All the forms of personal life writing (see the list in the first post to this blog) have one thing in common. They help you get in touch with things that you need to be honest about—whether those things are in your past, in your present or in your future.
Ask yourself, “What do I need to get honest about in my past?” and you might find yourself writing a letter to another person (to mail or not), or a journal entry about a past set of circumstances, experience or relationships and what it felt like then that you’ve been trying to avoid admitting to yourself, much less to anyone else. You might find yourself making a list of feelings that you are holding in from the past. Here’s what I wrote:
What things in my past still cause me upset? Specifically, what things, events, happenings, etc. caused me fear? How about what made me mad? Or sad? What about things that I feel responsible for (i.e.—guilty, ashamed)?
Or you can focus the same questions on your present. What in your present makes you afraid, worried, upset, mad, sad, guilty, ashamed?
You can even do the same thing about the future! What do you picture in your future that makes you feel any of those feelings? Shall I rehearse those feelings again? It’s really easy to forget them. We want so much to forget them, to pretend that they don’t happen to us, to pretend that we’re living in such a way that they don’t bother us or matter to us. But the truth is they do. It is because of those feelings that we are as troubled as we are, even though we are doing all (well, most, anyway) of the right things according to our personal value system.
Pretending there’s nothing saddening, maddening, frightening, guilt-tripping enough in this life to honestly admit to myself and to God is what keeps me unsettled, upset, and that makes me do the same thing I did when I was nauseated during my pregnancies—eat crackers, bread, etc—anything solid and floury. This is why doing personal life writing (just for me to see what I think, feel, hope, fear, . . . by seeing what emerges on the page) is one of the most important tools in keeping me sane around food. (As I’m discussing in my blog on eating addiction.)