You can use journaling to help heal your voice, set it free, and live passionately in the world. We tend to get in the way of our own healing, even in the privacy of our pages. It’s a matter of awareness and overcoming fear.
Since the age of 15, I’ve been pouring my heart out on the pages of my journals; I call it the feng shui of my soul. It helps me decompress, reflect, and heal. I never thought twice about sharing the gory secrets of my hormonal whims, biggest failures, and most devastating heartbreaks in those sacred books. Turns out I was healing myself by writing.
Three decades later, as an expert healer and published author, I’m now realizing I took full advantage of that powerful tool early on. The ways I learned to journal, by connecting to my body and creative source, and writing without rules, were exactly the ways it could most help me heal my wounds, find my voice, and set it free.
In the past few years, journaling has become a popular form of therapy. Many healers are using it to help their clients grow. You can even get a degree in therapeutic writing.
Nathan Ohren, MFT, said, “The single most important innovation in all of human history waits willingly at our fingertips.”
Nathan, an author and host of a podcast on therapeutic journaling, says,
“Writing promotes clarity and forces specificity. Pressing our solitary thoughts onto the page allows us to pinpoint and harvest valuable raw materials from the field of dreams and ground them into concrete milestones of our journey. Journaling puts handles on our thoughts so we can use them to build mental lighthouses, which in turn attract more thoughts, directing them into safe harbor where precious cargo of self-awareness and self-mastery can be readily unloaded.”
Here are three powerful tips on how to use journaling to find your voice and finally set it free.
1. Connect with your body before you begin.
Connecting to the body is essential for healing. This kind of awareness helps the individual shift to the creative part of the brain where the potential for healing lies. Clearing the mind and focusing on physical sensations helps you connect to your intuition, inner wisdom, and healer. When you write from this space of awareness, your writing moves the energy through you in the most authentic way possible.
John F. Barnes, founder of the John F. Barnes Myofascial Release, has taught more than 40,000 therapists over the past 40 years about authentic healing. He helps us understand the body-mind connection as it relates to trauma:
“When we are traumatized physically and/or emotionally, vectors of energy are thrust into our body. We are beautiful electromagnetic beings of liquid light, and the natural vibration and flow of our bodies is skewed. This solidifies the fluid part of the fascial system, which is called the ground substance that turns into crushing pressure which can cause symptoms of pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, restrictions, internal anxiety, depression, etc."
If the intensity of the trauma is too great, too painful, or fearful, we have a natural survival mechanism where we tend to numb out and don’t fully feel all the sensations and emotions associated with trauma. They are imprisoned in the fascia and not available to the conscious mind.
The combination of myofascial release and therapeutic journaling—quieting the mind and softening into where we feel pain or tightness in our body—allows us to communicate with ourselves in a deeper way.
2. Don't censor yourself.
Albert Flynn DeSilver, author of Writing as a Path to Awakening: A Year to Becoming an Excellent Writer and Living an Awakened Life reminds us:
"Being wild and vulnerable on the page can feel mortifying, embarrassing, even shameful—when we write something inappropriate, revealing, or even dangerous. But getting real and wild against the page is what truly frees us. Self-censorship is debilitating and restrictive, vulnerability is liberating. It's important to get embodied and stay embodied for the writing, so that you are writing from the authentic heart and not just the conditioned head. Yes, it's scary; face the fear and do it anyway, and feel the power of speaking your truth!”
And he encourages the writer to "practice by reminding yourself you don't have to show this to anyone.... To write [your deepest, most vulnerable secrets] down is to release it, is to gain insight and perspective. We write the story to let go of the story—this is the gateway to liberation and true healing!"
Things like fear, doubt and shame quickly get in the way of writing the things we most need to write. If we censor our words on the page we instantly block up the flow and the writing becomes tight and cramped.
When you start writing, let it all go. Don't worry about the words coming through. Write them like you’re documenting the most important event on the planet; you want to get every word down, no matter how scary or foreign it seems. If you begin to worry about what you’re writing and whether or not someone’s going to read your secrets, remember, you can burn it later. The act of allowing the energy to flow from inside you to the page is what matters; it’s the healing act.
If you catch yourself censoring, or hearing the voices tell you why what you’re writing is wrong or bad, practice awareness. That inner-critic voice will attempt to shut you down. Recognize it. Name it. Take a step away from the voice and write anyway. Connecting with your voice and setting it free means you honor it, every word of it, without judgment. Treat your voice like you would that of a small child: with kindness, openness and a heart-centered compassion.
3. No rules, just write.
My writing mentor, Laura Munson, New York Times best-selling author, and founder of the acclaimed Haven Writing Retreat, shared this piece of wisdom with me. My whole body relaxed a little during our first writing exercise when I heard her say the words, “No rules, just write. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, or even finishing sentences. Just let the words flow and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off.”
Laura teaches a practice of free writing to encourage flow from that space we talked about connecting to in the first tip. Letting go of expectations and rules and writing fundamentally changes the writing itself.
A powerful thing happens when we take the rules away and write the stream of consciousness that flows through us. A small miracle takes place as we get to know our souls this way. A little healing occurs in those moments.
Laura reminds us,
“Many of us write in our journals and repeat old thought patterns on the page, whichs get us nowhere. In order to get past those thought patterns, try asking yourself, 'Is this working for me?' If not, stop. And start again, putting some pressure on your thinking to create a new pattern, letting your words be your guide. 'How can I say this differently? How can I tell myself a new story that does work?' Don't try to be wiser than you are. Simply meet yourself like wind at your back, and say what it is that you really want to say, with a commitment to finding your true voice and setting it free.”
I found my voice by giving myself permission to write without rules. I allowed my soul to speak to me on the page. I learned things about myself. My dreams and desires surfaced and had a voice. My pain had an escape valve. My shame had a witness. The feeling of giving it one somehow dissolved it, and my heart felt a bit lighter.
I write, and continue to write to feng shui my soul—to create enough space for creative flow. To get still inside—still enough to hear my intuition. Every time I write I give my precious self a voice, and set that voice free. Nothing ending up on those pages is anything less than my raw, wild, true self, and I’ve grown to love her more every time I give her permission to show up in those letters that flow out of my pen.