Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The importance and usefulness of journaling

Yep, another srs post. Refer to the below King Henry meme. Same applies: feel free to read if you're interested in what I think about mental health, emotions, self-awareness and shit, and if you have time. It's about two pages long. Fun and/or personal stuff will come down the tube later, but I just wrote these so I figure I'd share them.


The importance and usefulness of journaling

Journaling exceeds psychiatric and psychological resources in dealing with emotions, thoughts, actions, and self-awareness in general. The reason for this, I think, is that journaling is 100% confidential, if done properly. I personally type mine and encrypt it in a zip folder with a password only I can know. If there are entries I feel comfortable sharing either on my blog, with my docs, or with a trusted, intimate friend, I simply amend them and save them in a less-encrypted manner. I don't think this is excessive, because it assures me that what I write is as confidential as I choose it to be, for my own good and to maintain my sense of security in being very, very honest in my entries.

The key service journaling offers is free expression. It probably takes a while to cultivate this, especially for people who struggle with expressing their feelings and thoughts. Personally, I've become pretty good at this, even when it comes to sharing with others and knowing my boundaries when doing so (granted, I fuck up with this from time to time, erring on the side of over-sharing my thoughts and emotions). As such, I don't think it'll take me too long to do so with this journal. However, I think it could take me a while to comfortably write about any recent events, even as remote as months or years ago. This is INCREDIBLY difficult, even if it's ideal. As I always say, as humans, we are imperfect and can't expect to be able to do this stuff when we want or need to. There's nothing wrong with that and we need to accept it, along with other basic, key things about us as humans, radical acceptance-style.

However, it is also VERY important, if you can force yourself through the immense discomfort of it, to write about your FRESH feelings about the big stuff, not feeling the need to censor yourself or judge or overcompensate to sound more wise and reflective. This is perfectly alright to do, and also important, so I don't want to say that it's ideal to not do this at ALL. It can definitely serve to help you mentally and emotionally purge and get by without having these thoughts plague you non-stop. This is ALSO pretty hard to do. Journaling might not work for some people – it could even end up hurting more than helping – but it's worth trying, even for the small stuff. Personally, I'm really bad at committing to and maintaining a journal. But I hope, with all I've learned, that I can follow through this time for at least a while, and remember to go back to it from time to time. I know I certainly won't delete any of my entries even if I don't read them for years. I'd do myself a major disservice to do so.

So all that I've described in the last few paragraphs explains why I chose to make my very first journal entry in this particular journal so generic, not about what I'm feeling or experiencing. It's what I'm most comfortable with right now: trying to be objective, in the sense of explaining my own philosophy about self-awareness without judging myself in an over-compensating manner. I think this will be a good reminder for me, from time to time, and I'd love to share it on my blog but even more so, with the people I love when they need it, or even just to start a philosophical discourse using this as a starting-point for what I believe – at this moment, at least. Journaling is especially good at tracking what you believe or feel or are experiencing and what you think about it at any given time in your life.

I suppose this is a good point to explore THAT aspect of journaling. If you use it to frequently track your thoughts and emotions, in-depth and honestly or even just venting, then you can use your journal to track how you grow and how your mind develops over time. What I mean is how you approach emotions, how your ways of dealing with them change, what you believe to be true about yourself. This works for tracking your view of the world, your actions, and the way you think as well.

Psychiatrists and psychologists also do this, from an outsider's perspective, but their ability to do so is limited by their position AS outsiders: they can't really know what's going on in your head because no matter how honest and comprehensive you are in the way you express your self-awareness and thoughts, I think it's impossible to do so as comprehensively as you can in a personal, secure-feeling journal. As doctors, THEIR purpose is to be the CLINICAL outsider who can use the information you give them to track your thoughts and self-awareness as they apply to your mental health, and can try to advise you and inform you of how they see your progress. Sharing with intimate loved ones, in a different manner of course, also serves this function. They are also good at simply being emotionally supportive people who can advise you, or, much more importantly, simply LISTEN and comfort and commend, when appropriate. This is yet another resource which I personally think is very, VERY important in staying grounded and functional as people.

To sum up: journaling is a resource for tracking how you feel or think, how it changes, and how it affected what you did at a given time. It tracks how your mind and life changes, because they DO, a lot, over time – even over short amounts of time. There are many ways to write in your journal, and sometimes you can't do ALL of them; in the best of circumstances, you can. But being able to do ANY of them, whenever you can, is a great thing to do for your own good. It also affords the chance to share either your very personal and raw entries, or your philosophical entries, or any entires you choose, with your doctors or loved ones when you choose to.

If you can bear to, it's absolutely worth it to NEVER delete your entries, as every single one can be worth re-reading at various points of your life, even if just to amuse yourself. In addition, it's important to allow yourself to keep them secure in whatever way makes you feel safest so that you continue to feel comfortable writing in as raw a manner as you want to or can throughout your life, or as long as you value the journal. Keep in mind that this can and WILL change, so even if you feel like something or even the whole journal is obsolete, it really, really isn't. If nothing else, the entirety of it or some of it would be a wonderful thing to leave as a testament to who you were throughout your life for those who survive you, loved ones and strangers as well, in case you end up being famous or someone happens upon some or all of them.

The reason I think the part about strangers is true is because of my work in the classics, oddly enough, because the most accurate and beautiful way Greeks saw immortality (through Homer's philosophy) is not through transcendental or spiritual means, but through word itself. It is ultimately the only form of immortality I believe in. Written word is one of the most spectacular things we're capable of as human beings, for society, for history (if written records are able to survive for a while), for a lasting impression on the world through loved ones AND strangers. And, as I argued above, it can be crucially important to knowing ourselves at a given moment and throughout our lives.

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