Your Journal is a Magic Mirror
You're not doomed to repeat the same patterns
Imagine placing a mirror on the inside fold of your journal along its spine. The page is the creation. The reflection is the manifestation.
In our journalling practice, we might find ourselves falling into familiar patterns. Reflecting on the day, we might write about disagreements we’ve had, how little we’ve accomplished and how we feel about it all, noting with depressing repetition that we can’t stand ourselves.
It’s easy to forget that when we write in our journal, what we think is reflection is often a projection, dooming us to repeat the same, self-negating behaviours.
What if our journal is a mirror? That reflection of your writing, which way is it pointing? Away from you right? Into the future. Can you see the problem?
Now I’m not a fan of wishing away unhappiness or worse, denying it, but journalling about it constantly only creates reflections of the past, but the reflection is created into the future. You’re dooming yourself to the same behaviour cycles this way. It’s time to break out of the cycle and to do so in a way that doesn’t deny your experience.
By all means write about what’s happened, but remember to write about all the great things too. If you reflect for just a few moments, you’ll find countless things to be grateful for, but I’d encourage you not to regurgitate the same old gratitude list you’ve always spouted, without any conscious connection. If you’re grateful for your child, for example, what specifically are you grateful for? Think of a moment, just one, and write about it. Include the context. For example, I’m grateful for my son, but yesterday, I was grateful for his chuckle, which I heard when he was talking to his friend. Not a forced, socialised laugh, but his authentic chuckle, the one that makes me feel like nothing in the world matters except that sound. I can picture where he was sitting, what the light in the room was like, how my wife and I exchanged that wordless look that parents do when they’ve both appreciated something about the child, and the love, and the history they share at the same moment.
So that’s how we do gratitude. That’s the ledger of real moments of joy that we create, to look back in in the years to come and feel that same joy all over again, deepened by the patina of wisdom.
What about hope? We aren’t just custodians of the record of what happened to us, we are also the architects of our actions. And if what we write is going to be reflected into the future, we might as well paint a clear picture of what we want that future to look like. So make plans and write them down. Make simple plans until you get the hang of it. Before you have your morning coffee, imagine the smell, the first sip, in fact, the entire ritual of having made that coffee. Imagine where you’ll be when you have it, who you’ll be with, or which project you’ll begin work on after you take that first sip, and write that down.
Writing is like a magic mirror. When you write negatively about how you're feeling, what you're doing is creating a mirror that reflects how you felt at the time you're now writing about into the future!
If you want a better future, you have to change what's in the mirror. To change what's in the mirror, write something new, write what you want to see. It sounds like magical thinking, but I prefer to call it planning. Call it what you want, but what it amounts to is the embodiment of a simple idea — that we can be a lot happier if we work on things we can control, and even though our locus of control might be small, we can always change the way we think about things, there is at least that, and once you believe that, maybe you’ll get comfortable with believing in yourself.
Wield your creative power, carefully at first, modestly, then you can move on to bigger things, but first, break out of the pattern of treating your journal as a ledger. There is no creative power in a ledger, but there is healing in joyful remembrance, and there is power in conscious, written anticipation.