Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Journal Series: Distance

I was going to wrap up this series yesterday, with my post on resources, but a comment left on Sunday's post got me to thinking that there's more to be said. Well, there's always more to be said, but I thought this in particular, was worth saying.

On the subject of the Altered Point of View technique, Lynn had the following to say:

"For myself, I have found that trying to understand another person's point of view was not always healthy for me. I think that is because of whose point of view I was trying to understand. For me, it was a way to make excuses for other people's hurtful behavior and that blocked my access to my own real feelings about it. I was a mess without knowing the truth of my feelings. I think it was easy for me to do that, though, because the feelings were so unpleasant."

Lynn brings up a good point. Sometimes, I think, if we try to process experiences before we are ready, it can do more harm than good, and it's not always easy to know when you have enough distance from an event to write clearly about it. It's one of those things where you have to trust yourself, I think. And I think, too, that as you write more and get to know yourself better, you get a feeling for when you have enough distance from an event to really analyze it.

I find that when I am actually going through an unpleasant experience, my writing tends to be more cathartic than anything--whining and complaining and raging against whatever or whoever it is that has hurt me or made things difficult for me. At that point, and often for a long time after, I am too close to the event emotionally to process it in a rational way. So I let myself whine without trying to analyze too deeply.

Sometimes you have to let yourself whine for a long time.

I am only now coming to the point where I can begin to face and process the events that led up to my bipolar diagnosis (the Big Mania), and that was nearly five years ago.

So writing about things that have happened to us in order to heal isn't just about getting it down on paper the minute it happens--although that catharsis is very helpful. Writing to heal is also about examining those events and your reactions to them after you have gained some emotional distance. Time helps us heal, and it gives us perspective.

How much time varies from person to person, but I think that if you are journaling regularly, you are going to know when you are ready. It's a question of learning to trust yourself.

Please note that I am not promoting this sort of thing as a substitute for therapy. If you're trying to process something really traumatic, professional guidance is definitely a good idea.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes when I look at stuff I wrote it is just embarrassing. Definitely meant not to ever be read by anyone.

Jazz said...

Oh, I agree completely. You should see my journals from high school...er...no, wait, no one should see my journals from high school!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
It's interesting about "keeping your distance," and how different people have different needs. During the worst period of my illness and my mother's illness as well, the only way I could survive was to express (in writing) my anger, rage, hurt, and sorrow about the way mother and I were being treated. Without it, I think I would have exploded!

Anonymous said...

Jazz, I really enjoyed this series.

/I wrote more initially but blogger decided to delete my comments/

Jazz said...

I also find my needs change depending on what's going on. Sometimes, like you mentioned, I really need that cathartic venting, and other times when I do it, I'll stop partway through and give myself a good shake, and say, "Jazz, enough of this whining!"

Jazz said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it...and I'm sorry Blogger ate your comment...it seems to do that sometimes. I've had it eat posts before, too...good thing I always save the drafts in a different program!

Anonymous said...

I am reading "Writng Magic" by Gail Carson Levine at present. The text advises to "Save everything you write, even if you don't like it, even if you have it. Save it for a minumum of fifteen years. At that time if you want to, you can throuw it out, but even then don't discard your writing lightly" (pg.5)
Her reasoning inferred. We matter.

Jazz said...

We do matter. I've not tossed journals, though I've thought about it, but I do mourn the box of stories that was lost somewhere along the way, stories that go back to grade school and junior high. I have vague memories of them, but I'd love to read them again.

Mark Krusen said...

It's funny sometimes I feel like I am complaining to much. I feel like what I posted isn't worth reading by any one and those will be the post with the most comments. Isn't that strange?

Jazz said...

I suspect it's because a lot of people can relate to what you're saying, Mark. We all feel those things, and you are giving voice to them, maybe better than some of your readers can!

Lynn said...

Distance can be a good thing. The distance I have gained from some of the more upsetting things in my history has resulted from coming to a place where I had no choice but to finally have my feelings about those things. I think what might happen for some people (ok -- ME!) when they try to process something before they are ready, is that they end up intellectualizing instead. Not that that is all bad. :-) I had to start somewhere.

Good series, Jazz.

Jazz said...

Thanks, Lynn! Glad you're enjoying it.

I've done exactly the same thing in trying to process something before I'm ready--intellectualizing instead. Which, as you say, is a start, but is by no means the end.

It's not always easy to know when you're ready. I think that's why it's never a bad idea to revisit things in the journal, see if your perspective has changed. Sometimes I think I'm ready to deal with something, but then later on, when I revisit it, I see that I wasn't.

katie said...

i'm glad to hear about your journals; i do believe that if follow our intuition we write/create what we need to see/face/explore/let go of. for me i find when i do that, as hard as it is to put out there, balance, beauty and inspiration follows (eventually). words are often difficult for me, so i tend to express myself visually through my journals. i'm grateful beyond measure for the healing it brings.

i found your lovely blog while crusing the net for bipolar support - i seem to have found it :-)

Jazz said...

Thanks for stopping by, Katie! I am just starting to branch out into a more visual sort of journal...I have all these scrapbooking supplies down in my basement left over from a hypomanic spending spree...and in exploring the subject of art therapy, I've found some very interesting ideas. I think I have finally found a use for all that stuff! (My practical husband will be so pleased!)

I think that self expression is immensely healing, no matter what form it takes. I've focused on the written word here, as that is my main form of expression, but it's all good...drawing, painting, quilting, dancing, singing, making music...art is a great healer.