June 20, 2020 by Alyssa Spungen
The Power of Journaling
Upon arrival, each new Mirasol client receives a journal, a pack of oil pastels and a drawing pad. As a holistic treatment center, Mirasol encourages the use of artistic expression as one of our many tools that help clients process the work they do here. Journaling is one way we do this. Writing is a regular practice for reflection and insight that clients are asked to then share in a group setting, bring to their therapist and/or keep private. We acknowledge that the process of recovery is different for each individual and encourage our clients to bring all of themselves to it.
I don't remember when I began journaling. But I do remember when I learned I couldn't trust my second grade teacher. I had just switched schools and I was very shy. Luckily, I had my spiral journal with me. My teacher grabbed my journal from me one day and told me I had to socialize with the other kids at recess. When we returned to class, she was reading my journal. She called me up in front of the class and yelled at me for what was written there. This was when I learned the power of our words. This perspective allowed me to begin to seek within for my own truths, and understand that what I said to people around me was powerful.
I was a very thoughtful, emotional and inquisitive child. I had a lot of big thoughts and big feelings and big dreams that didn't quite fit into the narrative playing out around me. My journal was the non-judgmental friend that didn't demand I string my thoughts into cohesive sentences, didn't ask questions of my emotional expression, and never abandoned me. My internal life became even richer as I wrote and learned what my voice sounded like, what my thoughts were composed of, keywords and patterns that repeated. When there was nobody I could share my truths with, I could trust that there were blank pieces of paper waiting for me to fill my stories with. I have written many books. I have lived and reported on my life. I am alive. I am here. And that means something.
I remember the synagogue I attended as a girl had a day we buried old books. It was a custom that prayer-books couldn't be burned or thrown away. They must be buried. We went out in the front yard of the temple in Hammond, Indiana, and the rabbi sang prayers while I traced my fingertips over the covers of these special books. To this day, I know that when I see fit to send my journals into their next life, it will be within a ceremonial framework. Picking out a new journal is a ritual, even though most days I find myself enjoying the access to the stream-of-consciousness that typing provides as my wrist tires out.
We are living in a cultural moment that is asking us to be very intentional with everything that we do. We are asked to sterilize what we touch, to protect ourselves and others by covering our faces, to sacrifice the pleasures of touching our own faces, to build up marginalized communities and to do our own work of dismantling beliefs inside of us that would seek to see any sentient being as "other" and "less than". We are looking at the pieces of ourselves that are beginning to wake up slowly, and confusedly, and say, "Welcome home. You've been sleeping for a long time. This is where we are. We need you." Sometimes, these emotions and thoughts are too foggy to find articulate expression. Sometimes, they are too unedited or impulsive to share with other people. Words are power and power can be destructive or creative, based on the wielding. So many folks have been stripped of their power that the process of waking up needs to be treated with care. In a time where anger is quick to look for a target, it is my intention to shine light on an oasis that can provide us with a pause between reaction and action, something that can help us move forward and fight for what we believe in with our whole being, from a place of love, intention and care.
We talk about boundaries a lot in recovery work. Journaling was the first boundary I had from the world around me. Journaling is a built-in space to discover what you really think and feel. It is a place to process questions, assess the demands on your time, see how that feels in your body, and trust that your body holds a compass for you to follow if your learn how to listen to it.
Mirasol Recovery Centers