Friday, May 23, 2008

The Journal Series: Privacy

If you are going to do journal work that allows true healing to occur, then you must have a safe place in which to do it. And that safe place must be a place that you and those who may live with you know is inviolate. Self-censorship does not belong in the pages of your journal, because if you are afraid of your work being discovered, you will not write the truth.

Privacy is a touchy issue, but I feel that it is essential to have a sense that the work you do in the journal truly is for your eyes only. Privacy not only protects you, but it protects others--because if you are going to write the honest truth, there is always the potential for writing something that will hurt someone else. And truth is essential to the healing process.

So how do we protect our privacy? Sometimes trust is enough. I trust my husband not to read my journals. I've been leaving them lying around ever since we shared our first apartment twenty years ago, and he's never read them. (I don't think he's interested enough, to be honest...) I do not, however, trust the kids not to get into them. Children are curious by nature. So now that the children are old enough to read and begin to understand, my older journals are kept in a locked file cabinet.

But what if you don't have a file cabinet that locks, or you don't trust someone in your household not to go snooping? Or what if you live with someone who would be hurt if they thought you were keeping secrets of any sort from them? What if you don't feel that there is any way to keep your journals private?

Since the journal serves its most important role in allowing you to get rid of and process feelings, destroying what you've written is one way to protect your privacy. I tend not to like this method just because it can take more than one session to work through something, and it helps to have your earlier work to refer back to.

I think the computer offers the best solution to the privacy issue. Microsoft Word allows you to password-protect your files. This is not an ideal solution--I've tried journaling this way, but the file soon becomes huge and unwieldy, and it's difficult to find anything unless you can recall specific phrases you used. There is, however, software designed specifically for journal-keeping. I use a software package called Life Journal. Life Journal allows you to keep your work private with a password, and allows you to assign topics to entries, the way you can in a blog. In fact, I use Life Journal to draft my blog entries, because of that feature. It helps me find things in a hurry.

Having said that, I must also say that I have a strong preference for a pen-and-paper journal. Maybe it's because that's how I started out. When I started keeping a journal and writing, there was no such thing as a word processor. There was me and my notebook and my pen. And there is something about the physical act of writing my words down, having my thoughts flow from my mind to my hand to the page, that is therapeutic for me. So I still keep a paper journal. But...if I am doing work that I feel might be too intense, or work that I would never in a million years want anyone to see, I go to the computer and call up Life Journal. Because when I'm working in pen and paper, I do censor myself. No matter what I tell myself about trust and all that...I honestly feel safer working in a password protected environment. And if I don't have that feeling of safety, the tough work isn't going to get done.

12 comments:

Marissa Miller said...

Great series, Jazz. I've been keeping pen-and-paper journals since 1990. (That's before I was even a decade old!!) I wrote so profusely growing up that I had to begin naming them all (Vol. IX, Vol. X, etc.). I've since gotten out of the habit of regular journal-keeping but my husband worries now because I usually break it out when I'm very upset. I'm not sure I like his association with that so it keeps me from writing in it as often as I'd like to.

Jazz said...

Glad you're enjoying it, Marissa!

I wonder if you could explain to your husband that journal writing something you'd like to pick up again, and that it doesn't necessarily mean you are upset--just introspective? My husband is used to seeing me scribbling in a notebook...we've joked about it since high school, calling it my "genetically attached notebook" because I am rarely without it!

I started numbering mine, too...I'm not sure how many volumes I've got, though, because I've just been throwing them in the file cabinet the last few years!

Gianna said...

another way to go private on the computer is to start a blog set to private...google doesn't access it and noone else can either unless you give them the URL and password.

I like pen to paper too, it feels more natural, even though I usually can't read my writing if I go back and look.

My therapist feels that writing pen to paper has a more direct connection to the brain...I know I write different and somehow more raw stuff when I'm writing pen to paper...

another technique to get at more unconscious material is to use the non-dominant hand...I don't have experience doing that but have heard it can be quite powerful.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Jazz,
I've always been a pencil and paper person myself. I,too, physically enjoy the act of writing. I've begun buying these great Moleskin journals that I can put in my purse. But, for years, I "journaled" in my two-page-a-day Daytimers, which comes with a storage box.

I could always trust my husband not to read my stuff and my son has never been interested. Besides, it always seemed like I was working on a business-related desk organizer. Who was to know what was hidden inside?

Susan
P.S. But I'm going to check out your computer journal program. Sounds like a good way to organize entries.

Jazz said...

Gianna--
That's a great idea, doing a private blog--that doesn't cost anything, either, and you get the benefit of being able to label entries.

I've never tried using my non-dominant hand (I'm a leftie) for writing, but I have always heard that it's an interesting exercise. Maybe I'll have to experiment with that...not sure I'd be able to read it, but it could be interesting to see what the other side of my brain has to say!

Jazz said...

Susan--
I don't think my kids would really be interested in my journals...and the really inflammatory stuff is buried inside pages and pages of "Daily Bitch" type stuff...sometimes I think it's really arrogant of me to think anyone would care about any of it...and then sometimes I get paranoid and think of all the trouble I'd be in if my in-laws read it!

Gianna said...

the non-dominant hand thing---I've heard of people asking the parts of themselves they are confused about a question and letting the non-dominant hand answer....

Like I said I've not tried it but I've talked to people who say it can be very revealing...

I may give it a shot, now that I'm talking it up...!!

oh...and I'm lucky in that I've never had to worry about my husband reading my journal, but when I was a kid, I KNOW my mom read mine...

sometimes I would purposely plant upsetting stuff for her and then say ha! caught you...I'd booby trap my journal and I could see it had been tampered with...

ugh...

Jazz said...

Gianna,
I don't think my mom ever read my journal...if she did, she never acted as if she did, and I know there was some pretty upsetting stuff in there...one of my friends committed suicide when I was 13, and if she'd read some of the stuff I wrote about around that time, I'm sure she would have been concerned!

That's funny about planting booby traps in your journal! I would probably have done the same thing if I had thought she was reading it! I was a rather...belliegerant child...and I enjoyed provoking people! (I still provoke my father on purpose sometimes...see, maturity doesn't necessarily come with age!)

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Jazz,
I, too, am left-handed, which means that our brain functions are different from right-handers. I wonder how many bipolar folks are left-handed.

In terms of penmanship, it's lucky I learned how to write at all. I was the only left-hander in my class. In those days, the teacher taught writing every single day. She would stand at the blackboard modeling writing, and then say to me, "Susan, you use the other hand."

In my mom's day, they switched left-handers and made them write with their right hands. So, I'm just grateful I was born in the fifties. I imagine forcing a kid to use a different side of her brain by writing with the wrong hand caused a lot of trauma.

Susan

Coco said...

I'm left-handed too.

Jazz said...

Interesting...I, too, wonder how many of us are lefties? I wonder if anyone's done a study on that. Some blogs let you do surveys...maybe one of us should run a survey asking people with a bipolar dx which is their dominant hand?

Jazz said...

I'm saying "one of us" because I'm not exactly tech savvy with the computer stuff...it's a miracle I figured out how to do this blog! And even if Blogger does have a survey feature, the chances of me actually being able to figure it out are miniscule!