Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I think it is beneficial to journal.

A journal can become a sort of relational experience, in which the journal becomes your confidant; in this way the journal experience becomes something similar to a psychotherapy experience (e.g. the journal may become a non-judgmental, accepting, well-framed safe place for exploring ideas, feelings, joys, and problems).

As with all other relational experiences, some tactics can work better than others:

A psychotherapy experience is likely to be quite limited if the only things spoken are descriptions or repetitions of problems, with no response from the therapist.

Likewise, I believe that a journaling experience will be very limited if it involves only the documentation of problems or sorrows.

I think the experience of journaling can be much more powerful and therapeutic if "the journal" can offer empathy, support, or advice. Here, the "point of view" of "the journal" would need to be composed by you, the author.

A cognitive-behavioural model of journaling can include this idea more clearly: here, every problem or issue related in the journal would be written in one column, with the adjacent column devoted to "talking back" to the problem or issue, either through reassurance, empathy, advice, analysis, problem-solving approaches, etc. It may seem not to be very genuine to "force" such a "talking back" when you may not feel in any mood to write down a supportive comment about your journal entry. But as an exercise, frequently repeated, it can start to train your mind always to "talk back" to various symptoms, recurring negative thought patterns, or "negative self-talk".

So I encourage such a style of journaling, in which every sorrow or symptom is always "talked back to" in the next column.

Another role of journaling can be as a creative outlet, which I think is independently therapeutic. Here, the journal could include descriptions of your day, but also other creative forms such as poetry, drawings, photographs, video, audio recordings, other media, etc.

It can be satisfying to have an experience of your journal as a place to do work and have a sense of accomplishment. The beginning of the accomplishment can be simply to maintain the frame of keeping your journal regularly. Further accomplishment comes from your journal becoming a place in which problems are addressed, examined, worked through, and solved. Or a place where the joys of your life can be celebrated.

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