In Day Ten, I talked about denial and how we often minimize our losses by spiritualizing the events. But a woman wrote to Day Nine talking about the opposite problem. She had too much emotion. She needed to find ways to channel her emotion in positive ways. Good point. She said journaling was one positive approach she took.
I recently came across some research in Brene Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly, that relates to journaling:
In a pioneering study, psychologist and University of Texas professor James Pennebaker and his colleagues studied what happened when trauma survivors— specifically rape and incest survivors— kept their experiences secret. The research team found that the act of not discussing a traumatic event or confiding it to another person could be more damaging than the actual event.
Conversely, when people shared their stories and experiences, their physical health improved, their doctor’s visits decreased, and they showed significant decreases in their stress hormones. Since his early work on the effects of secret keeping, Pennebaker has focused much of his research on the healing power of expressive writing.
In his book Writing to Heal, Pennebaker writes, “Since the mid-1980s an increasing number of studies have focused on the value of expressive writing as a way to bring about healing. The evidence is mounting that the act of writing about traumatic experience for as little as fifteen or twenty minutes a day for three or four days can produce measurable changes in physical and mental health. Emotional writing can also affect people’s sleep habits, work efficiency, and how they connect with others.”
(p. 82) Penguin Group
Brown notes the AA saying: you are only as sick as your secrets.
I will often offer my ears to people who have gone through pain. I tell them that I don’t have to
be their counselor. I just think everyone needs someone to vent to without apologizing for it.
The evidence is mounting that the act of writing about traumatic experience for as little as fifteen or twenty minutes a day for three or four days can produce measurable changes in physical and mental health.
Some people don’t want to talk or journal for fear that they aren’t trusting God. They
shouldn’t need those outlets. All they need is God. Well, hello. Maybe God wants to give you
some tangible outlets. It’s not a sign of weak faith to want/need to share the pain of your
Are you a journaler? How has it helped you to process loss? What other ways have you found
helpful to share your pain in constructive ways?
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