Techniques For Journaling and Over-riding Your Inner Critic
By Roxanne E. Smith 3/7/2010
Here is an account of my process of emotional healing by way of Journaling:
Okay so, I had a wonderful vacation and it is also great to be back home. I am feeling renewed and energetic now (five days after we returned) but I was extremely exhausted when we first got back. And my husband bounced right back after like one day--and so, comparing myself to him, I was feeling very much lost and empty and discouraged.... and then started wondering how will I ever write another post and even...how did I ever write all that stuff I already wrote--I was spiraling negative thoughts again--my inner critic took over! And it was so hard to decipher--I just felt bad and exhausted with no hope in sight. So I wrote in my journal and it helped!--so I thought I would share with you my technique.
First of all, in journaling you must tell yourself that no one is going to read this ever! --and mean it and believe it--this is a very private process. Then you let loose with all your feelings. I started out saying " I feel horrible! I can't remember who I am or how to feel good." Within 2 sentences though I remembered, " I used to feel this way all the time as a child." And then, "Oh yes this is childhood pain coming up to heal. I just had a wonderful vacation! Pain comes up to the surface when things are going well and we are stronger." Then my own compassion kicks in with " I need to be extra nice to myself. I am being too hard on myself. Do nice things for myself today. I am a highly sensitive person. No wonder I am tired--vacations are highly stimulating--just give myself extra time. Everything is going to be okay." Before long I am cheering myself up. I have over-ridden my inner critic--that negative voice inside my head. This process always amazes me because I feel like I should be "fixed" by now and should never feel bad again. But that is the negative voice in my head--the pressure to "be happy -- just get over it, you are too sensitive blah, blah, blah." That is the opposite of what I needed as a highly sensitive child. On vacations I would get overwhelmed, over-tired with all the new sights and activities. I know I deserved kindness instead of impatience, rest instead of guilt for slowing other people down, compassion for my ability to see the beauty in the small things like nature instead of annoyance about my questions and my disappointment in other's lack of carefulness with my feelings. There was nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with me now. My only mistake was believing it when I felt blamed. I don't believe I was to blame and now I choose to be around people who are safe and kind and who like me easily. My husband is one of those people and was the first to remind me to not be so hard on myself and to take it easy. He was right.
Do not be discouraged if this technique of journaling does not come so easily to you yet. This takes a long time and lots of effort deciphering the truth of what you went through and what you truly deserved as a highly sensitive child. The book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is SO helpful in guiding people through the journaling process that helps unblock creativity (finding your voice and your true self!)
Many different techniques help me to find my voice and vitality again. Sometimes it is playing my own songs when I am feeling so lost I don't even remember being able to write songs. Reading your own journal helps too especially if you are the kind of journaler who ends up feeling hopeful after you write. (You have to make yourself do it--it doesn't come natural to read your own stuff when you are feeling bad about yourself--you'll be surprised how your own words lift your spirits.) Other times I read books or blogs by people with a compassionate voice and I recover my own compassionate voice. Elaine Aron wrote the book on "The Highly Sensitive Person" and was the catalyst that started the HSP support groups that have grown and spread in cities and online. Online, I read her article on "the problem of bearing an unbearable emotion" that she wrote in her newsletter for Feb. 2006 and I immediately felt "found and validated" just by her compassionate words--my energy came back and I was excited about my life again. I hope my blog does the same for you.
I was fortunate to have some time to find myself and work on myself and read self-help books and write in journals while my children were growing up because my husband was so grateful that I was home raising emotionally healthy kids--he is a "thinking" type although a highly sensitive guy (an INTJ), whereas I am a "feeling" type (an INFJ). (See the book by Keirsey and Bates in my Recommended Books section for a test on temperament types.) He had an even more difficult childhood than I did and is grateful for my compassionate ways. When I think of how far I have come, it feels rather miraculous so I want so much to help others who are as lost and hiding as I was. I believe that those of us who are the most sensitive and almost destroyed are an important resource to this planet if we can join together and rise up as a voice of love, peace, and compassion. The fact that you are feeling beaten down is the very indicator that your sensitive ways have been misunderstood and need to be put to better use. It is very important to find a safe witness to validate the injustices you have suffered (you can be your own witness in a private journal) and then you can rise up and start speaking your mind and being a messenger of compassion that the world needs. DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE! You are exactly the way you are supposed to be. Be kind to yourself and learn to love yourself.
Louise Hay's book You Can Heal Your Life is a book I have been reading on and off for 15 years. The positive affirmations in her book I use daily now but felt so foreign to me when I first got the book. One of my favorites is "I give myself permission to be the best that I can be". Growing up I was not allowed to express my authentic self (or be my best) because I understand now it was threatening to certain caregivers and I had fear of them withdrawing their love and approval. I now understand that those certain people may have felt unconsciously jealous of my many gifts. I didn't know I had any gifts at all back then. That whole concept was hard for me to grasp because it would never occur to me to be that way or be jealous of a child of mine--I always innately knew it is my responsibility to help a child see all his/her gifts and how special he/she is. So this explains why I couldn't have compassion for myself--I trusted so completely in those adults caring for me. And also then came the question "why would God give me these hardships as a child"? That was another chapter in my life that I now have completely resolved. God did not arrange for me to have this emotional pain and hardship but has given me the inner strength and compassion to overcome it and become strong. Had I not had a situation like that I would not be reaching out to help others who also experienced a situation like that right now in this moment.
In this moment, I am happy and complete and grateful for all the pain I went through to make me this strong. But while I was in the pain and lost and alone and not knowing how to let God's love in, I was not grateful--no way! But there was a pivotal moment when I was crying in despair that I became aware that no one but me was going to rescue me--of the two of us, my husband and I, I was the stronger one emotionally at that time. Something Eckhart Tolle said in his book A New Earth helped a lot. He said something to the effect of... I am not all that happens to me--I am " the presence" that observes all that happens to me.... It made me realize I am not this misunderstood and misused child who is forever a victim. I am all the wisdom from what I have learned from it and can comfort my inner abused child through it. I still keep learning it over and over and each time it gets easier to find myself again. So do not give up. You who are hiding and afraid to speak up--it's okay and you have every right to be afraid. But that it is not all of you. You have a gift, a wisdom, a compassion, that is sorely needed in the world. Don't let the bullies and controllers and competitors win. They are not like you and so cannot understand you. But you can understand you! You are on this planet for a reason exactly as you are. Change only the people you are around. Elaine Aron says that HSPs have an easier time overcoming depression just by changing our environment to being around people who love us and accept us as we are. She says "get out of competitive environments where you have to fear that you will be judged, rejected, or seen as a failure, and stay around those who like you easily." (see her newsletter the Comfort Zone , and the article called "A Few Happy Things Regarding Depression"). I am adding her website to my blogroll. It is hsperson dot com. I hope I have helped you to feel more hopeful and happy. You deserve it. You are a highly sensitive person and that my friend is a gift!