Yesterday I took a hike with a gal who needed to move in #nature for many of the same reasons I often find myself working through life's trials in the woods. My own therapist calls this adventure therapy; we walk the trails while she guides me through self-reflection and helps me implement healthier coping strategies. My teenage son also enjoys adventure therapy with his own therapist, often fishing, kayaking, or even throwing eggs at trees. Don't let me confuse you; I am not a therapist and don't have any desire to pretend to be, even on television. However, I appreciate the work involved in moving through trauma and chronic stress. For me, this requires not only movement in nature and on my yoga mat, but maybe most importantly, it requires dumping my heart and soul into my #journal.
I've had clients resist this suggestion because they fear someone else finding their most intimate thoughts. A part of me is sad that there are those who cohabitate with others who may not respect their privacy (maybe fix this), but I suspect this fear comes largely in recognizing that if they passed, their thoughts would be vulnerable to the eyes of their children and loved ones and not always will those thoughts be kind and honoring to those we cherish. This risk is real, certainly, but the authenticity in that glimpse is what most of us truly desire. We not only want to get to the heart and soul of those we sincerely love and respect, but we also want to be genuinely understood. This requires some vulnerability.
Vulnerability & Courage
It may be that #vulnerability is a muscle we need to use and practice with to get to our #authentic selves. This practice requires a bit of courage and it just doesn't come natural to everyone, including myself. It's hard. It's uncomfortable. If I am being honest, it feels scary. Journaling allows us to take that first step. It helps us look inward and listen to our thoughts and feelings, to feel our hurts and sorrow, and to embrace our needs and desires. I often say that journaling helped me become #embodied.
Maybe you're familiar with Dr. Brene Brown. Her Ted Talk was one of the first recommendations my therapist offered me, and one of the first books we read in our monthly book club. She is now infamous for speaking about self-worth and connection. In order for us to become truly connected however, we must allow ourselves to be truly seen - to be vulnerable.
I wish it were this easy though, right? I mean I am 44-years-old, independent woman and I sort of pride myself on being very honest, transparent, and authentic, but shame sometimes gets in the way of vulnerability. It reminds us that we may be #rejected for who we are. This week I was challenged by a really cute guy who called me a "romantic." Ugh, no. Nope. I do not identify with that; how did he get that impression? Let me clear that up before we have a misstep, but then I heard some of the things I had said, my favorite songs and movies, and I started to panic a bit. If I considered the evidence against my own narrative, they were in conflict. Why would I not embrace this, if it were authentic? Because being #romantic is dependent upon your intimate partners to some degree, and most all of mine were very vocal in their belief that romance was weak and pathetic. Rather than be rejected, I disconnected from that part of myself.
Journaling offers us the necessary space for being vulnerable or maybe the courage to be imperfect. We are better able to offer ourselves a bit of #compassion when we express ourselves freely in a journal, and as Brene Brown asks, can we really have compassion for other people if we can't even treat ourselves kindly? Can we really #connect with others if we aren't able to let go of who we think we should be, rather than be who we really are?
Expressive writing has demonstrated a profound effect for those who have endured trauma; not only are you investing in yourself, but journaling helps you assure your reality, particularly if you have endured #gaslighting. Patterns emerge, offering clarity. Your mind and heart can connect in the words that pour onto the pages of your journal. With consistency, you'll find great insight and ultimately, you'll begin to really trust yourself. You'll be kinder to yourself. Affirmations will come to the surface, and you'll speak the words to yourself, that you really need to hear. Eventually, you'll believe them. Journaling can be truly transformative.
What you journal is very unique to you. When I first started to dedicate myself to journal writing, post-narcissistic relationship, I dumped years worth of hurt and fear and #abandonment and manipulation into my journal all in one setting, and while I knew it to be truthful, it was really hard to believe. The weight of immense heartache that I released in that afternoon can't even be articulated. I felt as if my eyes were newly opened and I was seeing my life for the first time, the big picture as opposed to feeling overwhelmed by all the details. This caused me to hunt down older journals, in which I offered only brief moments of vulnerability, but enough to recognize that I had created a false narrative for myself outside of my journal. I had #detached or become #disembodied from my reality. However, I was also able to offer myself a bit of compassion. After all, did I really have any another option? To survive and be happy within my circumstances, it was necessary to see my world through rose colored glasses.
It wasn't just my traumas that I disengaged from however. It was even in my self-care practices. I could gain thirty pounds in a matter of weeks, simply because I failed to pay attention. The difference between a size 14 pair of women's pants and a size 16 is sufficient enough to allow for significant disembodiment. Reassuring myself that I could exercise off the snacks I was devouring to get myself through this next project was too often becoming the norm. Recording my weight daily became very necessary for me, so I could step into my body and be aware of my habits. Not only did I begin journaling my weight, but I added my body composition, my #movement, my bedtime routine, and sometimes my food so I was aware of my intent for a healthier body verses my honest commitment towards that ideal. My desire to be fit often overshadowed any real effort.
Distraction is the great enemy of enjoyment. When distracted we're liable to substitute quantity for quality, reaching for another stimulant or another body as we aren't truly present to enjoy what we already have. If you feel a pleasure deficit, turn inward.
Journaling is where I check in with myself to see if I am walking my talk. As much as journaling is vital for healing from trauma, it also helps me stay focused on my goals and the promises I make to myself. I ask myself questions. Challenge myself. I create lists. I write my #intentions. When I stray away from my journal, I become less organized and productive. When I am diligent with this practice, I am at my best self and really, not finding time in your day to honor yourself should speak volumes. We must prioritize turning in, checking in, and taking time to self-evaluate. If purchasing a journal that is especially inviting to you, do it. Grab some fancy markers too. You're worth it.