Introspection is critical for our health and well being, and our spiritual growth. In the form of expressive writing or journaling, introspection is especially beneficial because it allows us to disclose information that we otherwise might not admit to others or even ourselves. Because of this factor, expressive writing is an excellent therapeutic tool for those who have experienced emotional or traumatic experiences. However, we should not limit ourselves to journaling or engaging in other introspective practices only to process and recover from distressing experiences. Rather, it is equally important to journal consistently, regardless of how dramatic or uneventful our lives seem to be at certain times.
This is because we might be unaware of how social factors could be contributing to our avoidance of feelings and processing feelings. For example, our friends and family, even with the best intentions, might tell us to put the past behind us or move on after we’ve experienced an emotional or traumatic event. We might not even realize it if we end up following their advice, because we might react to such suggestions by simply not talking to the friend about the event. This means that we are engaging in avoidance, a tendency we might employ as a means to maintain or attain “internal equilibrium,” as trauma psychologist and professorJohn Briere, PhD, explains in his article, “Working with Trauma: Mindfulness and Compassion.” Yet, we are actually prolonging or exacerbating the pain or other emotions caused by the event. Modern mindful psychotherapists call this the “pain paradox,”where we end up experiencing more pain by trying various ways to avoid pain.
Another factor that causes us to avoid recovering from emotional experiences, according to Dr. Briere, is the media. The media largely promotes materialism as a way to resolve any shortcomings or weakness we might feel that we have. From clothes and accessories to make women feel more feminine and empowered, to cars to make men feel more masculine and in control, the media’s promotion of the acquistion of such worldly, ultimately meaningless items (on top of its advocacy for pain relievers and antidepressants) tells society that once we do something “to stop feeling bad, we’ll automatically feel good.”
Of course, we don’t recover after “doing something to stop feeling bad,” though we might briefly feel better. The way to start feeling good and truly recover from any distress that experiences bring us is to be honest with ourselves about the event and our feelings about it, and then face the event to process it. Facing the event means to recount the event or sit with it. This will help us overcome fear and is a step toward accepting the event. Once we accept the event, we are ready to fully process it.
How can we face an event? Through meditation and expressive writing. Meditating before writing allows us to become calm so we can think clearly about the event while writing about it. Our emotions might be heightened after journaling, so meditating after writing will help restore balance within. I suggest this combination of meditating and expressive writing as an introspective healing modality to trauma clients, which has proven invaluable in their recovery process and ultimate transformation. Such a combination allows for not only their recovery from the traumatic event, but for their personal and spiritual growth that transcends their emotional experience — for their evolution toward their highest self and self-realization.