Louis Savalli, a regular reader, reached out and inquired about guest posting here. When I took a look at his site, one thing that stood out to me is he's been journaling for 10 years. I asked how his journaling has evolved and what he's learned, and this post was born. Here's Lou -
We all do what we think is best in any given situation. Even if those actions or decisions fail, we'll often repeat the same actions again and again thinking that the results will be different. Yes, this is insane. So what's missing? How do these patterns happen?
We all have the patterns in some area of our lives, maybe subconsciously… which brings me to the point of this article: the value of keeping a journal.
I kept a personal journal for ten years, 1998 to 2008. The journal made me an observer to my own life. Re-reading entries, I was blown away at how obvious my patterns were.
I first started journaling for a class project. My writing style was raw – I’d say things like “This happened and it sucked… screw everyone” or “So and so came by and I felt amazing.” Though rough, this was me learning how to express myself - literally the baby steps of my writing career. Over the next couple months, the writing began to flow easier and I started delving into truly personal emotions and experiences.
The raw emotion transitioned into something more mature over time, but the themes were repetitive. I’d make a friend or start dating a woman, then I’d perceive myself as being abandoned by this person for no particular reason and blame myself for it. I spent years repeating this and having no clue about it.
It seems obvious now when I review entries quickly, the pattern I was stuck in. But it wasn’t so obvious then. An outside observer could have seen the same thing, but I couldn’t. I was doing what I thought was best. I can’t remember the details, but as I reviewed the journal, the results were clear and always the same.
After college I searched for some answers. I started to go a little easier on myself in the journal, which reflected what I was doing in real life. I read more and meditated regularly, which I discussed in my journal. From there, it was a gradual transition out of self-loathing and into self-loving. I’m still doing this transition.
And it’s very much a transition – it’s a slow fading out of the old and in with the new.
What do I make of all that writing now? I look at the stack of journals and haphazard papers and I can sense the emotional weight of them. They look heavy, they feel heavy, and they are heavy with emotion.
Life’s lighter now, I can see the weight of the emotions and thoughts from back then, crammed into the pages of spiral notebooks.
I no longer keep a personal journal. I write all the time on my blog. My writing never stops – it’s a wonderful vehicle for expression and teaching. I couldn’t imagine keeping a journal so personal and so raw as the last 10 years. Over-analysis and too much detail – that’s what my journals were. Detailed recollections of events that weren’t so important.
Now I don’t get so caught up in the minutia of life. Better to experience it, express it, share it. What I ate, drank, who I saw, a bad feeling like jealous… these aren’t so important.
If you’re thinking of journaling, I say go for it. Be detailed, be general, whatever. Different things are needed for different people at different times. From 1998-2008, I needed to keep a detailed record of my daily activities, thoughts, pains and pressures. The most important thing was the realization that so much detail and negative emotion are not necessary and not important. BUT – I had to go through it first to realize it. I had to write in order to work my way out of it. And then let it go.
You can find Lou's writing on programming, personal development, and spirituality at http://www.savalliworks.com