Reading is one way of finding solace in uncertain times – and reading about other people’s lives can help us think about our own in new ways.
Writer Alexander Masters discovered 148 diaries (or journals) in a skip in Cambridge. He, of course, tried to make sense of the life described. Eventually his exploration became his book A Life Discarded: 148 diaries discovered in the trash and as readers we come to understand the title refers to both the diaries as representative of a life, and the lived life of the diarist.
The entries from this time raise the interesting idea that, although Laura wrote the diaries, she didn’t read the. She filled the pages but didn’t know what they said.
A Life Discarded p 195
Masters recognises her missed opportunity:
Laura clearly did not read what she wrote, or did not understand what her words meant…she did not grasp the essential message of these pages, which any other reader spots at the first glance: namely, that …
A Life Discarded p197
So journal or diary writing alone is not productive; it provides the seeds for learning and insight but another stage is necessary – that of reading and reflecting. Jean-Paul Sartre reminds us that every writer needs a reader – and in journal therapy we can be both writer and reader.
As I thought, catharsis is not enough, though for many it is the necessary first step.
Do you read your own journal entries?
If not you may be be missing the key opportunity for reflection and insight, the way to turn your journal into a healing tool.
Look back over one of your journal entries. Read it through and then write a few sentences of feedback to yourself beginning:
When I read this I notice……..
When I read this I feel…………..
The Feedback Loop (Thompson 2010 p34) is a simple process with real therapeutic gains. It’s also one that we all forget to do – especially in difficult times.
Leave a comment on this post and share your experience of this process.
And of course: