I use this type when I am not sure what I am feeling or why. This form comes from the premise that our feelings, as opposed to our thoughts, are the gateway to the truth so the journaling process is designed to access the feelings to see where they lead.
Step 1. What am I feeling?
This is where you focus on your emotional and physical feelings. I try not to get too much into the story here but instead keep the focus on my feelings. For example, I might write, “I’m feeling agitated and irritated. I feel critical of everything and everyone. There is a tightness in my stomach.” Or I might write something like, “I’m really sad but am not sure why. My throat feelings tight and achy.” The point is to be present in your body and capture the emotional and physical feelings. Try not to figure it out – just catalog how you are feeling. If you start to write thoughts (e.g., “I need to look for another job”) or judgments (e.g., “Stop feeling sorry for yourself and suck it up”), gently bring yourself back to your feelings. They are absolutely valid and until you get them written down, it is difficult to get at what is underneath them.
Step 2. What else?
This question allows you to get everything out. When I ask it, I can see if there are other feelings and emotions that need to be expressed and there often are! Sometimes they are about the issues I started journaling about and that’s good because it allows more of the truth to come forth. This is also the question that can open the floodgates, which is good too. This is when I might start to write about something else like, “And I’m angry with my co-worker too. She really pissed me off.” And then, “The damn dishwasher is not working again and I am totally frustrated that I have to get it fixed.” Just let it all flow – there will be time to sort through it all later. Just allow the feelings to come.
I will repeat this question until I feel done. You’ll know when you are. Already, you should feel better because your feelings have been expressed and honored.
Step 3. What do I want?
This is a very powerful question and you want to allow yourself to dream here. Don’t get hung up in what is possible in reality, just give voice to what you really want. This is where you can get at your truth so don’t be shy about expressing it. It’s really important that you don’t edit here – just be honest even if you can’t figure out how to make it a reality or that your truth might upset someone else. Commit to your voice and your truth in this section.
Step 4. What else?
Like before, this question keeps us from short-changing the process. You may have many things that you want, and that’s OK. Just keep asking this question until, again, you feel done.
Step 5. Review
Look over your feelings and your wants. What do you feel now? You should feel a sense of peace in that you have gotten clear about your truth. And you may also feel a sense of conflict because what you want may not appear to be achievable. But trust me, you will be shown the way. When we honor our truth, something powerful happens because the universe conspires to support us.
When I review my journaling, sometimes my answer relates directly to the issue I was exploring. For example, if I was journaling about being stressed with all that I have to accomplish for the holidays, I may discover that what I really want is to ditch trying to get the holiday cards mailed out. Or I may get some clarity about how to re-work my to do list, by scaling back on some items and asking for help with others.
And sometimes my answer relates to something deeper. I may have discovered that it’s not about the task list at all but rather that I don’t want to travel to visit the in-laws. Huh…that’s a surprise…but it definitely feels true… And here is where the crossroads may appear.
Step 6. The Crossroads
When your truth of what you want is going to upset or inconvenience another, you will be at the crossroads. You have a couple of choices here. First, breathe. You have achieved the goal of your journaling, which was clarity. It’s just that this clarity may appear to create more of a mess. This is where you might be challenged because if your truth does not seem doable, it’s tempting to ignore what you just learned and plow along like you were before. But remember, the goal is to honor your truth.
Let’s say what you wrote was, “I just want to stay home for the holidays and be with my husband and daughter. The truth is that I don’t want to travel anywhere because I am tired and the frenzy of traveling is too overwhelming. I want to have a quiet and peaceful time at home.” Just seeing the truth can be so freeing! And sometimes, it’s as simple as seeing it that motivates you to make it a reality, like calling the in-laws and letting them know that you have realized that you are overwhelmed and need to stay home. In this case, telling the truth can be best – humans respond to authenticity and just owning your experience and your choice can be very empowering.
But sometimes our truth is not always so easy to move into reality. If, for example, you have non-refundable tickets and staying home does not seem feasible, then you might want to see how you can still honor your truth. Can you schedule a couple of days off from work either before you go or after you return? Or can you make an appointment at a spa near your in-laws’ home? As you tinker with these ideas, keep checking in with your feelings. You’ll know if something is going to work because it will still create that sense of peace you had found by claiming your truth. If you start to feel yucky again, then that potential solution is not going to work. It’s important not to compromise here – I guarantee you that there will be a solution that will work.
This may require you to explore priorities. Yes, the tickets are non-refundable but what if you could change the dates for $100 each and come home a few days early? Does the whole family need to come home early or just you? Even if it cost $400, would it be worth it to be happy during the holidays? This may be when you get to take a look at the value you place on your happiness – a profound lesson in and of itself.
Or what if your truth is that you really don’t like your father-in-law and you don’t want to be around him? What then? Maybe take a little time to flesh this out a little more. Is it all the time or just when he is drinking? Journal to gain some more clarity about the details of what about that relationship causes you distress (possible moving into the Emotional Release process). As you do so, you will gain some insight about what you need to attend to. Maybe you can focus on talking to others and limit your amount of direct contact with him. Or maybe you can make a lot of plans out of the house with other family members. Or maybe you request that he not drink in your presence. Or maybe your truth is that you don’t want to be around him, period, and tell your partner your decision. Again, what is your happiness worth to you?
Is it worth creating a bit of discomfort for others so that you don’t have to carry all the discomfort yourself?
Step 7. The Action Plan
This allows me to take what I learned from journaling and move it into reality. I make a list of actions I will take, and by when I will take them. This section is really important because the feel-good feeling of journaling can sometimes lull us into a false sense of accomplishment. Exploring your feelings and discovering what you want is very powerful and that is why you will feel so much better by Step 6 but unless you take the actions that the journaling revealed, you will slide back into the feelings that had you picking up your journal in the first place. (And that’s OK. Sometimes, we have to repeat this process a few times, and keep seeing our truth, before we get enough courage to take action.)
It’s a great idea to set dates for each item to keep you accountable and to keep things moving. And then all that is left is to implement your action plan.