If you or someone you love has experienced a physical or emotional trauma, you know all too well that such experiences wreak havoc with the body-mind system. Reliving a trauma in the mind can cause looping thoughts and provoke heightened anxiety, which affect the body’s autonomic system (rate of breathing, blood pressure, etc.). Insomnia, muscle tension and pain, and digestive issues are common because the body-mind has been shocked out of its natural rhythm and balance.
Studies show that writing about painful experiences can help lessen these symptoms. This is when journaling can become a powerful personal tool for healing and change. Used in conjunction with psychotherapy or counseling and nurturing body work, journaling offers a private, self-controlled way to help express what once may have been un-expressible.
Here are some ways that journaling can help you deal with trauma:
- Writing can be an easier, very private way to speak of things that have hurt or shamed us.
- Releasing thoughts from the mind to the page can lessen the hold they have on us.
- We can view the experience from a distance. Rereading what we write gives us another degree of separation from the trauma.
- We can become more deeply aware of our feelings about the experience and begin to examine and differentiate real feelings and concerns from those that our mind has blown out of proportion due to fear.
- We can say what we need to say with no back talk, excuses or justification from the person or persons who perpetrated the trauma.
In my book, Your Journal Companion, I share research on the emotional and physical benefits of journaling and offer several writing techniques that can help to work through trauma, such as letter writing, dialogue and third person narrative.
Journalers don’t have to be “writers.” They simply need to be willing to put pen to paper and tell their stories, tell their truths. Sometimes this is easy to accomplish. Other times it is the most courageous act people can do to help find their way back to a sense of wholeness.