Unprocessed emotions are those hard feelings we ignore and avoid. We try our best to run away from the pain of facing them.
Have you ever found yourself running on autopilot? Having no control over your life, and feeling rather like your emotions are the drivers? We know how hard it is to address a scary overwhelming problem so we lean towards the easy way, ignoring it.
Yet, ignoring emotions is never the solution. It is momentarily easy but damaging in the long term. It only leads to more problems and knots.
Journaling and processing emotions:
The writer Kerstin Pilz once said in a Ted Talk: “Writing by hand is a way of slowing down so that you can become present to your own story as it is unfolding”
I find this quote pretty powerful. Said in other words, writing is a slow healthy process that will give you the time and space to study your emotions while or after you experience them.
Writing has the magical ability to detach thoughts from your brain and put them on paper. This is how you get to see them from a different narrative.
I personally experienced this on many occasions. The proof is that while writing about a confusing situation, I often catch myself saying something like : (Oh I didn’t see that, now I understand why I acted or reacted this way)
It’s simply a way of treating problematic situations from the outside. Having the opportunity to see the story of your life explained and detailed while you live it. It’s not only a beautiful process to go through but it also helps you bond with yourself.
Write, and keep connecting the wires until it’s all clear and peaceful. You may have some moments of complete confusion and lostness, but only for the good!
Simple steps to follow:
1 - Be brave :
Really Noha? Is this the first step to make? You may ask.
Yup, dear little human, bravery is the basis of processing emotions.
The first obstacle you will face is nothing related to writing or thinking, but it’s the ability to accept those thoughts. Let your emotions exist (no matter how exhausting), and be brave enough to address them. That’s how healing works, and that’s where therapeutic journaling starts.
2 - Write everything in your mind :
There is a concept worth mentioning here and it’s nothing but the SFD: Shitty First Draft.
The SFD is literally that terrible messy page whose only purpose is to gather ideas. You are probably the only one to understand it, and it feels satisfying.
This is exactly what I want you to do in your journal. Pick a pen (or even your keyboard if you prefer the virtual version) and write down every annoying thought for the sake of writing. No preparation, no grammatical examination, just a freaking brain dump.
The brain detects ideas better when they are out, detached. So do not suppress your brain and give it what it needs.
3 - Write letters :
Letters are a famous form of therapeutic journaling. If you think about it, writing unsent letters has a huge efficacity.
Start the page with Dear me, talk to yourself as if it’s someone else. Make it a proper letter that you can send to someone. Tell yourself about your thoughts, and let yourself know exactly what is wrong as if it’s new to you.
In therapy, it is common to use these unsent letters to heal some sort of trauma caused by someone. A therapist would suggest you write to the person who wronged or hurt you. You start writing about the rage you have, about everything you wish you can say out loud. And by the end of the session, you feel calm and immediately don’t feel the need to send it anymore. Realizing that the problem was repressing those emotions, all you needed was to let it out, write it and understand it.
We simply just need an outlet, a safe place to put our minds together. Journaling provides that, especially with purposeful letters.
4 - Be consistent with it :
What I mean here by consistency is to make it a habit. Make it a natural reflection when having any kind of challenging feelings.
Keep your journal around, whenever you feel troubled run to it. Make it your first attempt to fix the mood. With this practice, you encourage your brain to think about those emotions right away. Ignoring emotions is not even an option anymore, every feeling has a paper to be written, and every hard situation has a brave heart to deal with it.
In sum, journaling holds the power to release repressed emotions. It will help you bond with yourself, making your identity stronger and clearer.
With the many practices that I mentioned today, you and I will step away from the lack of self-understanding. Remember to keep a journal with you, and remember to write when your brain gets busy. Remember to live slowly with a pen and paper.
And this post is sort of a continuation to the beautiful Journaling for mental health article.