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There is more room out than in. This is something I have come to believe when it comes to dealing with my thoughts and emotions. As a person who has a tendency to live in my head quite a bit, and who has experienced the negative effects of suppressing emotions, I have learned that getting my thoughts and emotions out (and to do so wisely) is essential for my well-being.

Checking In

In light of this lesson, I have tried to make it a daily habit to check-in with myself first thing in the morning and throughout the day. Like a person who checks into a hotel to let the desk clerk know, I am here, I take a moment to do a mental, emotional and physical scan. I pause to identify what’s going on in my mind and body and to discern what I am feeling so I can know where it is that I am and be able say, “I am here”.

Generally, I engage in putting pen to paper during my check-ins. Most of the time, I start by making a list. Capturing the thoughts racing around in my mind and identifying the feelings pulling at the strings of my heart. Then, I go back to address each item specifically to get a fuller understanding of what’s going on within. I reflect on the content of the thoughts, try to identify the triggers for the feelings, and write down the concerns I have related to each. At other times, I simply start writing, jotting down whatever comes to my mind and letting the bits and pieces of myself show up in the process. Then, there are those times when I lack clarity and struggle to write about or pin anything down. From this place I start…I am not sure what it is I am thinking and feeling this morning. My thoughts and feelings generally become clearer as I continue writing. I end this time by noting my cares and concerns so that I can express to God what’s on my heart as I pray and seek His direction for my day.

Naming and Expressing Thoughts and Moods

Beyond writing to assess where I am and to do my own personal self-examination, I often incorporate writing techniques in my work with clients. I primarily use journaling and letter writing to help clients identify feelings that they might not be conscious of or have a difficult time naming and/or expressing.

I also use these writing techniques to help clients gain mental clarity identifying those components that might be impeding their growth and progress. Mental components such as vows and judgments, core beliefs and rules and assumptions, that are created during formative years could continue to serve as a filter for their current life but in a potentially negative way. Journaling and letter writing can also surface components that are at the heart of relational struggles such as unmet needs and desires. They can also bring to light thoughts and feelings such as hopelessness and grief or abandoned dreams, which play a part in mood issues or some other mental health challenges.

Making the Connection

Some clients I find are apprehensive about writing down their thoughts for fear of someone finding their journal or letter. I encourage clients to write unedited, then interact with the material by reflecting on what it was like to do the exercise and talk about what they discovered about themselves in the process. I then encourage them to tear up the journal or letter if necessary. The goal at that point is to connect. Other clients I find are reluctant to engage in these exercises out of fear of facing their emotions, especially if they have worked hard to keep them at bay. They are fearful of potentially being consumed by their emotions. Lastly, there are those who simply do not journal.

Learning to identify, express and process our thoughts and feelings are important for our overall well-being regardless of whether we do so verbally or in writing. If connecting with your thoughts and emotions is a challenge for you, you feel stuck because of unresolved issues, or you are having relational struggles and find it different to connect, we want to help you. Take one step closer to being more engaged and present with yourself and others by calling today to schedule an appointment with one of the therapists here at Optimum Joy.

Written by therapist Clair Miller

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