Home Contact Me
Cactus Counselling logo: prickly pear

Cactus Counselling

Journalling Suggestions

Photo of an open journal held open by a pen by Jessica Lewis Creative

Journalling can be a good way of getting better value for money out of your therapy. It helps you to learn to process your feelings yourself, and can accelerate your progress in therapy - if faster progress is what you're looking for.

If you're not familiar with journalling or are looking for suggestions for themes to write about, here are some suggestions:

This is a dirty word to some people. How do you feel about it? Is it something you'd want or would you prefer to avoid having it?

Assess Your Self-esteem
Self-esteem can be understood as a combination of two things: your belief in your own competence, and your belief in your own likeability as a person. How would you rate each of these? How do you think your friends would rate you? Family? Colleagues?

Consider the Impact of Your Trauma on Relationships
Explore how being a victim of abuse or bullying affected your relationships with other people at the time, and since. What challenges do you most often face? What would you say changed in the way you interacted with people after the abuse/bullying started? Is the answer different depending on whether you assess your relationships with your friends, family, colleagues, or anyone else?

Journal about ways you can empower yourself if somebody tries abusing or bullying you again, including strategies that you can use to build your resilience, assertiveness, and self-confidence. For a start, how would you define each of those things?

Explore Your Emotions
Journal about the emotions you experienced as a result of your trauma. The four main emotions are fear, sadness, anger, and joy (you probably din't experience joy from your trauma but it's one of the four 'basic' emotions. All other emotions: frustration, jealousy, etc. are derivatives of these). How would you say these emotions have impacted your self-esteem and overall well-being.

Write about your journey so far towards healing and recovery from the effects of abuse or bullying. Write about the progress you've made, any setbacks, and the challenges you're facing in the current day.

Identify Patterns
Look for patterns or common themes in the traumatic incidents you have experienced. This can be particularly useful for abuse or trauma that went on for a length of time on multiple occasions. Taking your thoughts from journalling to your therapist to further identify patterns and themes can be rich work.

Impact on Your Empathy
Reflect on how your experiences with bullying or abuse have shaped your empathy towards others. How can you use your experiences to advocate for change and support others who may be going through similar situations? Do you want to, or do you prefer the idea of leaving it all behind entirely?

Letting Go and/or Forgiving
This is a late-stage piece of journalling to do. Do you feel ready for this, or do you feel it's appropriate to your situation? I suggest you do not pressure yourself to forgive as an ideal; forgiveness is intensely personal to each situation and each person. If you want to try it, then here is a journalling suggestion for it. Explore the concept of forgiveness and what it means to you personally. What forgiveness do you need to give to those who abused or bullied you? What forgiveness do you want to consider for those people who may have intervened? What forgiveness do you need to give yourself? What does the role of resentment hold in all of this? If you imagine your life after moving forward, what's it like?

Write about specific traumatic events (so long as you feel ready to do so - writing about them can evoke them, sometimes powerfully), including what happened, how you felt during and after, and any lasting impact on you that you've noticed. This can help give you a broader view of the whole process, which itself can give you new insights.

Reflect on your own reactions and coping mechanisms in response to the trauma you experienced. Describe the strategies you used at the time, and have used since to protect yourself.

Support Network
Reflect on your support system. Who are your friends, trusted family members, and which professionals can you go to? Include information on how particular people have helped in the past. How did it feel?

Your Relationships With the Leaders in Your Life
Most of us have somebody who holds a leadership position over us: bosses, religious community leaders, teachers or tutors, parents, perhaps examiners or professional organisations, and others might include their therapist or medical professionals (this therapist would contest that she's in a leadership position over you, but that's beyond the scope of this list! I include therapists and doctors here so you can decide for yourself whether it feels that they are exerting leadership over you). List them all, then describe your relationships with each. Do you feel safe with them? Angry? Controlled or constricted? Well-guided or mentored? Pushed out of your comfort zone?

Remember, journaling is a personal and introspective process, and it may not suit people who are in a particularly raw emotional state. Only do so it it feels right.

Be sure to check back: I'll add more to this list as time goes on!

Photo by Jessical Lewis Creative from Pexels