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What are the benefits of writing a personal journal?

Updated on December 12, 2014

The Personal Journal - A tool for multi-level personal growth

The hours passed as phantoms in the darkness, what time the maiden had solaced herself with tears and took refuge in her solitude and grief. And when the violence of her feeling became heavy on her heart and unlocked the treasury of her secret thoughts, she took up a pen and her tears flowed with the ink. (Kahlil Gibran, A Tear and a Smile)

What if you had access to the perfect therapist? Perfect means that this therapist would be someone who would know every detail of your life without lengthy explanations, someone who could work from the inside your psyche on a level that transcends logic and reason to the realms of thoughts, feelings, and conditioned responses, etc. so that the therapist could develop a program or approach that would be perfectly suited to your needs to ensure that you were able to create the changes that you wanted in your life, whatever these may be.

If the therapist was truly perfect, he or she would be available for consultation or assistance anytime, day or night and for any length of time that you needed him or her. It would be pretty incredible but highly unlikely, even impossible to find such a therapist. It would be difficult to imagine and it is even a somewhat scary thought to think there could be someone with that keeness of insight to be able to get inside of your psyche.

Believe it or not, this therapist does exist and you have already have the contact information you need to make the first call for their assistance.

With a little encouragement, perseverance and candid expression, that therapist can be found within the realm of one's own being through the writing of a personal journal. It is a therapy which is available to anyone, in a social or economic level, any educational background, young or old. It is an open ended and neutral therapy that, when practiced, "progressively draws each person's life toward wholeness at their own tempo." (Ira Progroff, At a Journal Workshop).

The time given to the therapy is its own cost, apart from the minimal required materials. However, the rewards are potentially immeasurable. Personal journal writing is not advocated to be a substitute for therapeutic counseling. It can be used in conjunction with and as a complement to a counseling program. As Ira Progoff states in his book, At a Journal Workshop:

The effectiveness principle operating in journal writing is that, when a person is shown how to reconnect himself with the contents and continuity of his life, the inner thread of movement by which his life has been unfolding reveals itself to him by itself. Given the opportunity, a life crystallizes out of its own nature, revealing its meaning and its goal. This is the self-integrating principal of life which the journal procedure makes available to us as persons.

By allowing the person to draw upon inherent resources for the path to wholeness, the free expression of writing a journal can be an effective tool for self-understanding and development, spiritual enlightenment and emotional healing. The intimacy of journal writing is the key to the method.

For the reason above, the method of using a personal journal should be considered very carefully by anyone who desires to see progress in a self-understanding and development program. How does it achieve this? The journal provides feedback and/or a mirror to the events, thoughts and feelings, both past and present that are hidden or domant within the depths of one's own life. The journal can vitalize aspects of one's unconsciousness. In this process, giving rise to the the elements of the self that are unexplored and unflourished.

As this occurs, a person is able to nurture those unexplored interests, qualities, and aptitudes that otherwise might have never surfaced. Perhaps part of the reason those dormant aspects of the self surface is because of the creativity of childhood that has been retained in the adult unconscious mind. The process of journal writing helps an individual to tap into that creative reservoir.

Through the years, the free-flowing expression of children can become inhibited by guilt, anger, repressed feelings and ideas. Children are taught to revere authority and not trust their own judgements. This happens even with regard to personal belief systems. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, Dr. M. Scott Peck quotes theologian Alan Jones:

One of our major problems is that very few of us have developed any distinctive personal life. Everything about us seems second hand, even our emotions. In many cases, we have to rely on secondhand information in order to function. I accept the word of a physician, a scientist, a farmer, on trust. I do not like to do this. I have to because they possess vital knowledge of living which I am ignorant. Secondhand information concerning the state of my kidneys, the effect of cholesterol, and the raising of chickens, I can live with. But, when it comes to questions of meaning, purpose and death, secondhand information will not do. I cannot survive on secondhand faith in a secondhand God. There has to be a personal word, a unique confrontation, if I am to come alive.

For personal growth to take place, an individual must feel some meaning and purpose in his/her existence - whether it is God, Buddha, Allah, or the higher self, there has to be some kind of spiritual element in a person's life. The person journal can be of assistance in tapping into an individual's own spiritual realm.

Making the Intangible Tangible

All this I have seen and heard and yet, I am a child. In truth shall I hear and see the deeds of youth, and grow old and attain perfection and return to God. (Kahlil Gibran, A Tear and a Smile)

Inviting the spiritual aspect, the sense of the divine, is part of the journal process. Previously untapped knowledge comes to surface. The person begins to understand the meaning of his personal existence and it is almost like a religious experience, as described by Ira Progoff:

It establishes a person's sense of his own being by enriching his inner life with new experiences of a creative and spiritual quality. Since these experiences happen to him and are recorded by him in his Intensive Journal, when they are actually taking place, each person accumulates a tangible and factual validation of his personal growth as it is in progress.

The growth process is comprised of elements described by Progoff as being "exceedingly elusive". They are subjective feelings, states of mind, and emotions. He says the intangible, elusive essence is the life of the spirit.

The journal is one means of making the intangible tangible by reflecting the movement of the psyche to itself. This is something that cannot be learned secondhand. Spiritual growth is an awareness that comes from within. As stated by Dr. Peck:

The journey of spiritual growth requires courage and initiative and independence of thought and action. While the words of the prophets and assistance of grace are available, the journey must still be traveled alone.

Courage, initiative, independence of thought are all necessary components for making the personal journal an effective tool. one of the strong advantages of using the person journal is that the process can be tempered to meet and individual's needs. Self-discipline is a vital tool which can be nurtured along the way as commitment is important to the process, as is continuity.

Also important in the journal writing process is what Ira Progoff refers to as "the dimensions of experience" which is a composite of various inner experiences that have an individual value and also a collective value in relation to other aspects. The format and techniques that Progoff suggest in his book are powerful devices for illumination of the individual to the meaning and purpose of life experiences.

These are important because of the value for finding the underlying threads that connect one's live together and relate the events to the meaning and purpose of one's life as a whole. The inner acceptance of the divine spiritual element, the recognition of meaning and purpose in one's life and being able to understand the dimension of experience in context can be a major key to emotional healing.

When giving meaning and purpose, emotional pain can become a tool rather than a burden. Relating emotional pain to problems and difficulties in our lives, Dr Peck states that:

Problems call for our courage and wisdom, indeed they create our courage and wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems.

Ira Progoff offers a variety of techniques in his book, At a Journal Workshop, for dialoguing with people, events, society, and the body. An individual is challenged to confront the situation in his/her life that caused the emotional pain and give meaning to them. The process of mapping out one's life events and experiences helps one to recognize the significance of the events as a path, and choices as crossroads. One can begin to understand the roots of present habits and emotional states, etc. The lack of understanding inhibits recovery and stifles growth, whereas the process of confrontation and dialoging, while a very emotional process, can encourage growth at a very rapid pace.

The personal journal is a trusted confidant. It reflects the internal friend, the one person who is ultimately affected by what happens to us. The personal journal is also the safe, protected space that no one can violate. One can shout and scream, talk to or plead with, in dialogue form, to those who might have been hurtful or who might have been hurt by the individual. one can say whatever he/she wants to say without fear of hurting a relationship irrevocably or endangering a growing sense of strength and autonomy.

Emotional pain comes from being utterly dependent upon one or more people for some sense of personal worth and then being let down sometimes in an abusive and shaming way.

Emotional healing begins when we can see ourselves objectively and untatined by the negative influences of abuse, manipulation, jealousy and neglect.

Capturing Inner Wisdom

Progoff states that one of the most important elements of the journal process is what he calls the dialogue with "inner wisdom". At certain points throughout a person's life, they have thoughts of the infinite, even if these are fleeting fragments, which provide glimmers of untainted truth in the spiritual dimension.

In the journal process, as one remembers these infinite thoughts and captures them when they occur, a phenomenon takes place which broadens their realm of understanding. The self-limiting factors become lessened, and painful experiences become stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks.

In the stillness of the night, wisdom came and stood by my bed. She gazed up at me like a tender mother and wiped away my tears and said, "I have heard the cry of your spirit and I am come to comfort it. Open your heart to me and I shall fill it with light. Ask of me and I shall show you the way of truth." (Kahlil Gibran, A Tear and a Smile)

The process of personal journal writing can allow a full spectrum growth experience to take place. It can open and enhance self-understanding as well as help a person to tap into his or her own spiritual awareness, however latent it may seem. It can be a key to emotional healing.

At the very least, the journal is therapeutic. Above and beyond that, the potential rewards are immeasurable. By reflecting one to the self, it is possible to find the power center, the life force that comes from connecting with the divine source of wisdom that encompasses all of life.

And when my reflecting had set me apart from the flesh, and my imaginings lifted the covering of matter from my inner self, I felt my spirit growing, drawing me near to her nature and revealing to me her hidden things and teaching me the language of her wonders. (Kahlil Gibran, A Tear and a Smile)


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