and memories I felt when I put the pen to paper. It was only when I burned them that the sense of relief and freedom from all that no longer served me rose up like the Phoenix from the ashes. But journaling pen to paper really does transfer energy from the psyche. And just like you, I found that journaling helps a lot when I’m under stress and have difficulty concerning people. I love what you wrote. ❤️


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