Starting a journal

Starting a Journal

havoca starting a journalA journal is a book where you can write personal details and feelings down.  It can be any size, any shape and any colour.  It is important that it remains totally confidential and you have total control over it.  Only show it to people who you trust or just keep it private.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be Ann Frank to write a journal!

There are four easy steps to help you write one:

[jbox title=”1. Pick a medium”]Have you always been enamored by the old school combination of a thick, leather bound journal and a classic fountain pen? Go ahead and fulfill your fantasy. Alternatively, you could also use Notepad, Microsoft Word or a specialized journal writing software like Life Journal to pin down your thoughts and experiences. Both of these options have their share of pros and cons. A physical diary is more portable and some people need the earthly feel of parchment to get into the mood of writing. On the other hand, software is more convenient and efficient as you can organize your journal, go back and forth and create a pattern, if your are into that sort of thing. Not to mention, these can be password protected.[/jbox]

[jbox title=”2. Pick a subject”]Contrary to popular belief, a journal doesn’t have to be limited to the history of your abuse. You can write about a variety of topics, ranging from hard core philosophy to travel experiences to politics. That’s the beauty of this form, it is flexible enough to encompass a wide spectrum of thoughts and allows you to open previously locked doors.
Pour your heart out
Writing about your heartfelt experiences is the most obvious choice when it comes to picking a subject for your journal. Don’t be shy to narrate your life story even if it seems completely uneventful to you. Seemingly trivial things like your first love or a teenage heartbreak can teach you a thing or two about how life works. Many years later, when you look back at your journals, you might be surprised at how far you have travelled over the years.
Random meditations
A journal is the perfect place to unleash the hidden philosopher within you. Put on your thinking cap and ruminate about random topics like things you are scared of, the meaning of life, the value of suffering and pain etc. On a lighter note, write about a movie you loved or a book that influenced you deeply.[/jbox]
[jbox title=”3. Experiment with writing styles”] It is no coincidence that the greatest of writers were in the habit of writing journals. A journal gave them the opportunity to experiment with new writing styles, tone and diction. Virginia Woolf once described her journal as “something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind”. Take a cue from some of the best journals through history and try new ways of writing. Not only will this improve your writing ability, it will also make for a refreshing change in your journal, opening up new paths for you to explore. It can also help you detach as you write particulary painful chapters.[/jbox]

[jbox title=”4. Look back on your journal”]Every now and then, look back at your journal with an eye to edit, not censor. Remember, a journal should be home to your deepest thoughts. While reflecting on your entries, don’t let the moralizing impulse get the better of you. To the contrary, your aim should be to edit and revise your journal. Go through earlier entries and think about how you would have expressed yourself differently. Alternatively, you might actually disagree with your own thoughts. Make notes about how your thought process has changes over the years. This adds a certain kind of depth and complexity to your journals and reflects on your personality and inner self. The growth you witness can have a surprisingly therapeutic effect on you. Self reflection is an important aspect of recovery.[/jbox]

Here are some exercises to help you get started or help you out during some writing block!

Exercise one:

Write down your experiences in detail.  Write down everything you remember about the abuse.  Every last detail – this will be very painful but will help with breaking your denial process.

Exercise two:

Obtain a photograph of yourself at the age you were when you were abused.  Stick it into the journal.  Write about the little person in the photograph, describe how you look, concentrating on your physical appearance; how small you are, how immature you look.

Exercise three:

Obtain a photograph of the person who abused you.  Do the same, describe how he/she looks.  This may be very difficult but do your best – if you can’t do it then try the next part of the exercise.  Write about the difference between the first photo and the second.  Concentrate on the physical differences between the two of you.  Notice how small and vulnerable you were.  Write underneath: ‘I was abused by name.’

Exercise four:

Re read exercise one, read it out aloud.  Write down how you feel whilst you read it.  Concentrate on your emotions and try and write why you think you are feeling these things.  List the emotions you experience in a simple list format.

i.e.   fear



hurt etc.

Make this list as long as you like, it will form the basics of future exercises.

Exercise five:

Write out a list (more lists I’m afraid) of all the things you have lost as a result of the abuse.

i.e.   Innocence


self respect etc.

Exercise six:

Write an imaginary letter as a third party to yourself.  Imagining you are an adult writing to the child who was abused.  Explain how you don’t deserve what happened to you, the feelings you felt were right and apologise to yourself for the things the abuse has taken away from you.

Exercise seven:

Write a letter to your abuser, again as a third party, say what ever comes to mind.  Try not to get hateful, be constructive and allow your anger to get through.

Exercise eight:

Re write the list in exercise four, relate each feeling to an occasion that happened recently and then do the same to a situation in your childhood.  Compare the two situations and state which one was worse and why.  Describe how your feelings today could have been affected by your experiences in your past.

Exercise nine:

In what ways have you denied your (or your loved one’s) abuse?  How has this denial been helpful?  How has it hurt you?

Exercise ten

Try drawing yourself and your abuser – what do these pictures tell you about yourself?

Exercise eleven

What are some significant things you have lost because of your (your loved one’s) abuse?  what can you do as an adult to experience some of those things now?  What have you lost that you can never regain?There is something about looking terror in the face, and seeing your own reflection, that is strangely relieving.  There is comfort in knowing that you don’t have to pretend anymore, that you are going to do everything within YOUR power to heal.  “I know now that every time I accept my past and respect where I am in the present, I am giving myself a FUTURE.”

“All I’d done prior is acknowledge that this has happened.  It hadn’t really been touched.”

DON’T WAIT, DON’T WAIT, because it won’t go away.  It always comes back and it gets harder.

If you say “WHY should I bother? I’ve coped so far,” I’d say to you, “You haven’t coped.  You haven’t even LIVED a fraction of yourself.  You may be a smothering artist.  You may be smothering all kinds if self-expression that needs to come out for your sake, and for others.  WHY not give it a CHANCE?”

Once you have began to tackle the denial you are ready to deal with your emotions and feelings – now you are ready to heal.  Don’t expect too much at once, sometimes you will have relapses back into the denial stage – this is normal.  Put it down to being a bad day, and remain focused on your journey.  If at any stage you need guidance then feel free to use our free email service or post a message on our Adult Victim’s Bulletin Board.  Either way you are not alone.  From research alone 1 in 6 boys and 2 in 5 girls were abused as children.  Together we can break the chain; through education and commitment we can help to lower these figures.  HAVOCA will continue until all traces of child abuse are exterminated.

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