I wrestled with some pretty intense emotions yesterday, but like always I welcome it. I wrote in my personal constitution (Something I learned from Stephen Covey) many years ago that I will always use difficult moments as fuel for growth. It was Albert Einstein who said that in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity and I truly believe that.
Due to my busy schedule yesterday, I wasn’t able to sit quietly to process what was going on in my head. So, this morning I decided to look back on a few of my previous blog entries to see if I could find something to inspire me, anything to jump-start my day. Perhaps something I wrote could serve as some sort of spark.
But I had to remind myself to be careful. Generally, I don’t look back at previous journal/blog entries. This is only my second month of blogging, but I’ve been journaling pretty much my entire adult life. I consider my journal a trusted friend, understanding that the process of pouring my soul out on paper can be very therapeutic.
However, I recently discovered that having journals could possibly stunt personal growth… I’ll explain in a minute. I suspect that one reason therapists recommend journaling is that it helps in facilitating the healing process. Also, similar to a mnemonic device it’s possible that the physical act of writing down our thoughts and leaving them behind in a journal could very well serve as a reminder that we should leave bad experiences behind. After all, the past is where they belong, correct? I dare not call them toxic or unhealthy, like so many people do, only because there are so many lessons to be learned in those moments of distress. They become toxic only if we’re not using the energy to our advantage. I once heard a speaker say, “Unbridled energy is a powerful catalyst for change.” I’ll admit that I’m not always successful at harnessing the bad energy. I do believe that a bad experience can serve as a powerful springboard for growth. The key is in spending quiet time processing the experience… which is easier said than done, which brings me to my point of how journaling could actually stunt our growth.
With each new day or newly turned page of our journal, we are greeted by an opportunity to freely write/create something fresh. And if there are things in our past we have yet to work through, we’ll simply reinforce beliefs or thought patterns that were formed out of those experiences. Marianne Williamson wrote in one of her books something about the dangers of unresolved issues, where they can create a cycle of neurotic thinking.
And according to other great thinkers, like Edna Mode, the feisty little character from The Incredibles, looking back can be very distracting.
I believe that our unconscious mind records every little thing that has happened to us. Therefore, we must tread carefully through our past. And if you find anything that conjures up painful memories, be prepared to deal with it. It may even involve calling someone or revisiting the place where you had the bad experience. Otherwise we run the risk of strengthening the negative experience. Somewhere around 2004 I drove by my old elementary school and forced myself to get out so that I could stand on the very playground we played on as school children. I think I mentioned in a previous blog entry about not having a particularly good school experience. I was known as the “dumb one” by a few of my classmates. I stood out there as an adult trying to conjure up some of the emotions I experienced back then so that I could reprogram part of my thinking. I’ve dealt with insecurities in my adult life that I know for certain came from things I experienced on that playground and in those halls and classrooms. If you haven’t already, read any book about NLP, Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I heard about it for the first time in one of Tony Robbins books. Trust me the techniques work.
Up until a few years ago I used to spend hours reading my old journal entries, which would often start off with great delight where I would reminisce about past events and places… being reminded of where my son toke his first step, the wonderful conversation I had with someone on a flight from Dallas to Orange County, etc. But I also risk revisiting some dark areas of my past, and boy there are many. Do we not typically journal when we experience pain or frustration?
I tread lightly through those pages. Not because I want to hide from my past, but because I understand my nature (I don’t necessarily like the concept but it’ll do for now). I have a tendency to think about and relive some of those painful memories, where I would actually experience a shift in my energy. If I recall, George Washington said something about not looking back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors. If I’m not willing to put in the personal work to get through them, I quickly dismiss them saying something as simple as rise above it.