In the new-age electronic world of internet, social media and smart phones, our lives are more virtual than real for many. For others, their virtual and real worlds collide and collaborate. People are always connected to others through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, vlogs, and podcasts. Every aspect of our life can be put out there for the world to see. Whether we buy a new dress, eat out with friends, get married, or miss the departed, most of us do it online, with people ‘liking’ the newest changes in our lives. We leave our lives open for others to witness, judge, appreciate and criticize. We allow them to opine, sympathize, cheer or jeer.
In a way, our ego gets tied to the approval of our friend and acquaintances. Somewhere inside, a fear of being misunderstood is nursed, and we are compelled to explain ourselves, even if we are not feeling up to it, because people only see and understand from their own level of perception. We display ourselves in the way we want others to see us. Gradually, we also lose touch with our inner selves. The concept of privately processing our feelings before or after an event and experience, whether traumatic, ecstatic or life-altering, is slowly waning away. We worry more about how we are perceived by others than how we see ourselves, and we eventually end up lonely, and dependent on the vapid opinions and judgments of people who hardly know us, or would not be able to walk two steps in our shoes.
One of the best ways to fall in sync with your inner soul is by writing. Maintaining your own journal does not have any rules. You don’t need to be linguistically perfect. You don’t have to be polite or diplomatic. You don’t need to worry about being politically correct, or choosing your words carefully, so as not to hurt anyone. You can choose to record everyday happenings of your uneventful life, or the special events. You can put down your thoughts, ideas or feelings. You can write yourself a set of challenges to follow. You can write songs and poems. You can write stories to give yourself closure. You can write a letter to the person you can’t confront. You can simply scribble. Writing is your conversation with yourself. It will help to unravel the mess inside. You get to evaluate yourself, appreciate your successes, assess your mistakes, and put things into perspective. It can even help to come in terms suppressed emotions.
A study by psychologists at the University of California in Los Angeles revealed that the writing about feelings helps brain regulate emotions. According to the experiment with volunteers, putting your feelings down on paper can be catalytic in overcoming emotional distress for the brain, leaving you happier, by reducing activity in a part of the brain called amygdala. This is the part of the brain which controls the intensity of emotions. Scientists are calling it the Bridget Jones effect, and it is doused to be different from catharsis which essentially involves seeing emotional problems in a different light to come in terms with emotional upsets. The study further showed that it is more helpful to write about emotions in an abstract way than in vivid descriptions, since reliving an upsetting moment can reactivate their original feelings. On the other hand, indulging in writing a diary, creating poems and scribbling down lyrics of a song can help in mastering agonizing emotions.
When you start a diary, you know that you can be yourself on those pages. You can shed off all your inhibitions. That is why it is on the pages of our journals that we often have important epiphanies. We discover our moments of revelation. Thus, diaries help to discover ourselves. It is harder to understand ourselves than to understand others. How often has it happened that your own reaction in a particular situation has surprised you? How often has the reaction of others left you flabbergasted? We often fail to read social cues, facial expressions, body language, etc. When we write it all down, things become simplified, and more easily perceptible. It’s like reading a book, where you understand the characters and situations easily, except, the characters are you and your acquaintances, and the situations are real. Thus, writing helps analyzing a situation, too. Sometimes, it even helps to prepare for something that might happen.
We may not know how others are treating us badly, or how badly we are treating others, or ourselves. We may not know what suppressed energy, anger, or emotions are being channelized upon others. We may not know why we are letting bad things happen to us, in the hands of others or ourselves, when we can choose to walk out of such situations. Writing helps to understand the mistakes we are making. On a daily basis, we go through several confusions. We often get confused with too many thoughts in our head. Writing helps to organize them. Things we are unable to process, feelings we are unable to recognize -they find a definition and recognition.
Sentiments, desires, fears, thoughts roam around like little pieces of jigsaw puzzle in our head – full of pictures, ready to tell a story, waiting to be put together. Writing, like reading, increases our imagination and visualization skills, and we learn to put these pieces together to form the perfect picture. Sometimes we may even live in denial. But words show us the reality. When everything is spelled out in front of us, the truth glaring into our eyes, we cannot run away from it anymore. It is a boon in the sense that we finally come to accept the reality. Writing, in many ways, is like therapy. As our thoughts come pouring out naturally, the diary acts like the silent listener. Even you can get the toxins out of your system. You learn to see yourself in a different light.
When you write a diary, you leave yourself something to look at later. Have you ever found an old greetings card, a letter, a copy, or just a gift that has made you go back in time? Has it surprised you to see the choice of words, or made you think how you were at that time, and how you would do things differently if you were to go back to that place? Or, have you ever found a piece of your life, a memory of the past, missing? When you write a diary, you leave something for yourself, to revisit the moments you have been through and how you have come out of them stronger. A journal is a silent witness to your changes and developments, of your raw emotions, of your occasional creative streak, of your unrecognized strokes of genius, your lost goals and commitments. The future you will love to sit with and chat with such a confidante.
Or, perhaps you may even have the secret wish for the diary to be found and read? Because, in a diary you are brutally honest, it’s not inconceivable that you would romanticize your diary to be found as precious piece of your life and mind, once you are famous. A more serious – perhaps dangerous – someone who will know exactly who you are, or recognize your brilliance amidst all your mundane details and honest whining. It is not wrong to wish for someone with whom you need no pretense to be loved, respected and understood , and hence, the hope, or fantasy, that the diary would someday be in the hands of the right person who will accept the bare you for who you really are, and with whom you can be yourself, is neither unbelievable, nor wrong.
The fact is, your journal can find its way to the hands of a reader, whether or not you want for it to be read, and the reader can very well turn out to be the wrong person. It could be the person you least want to revel your deepest, darkest secrets to. It could be someone who would use your own words against you, as a tool of humiliation, and expose you in public. It could be the weapon for extortion and blackmail, emotional or otherwise. But, in order to gain the peace and happiness that writing brings you, you can always take measures to prevent such a thing from happening. For instance, you can use lock diaries. Try keeping your diary in a safe place. Writing in codes or in a different language might be a little extreme or juvenile, but if you think that these will help, go ahead. Besides, if you fear that the people you live with will not respect your privacy, it is also something you should think about. While writing in your own handwriting with a pen, scratching and scribbling to release your stress, wetting the pages with your tears, keeping an old rose pressed between the pages, are nostalgic gifts to the future you, you can also try writing on computers or smart-phones if you’re comfortable with technology. You can always put a password.
Make it a habit to write a diary. Write to keep a record. Write to whine. Write to develop your language. Write to put words to feelings. Write to accept failure. Write to recognize success. Write for no reason… because writing a diary is one of the best lifestyle choices, which will help you become your own friend.
Source: The Guardian, Daily Mail, WikiHow, Life Hacker, British Council
Images: Wattpad, WikiHow