I’ve heard many times throughout my life that it is important to journal and self-reflect. “Yah…yah…I hear you” was my response. And then there were other especially difficult times in life when I kept a journal.
Two of the biggest barriers in journaling for me were 1) I had a snooping mother/boyfriend; and 2) emotional disconnect.
Nothing quite impedes your honest communication with yourself than the fear of someone reading your thoughts. Period. Journaling is a mental journey and writing thoughts the way you think others should view you is counterintuitive to this mission. My solution to addressing the snooping issues was to burn my entries as soon as I completed them. I couldn’t go back and review these entries but it was worth the privacy to me, especially in relation to some of the difficult thought processes I had as a result of being abused.
Self-reflection for me is such an important part of how I process things, my behavior, the health of relationships, and my self-motivation to take on challenges. I notice patterns of my own behavior and pay attention to repeating situations. Does a person that I am involved with get angry for what seems no reason shortly after I do something on my own? Is there a crisis whenever I make a decision not in alignment with the other person? Do I only hear from that certain friend when they need something?
More importantly though, do I become self-deprecating when I am nervous or afraid? Do I find fault with everything I do? Can I compliment myself? Do I trust myself to make a good decision? Does everything fall apart because of my drinking too much, smoking too much, eating too much? In other words, is addiction affecting my life? Addiction to substances, food, religion, self. Am I giving enough while I am taking? Am I loving enough in my anger? Am I forgiving of others? Do I treat others as I would want them to treat me? Do I treat myself the same as I wish others would?
As I was journaling about my life as a teenager the other day, I realized that I’d had no idea how to be by myself. As a result, I bounced from relationship to relationship for years in an effort to not face the most painful memories I had regarding the child abuse I lived through. The alienation of abuse was so profound that I could not face being by myself. The worst things happened when I was alone with the abuser as I’m sure many of you can relate to. The anxiety I felt when I was alone…oh my God! Nowadays, I relish in some needed alone time.
Over the years while I’ve journaled off and on, I faced tough questions like whether I could trust in others and whether I knew what love was. Am I so used to being by myself that I am unable to allow others to share in my life? Am I unable to be alone in my own skin? Am I running as fast as I can from one thing to another to simply avoid thinking about what is happening in my life? Are the things that I blame others for, the exact things which I hate about myself? These are those things which I recognize as having an emotional disconnect in my life.
Journaling doesn’t have to all be about the hard stuff to be self-reflection. I love writing about the greatest day I had, the smile from a kind stranger, a wave hello from a toddler, my children, the love of my life. Those are the great things! Writing about my love of life helps me realize who I am and may be a glimpse into who I will become as time moves forward.
We all have the desire to be accepted and yet in a moment can lose sight of the fact that we are made to be exactly who we are… it is our own journey, our own mistakes and successes. I do hope that through self-reflection I will be better equipped to be blessed with others who love me.
From a faith-based perspective, I realized that I was able to be honest with my God which helped a great deal as prayers for forgiveness and blessings were both rooted in self-reflection of my needs and our life here on earth. If you have an honest and open prayer relationship, you may very well be praying your way through self-reflection.
The importance of journaling and self-reflection cannot be understated if you have lived through a relationship which was abusive. It will help so much to process through the self-doubt that is as a result of the abuse. Who knows? It may even help you recognize behaviors in others which are common for abusive personality types. The main goal either way is to be honest with yourself.
(Please keep your journal tucked safely away or discard your entries if you are in an abusive or controlling environment.)