Becoming aware of your history and experience is the first step toward healing and integration. The second step is to identify what you were feeling and allow yourself room to process those feelings. It is helpful for me to begin to know your story. If possible, fill out as much as you remember of your timeline (history) and bring it to your session. However, it is not a requirement.
Download Timeline Form (PDF)
Writing as a way to process feelings:
Writing your feelings in a journal and/or writing angry letters you do not send to process your feelings can be beneficial to your emotional health.
- Allows you to clarify your thoughts and feelings
- Allows you to stay with the feelings to process them instead of staying stuck in them
- Allows you to bring painful feelings into consciousness as you can
- Allows you to know yourself better
- Allows you to be more confident and take appropriate action by concretely seeing what you are feeling
There is no right or wrong way to journal your feelings. Make it work for you. That could mean writing sentences or writing feelings words only. The objective is to become aware of your feelings and to process them. Say things more frankly then you would face to face. Remember this is for your own privacy only. Often as children we were not allowed to express our feelings. This is an opportunity for you to begin to express what you couldn’t back then or have difficulty expressing today.
Journaling your feelings:
Begin by looking at the feeling handout provided. Ask yourself what you are feeling. Explore and stay with what you are feeling. Example: I feel sad that _______. Allow yourself to stay with the sadness to process it. By opening to your sadness, it may bring up other times that you felt sad and did not process it. Allow yourself to process as much as you can of your sadness. Grammar, spelling or neatness is not important. Bring these feelings and realizations to your therapy session.
Writing angry letters that you DO NOT send:
Writing letters directly to the person you are feeling angry toward can help to process your intense feelings and reactions to a situation. This is for you to begin to allow yourself your feelings and to process them in a safe way. When we have an over-reaction or under-reaction to a situation or person today, it is a red flag that unfinished feelings from the past are affecting the current situation. It is helpful in your own privacy to process what you are feeling today and begin to open to unresolved feelings from the past. This provides you with an opportunity to begin to process fully everything today and finish feelings from the past. Example: Jamie, yesterday when we met I felt angry toward you for saying _______. Once you have expressed all that you feel in your letter, allow yourself to reflect whether this is a familiar feeling for you and other situations where you felt similar. Continue writing to those people that pop up. A gentle reminder that these are not letters to be sent. This is an opportunity for you to process your feelings and truth in a safe environment. Eventually as the rawness of your feelings dissipates, you may want to have a conversation with someone about your feelings. Give yourself lots of room to process your feelings.