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You can make you whole again

Updated: May 15, 2023

Pop your kernels back to life

Have you ever felt lost, incomplete, a bit empty? Not sure what to do, where to go, how to ‘find’ yourself?

I know how you feel. I felt that way for a very, very, very (how many ‘verys’ am I allowed here?) long time.

Eventually - through journaling and with a bit of help from therapy - I began to get to know myself, express myself and in the example here today, reclaim myself.

Like many of us, I didn’t escape childhood without internalising a few choice messages about myself. Messages that have ‘kept me in my place,’ and kept me from doing all manner of things. As children, we swallow these messages whole, we simply didn’t have the tools to process or question them. Sound familiar?

It’s a similar story with the stuck parts of us. Without realising it, we disconnect from feelings and situations (big and small) that we don’t have the tools to process. But whilst we may mentally flee the scene, a little part of us gets stuck behind, like unpopped kernels in a bag of popcorn - in your bag of popcorn.

How did I know that these parts were there? I’ve learned that when I have a stronger than normal negative reaction to something in the present (I know what ‘normal’ is for me), there will be some poor part of me reliving something similar; something unpleasant, over and over again from the past.

Think of something where you’ve had what for you is a disproportionate reaction to something, probably quite small. Here is where rich content lies.

So I started to notice and discover these parts of myself. I talked to them, on the page, parented and reassured them, and where relevant, gave them up-to-date information so that they could grow and pop themselves into the present. I began to feel more connected to myself, more full of myself, less alone and empty.

It’s probably easier if I give you an example of what I mean:

For as long as I can remember, whenever I’d look for a job, I’d be catapulted to a cold, lonely and scary place that left me incapacitated and overwhelmed.

So, having captured this feeling and noticing that it wasn’t a normal reaction - for me - to something pretty straightforward, my first port of call was to write about the situation and the feeling in detail.

Then I asked myself, ‘what does this remind me of?’ It didn’t take too long to work out that it was a particularly dark and scary time in my life when I’d just left college and was under pressure to get a job. The colour of that scene was grey. I have no resources that I’m aware of, human or otherwise. I’m scared and alone, it’s a horrible place to be.

So then I write to the part of me that’s still there, reliving that scene and I asked if she was OK and explained that I was there to help, my standard introduction. We then got into a big old conversation on the page. I listened to her fears and gave her some parenting - reassurance and comfort that she’s not alone and that I’m here to help. I let her know she was safe.

I reminded her - as I do all the ‘me’s’ - that the place she’s in is old, it’s just a dusty old black and white photo, a snapshot in time, and that it’s in the past and if she looked around she’d see that she was the only one living in the scene. I invited that part of me to come with me into the land of the living and eventually, she agreed to leave that place and come with me.

The internalised me’s have sometimes been too scared, caught up in sadness that they’ve lost all this time whilst stuck in the past, sometimes unconvinced of my ability as an adult to do the right thing by them. The conversations can span a good few weeks or even more. Eventually though, they’ve all come.

Recently I was looking at a job description and once again, there I was, back in that place. Then I remembered, ‘hold on, this is out of date.’ I reminded myself of the old and tattered black and white photo, I reassured myself that that part of me was now with me and I felt immediately better. I now know that I have experience, knowledge and most of all, value. It gives me a completely different feeling that I can take forward, a feeling of colour and life, not grey and decay. My initial ‘pinging’ back there was just muscle memory and over time I will build a new response.

What’s even more incredible, is that these now unstuck, or fully popped parts of me can have amazing wisdom and insight and have often ended up reassuring and looking after me - the ‘now’ me.

As a result of this work and getting to know myself better through journaling, I feel more connected to myself and to what I can offer the world and clearer about what I want - I feel whole again, my bag of popcorn once rattling and deflated is now nice and full, well, almost… Just this week I bumped into another - 20 something year old struggling part of me. Let me tell you, she needed no convincing to leave the past. I’d not finished writing with her before she said, ‘yes, I’m in!’

Having a go

So if you have a disproportionate response to something - you know what disproportionate means for you - then this is a great place to jump in and explore, it’s almost guaranteed there will be something underneath.

If you’re new to writing this way, it will help to apply free-writing rules which will release you from your 'thinky' brain. These are:

  • Set a timer for five minutes so you can let go into the writing.

  • Keep your pen moving and follow your own emerging topic, even if it’s something completely different, it will be relevant for you

  • If you get stuck, repeat the prompt or the last two words you wrote

  • If you feel resistance, annoyance or anything else, write about that

  • If you bump into difficult feelings, either write about them (in detail; where is the feeling in your body, what’s the texture, colour etc.) or come back to them later.

So here in summary is my process which you can use as a guide. Yours may be different, so don’t stick to it if your pen takes you elsewhere:

  1. I write about something that is causing me anxiety, stress, anger etc.

  2. I ask myself what it reminds me of. It may take a couple of go’s to get to the source event but I find my way there eventually.

  3. I then write about the source incident itself, in as much detail as I can muster. You can’t get into too much detail and, even if you’re guessing because you can’t quite remember, the feeling and sense of something is just as, if not more important than the facts.

  4. Then I start to have a conversation on the page with that part of me who is sort of stuck in that situation from the past. This is called ‘dialoguing’ in the journaling world (yes, there is one!)

  5. I parent that part of me. I tell it gently, that it’s over - whatever ‘it’ is. I comfort that part of me and ask if there’s anything it wants to say to me. I explain that the situation no longer exists, it’s in the past, that if they look around they’ll see that everyone else in the picture is literally in a picture, a black and white, slightly dusty one.

  6. I tell that part of me that it can come with me, into the present, to live again with me and all the other ‘me’s’ I’ve rescued along the way. Sometimes this takes a few goes, sometimes it works immediately.

  7. If that part of me needs some more convincing - and some do - then be gentle, take your time and don’t be afraid to go back. Literally treat that part of you like a child you’re looking after. Promise you’ll go back and chat again and do just that. The conversations that ensue are rich and rewarding. It’s amazing what these parts of us know and can help us with.

As I say, writing this way will rarely follow a nice linear pattern because it’s a conversation and conversations with yourself, just like with other people, go off in tangents. Other parts of you may even join in the conversation. One time, a part of me - honestly, I don’t know where she came from - jumped in sort of Aliens style with a flamethrower to burn away the stuck scene. The particular stuck part of me I was conversing with needed something dramatic and it worked. I’ve since deployed ‘flamethrower Claire’ as I call her (not very imaginative I know) to deal with other situations.

Also, don’t be afraid of negative voices (or emotions for that matter - they’re just as valid/healthy as the positive ones). Let them have their space, see what they have to say, you’ll be surprised by what’s underneath. See ‘Make friends with your inner-critic.’

Taking care of ourselves

For most of us, this kind of work should be at worst, uncomfortable. I find that writing itself provides a safe space to express any feelings I’m experiencing, which is one of the many great things about journaling. Externalising the internal is its own reward. But ask for help if you need it and trust yourself that you know what’s best for you. If you don’t feel safe in yourself, don’t ‘go there’ without support. Click here for resources that are there to help you.

Good luck and I’d love to hear how you get on!

Journaling

This is just one aspect of the dynamic and transformational act of journaling – it’s not just about getting your feelings out or recording experiences.


If you’re new to journaling, my most important message is that there are no journaling police. People are frozen into inaction by the idea that they may not do it right. You cannot do it wrong. Back of an envelope plus anything that makes a mark on the page is all you need. It’s just about tools to help you externalise your internal landscape. If you’d like a copy of my guide, ‘Journal how you like!’ give me a shout at cpsdayoff@gmail.com.


If you’d like to hear more about how I can help you or your organisation use writing to tap into your inner resources, be more resilient, support wellbeing and be more creative, do give me a shout.


Photo thanks to Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

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