Have you ever heard that emotion is energy in emotion?
I have somewhere, more than once. Honestly I have no idea where it came from. But I believe it to be true. Based on this simple truth, any emotion that one experiences whether it be pleasant or unpleasant, can be used as energy to fuel your actions and produce desirable results.
Framed in this way, all depression, sadness, anger, hopelessness, or any emotion that you find unpleasant can actually be transmuted into action that can create positive change in your life.
I’m not a spiritual/emotional guru of any sort, but I have found this to be true in my own life. In fact, I believe that those so-called negative emotions are there for a reason: to alarm you to the fact that you are not living the life you desire/living your purpose/getting your needs met.
Those feelings are there to tell you when you are making the wrong choices (or neglecting to make choices at all). A lot of people want to avoid these feelings, ignore them and NOT feel them. However this resistance creates even more stress; not only do you have the unpleasant emotions, but now you are resisting feeling them. This resistance creates even more unpleasant emotions.
Rather, we should be feeling the depth of these emotions and channeling that pain into motivation which charge us into to taking action.
It’s not enough to know that those unpleasant emotions can be channeled into motivation. You need a tool for doing so. I have found using a journal to be an effective tool to funnel my own unpleasant emotions into positive, inspired action that has helped me create much of the success I have experienced in life.
I always carry my journal with me, everywhere.
It’s always in my backpack when I’m on the go. At work its on my desk. At home its on my night stand.
Anytime I start to feel down, angry or sad. Anytime I feel depressed, lonely, or like a failure. Anytime I feel like I’m unsure of what step to take next in life, what to do, or where to go. I bust that puppy out and begin to …
Free-writing is a technique that’s often used as a warm-up or a brainstorming activity by writers in order to get their mind flowing and their pencil moving. It helps them slice through those writer’s blocks.
I found that by using the same technique, I can let my thoughts and emotions (which are often tied up in a big confusing mess) pour out onto paper in a way that can be observed more easily, rather than just floating around in my head.
Free-writing helps your thinking become a more organized. You could just allow your thoughts and emotions to mill around in your mind without expressing them. But the racing mind fueled by the pain of unpleasant emotions will create branching, never-ending thought streams, which are hard to resolve due to their complexity.
Writing your thoughts down on paper as they arise causes you to lock in on one train of thought for longer, allowing some time and insight for solving the problem at hand, rather than getting swept up in the never-ending streams of thoughts.
So what is free-writing anyway?
Sit down with a pencil and paper (or perhaps open a blank Document on your computer if that’s your thing) and simply write nonstop for a predetermined amount of time with no breaks. That’s free-writing.
For example, five or ten minutes – perhaps longer. When you run out of things to say, you can either keep repeating the last word, or start writing “Now I don’t know what to say, but I have to keep writing…” or something similar to keep your pen moving. Often new thought threads will appear out of nowhere, even If you thought you had nothing to say.
This works well for helping writers overcome the dreaded writer’s block because it lowers standards of what you write so much that it becomes impossible to NOT to write. When you lower your standards for what you write so much that ANYTHING is okay, your judgmental mind will loosen its grip on you. As a result,your thoughts flow onto paper much more fluidly.
Couple free-writing with the power of observing your emotions and being present, and you have a wicked combo that will allow you to be aware of the entirety of what you feel. You can then discover what action needs to be taken in order to deal with your emotions effectively.
How to start
First, recognize the next time you are in a funk. Notice when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, lonely or anxious. In that moment say to yourself, “Alright, I have an unpleasant emotion inside of me and it doesn’t feel good. But I embrace its existence fully because I know it is there to help motivate me to make a positive change.”
In fact, the degree to which the emotion is painful is equivalent to the degree it will help motivate you to make change. The more painful, the bigger motivation.
Once you have the proper accepting attitude toward your emotions it is time to pick one of the two prompts:
- “Right now, I feel…”
- “Right now, I want…”
Then, just write.
Once you got your prompt, start the timer for however long you feel like (I like ten minutes) then starting with the opening line and just keep writing without stopping. All that really matters is that your pen keeps moving across the paper.
I will give a brief example of what your free-write could look like:
Right now I feel a little bit sleepy, a little bit worn out, and a little bit ready to sleep haha. Actually I don’t know what I’m gonna write about. This is kinda weird because I’m writing for my blog and everyone’s gonna read this. So ironically, I want to judge what I’m writing so it comes out perfect but fittingly if it comes out bad that’s okay, since that is the point of this exercise, to lower your standards of what you write about so that your thoughts and words flow freely without getting all stifled…
So there it is, an unedited impromptu free-write as an example of what to do
except for the spelling errors ‘cuz that’s just embarrassing.
“Right now I feel…” is great at times when I might be feeling depressed, hopeless, or nervous because by writing about the exact sensation that I’m feeling, it causes me to focus my attention into the present and actually experience the sensation of the emotion itself, rather than get wrapped in the story I’ve created around the emotion with my mind.
We often experience emotions, which are real, physical sensations inside our body. Then, in response to feeling them, our brains try to justify the feeling by attaching a thought or story.
Have you ever been in a “bad mood?” Maybe someone did or said something that provoked anger in you, then you carried that anger with you throughout the day, interpreting other events throughout the day as more events to be angry about, even though you probably shouldn’t have. Perhaps you “took it out” on a spouse, friend, or child.
Often when we feel a challenging emotion (such as anger), and rather than experiencing just the emotion itself, we get wrapped up in this story in which more and more thoughts are created by the mind and more and more emotions are then created and intensified.
Writing about and describing how you feel keeps you in the present moment, i.e., keeps you focused on exactly whats going on right now. In doing so, you’ll often realize things that you didn’t previously, and by making those realizations, the solution to your problem becomes clear.
“Right now, I want…” is also great because it gets you focused on what you actually want RIGHT NOW. That I believe is your ultimate purpose and drive in life.
Once you are thinking about exactly what it is you want in that moment, the free-writing allows your thoughts to flow on your paper so that you can become aware of important elements of that desire, such as why do you want it, how will you feel once you have it, what steps do you need to take to get it, and how long will it realistically take to achieve it.
I believe that the more clearly you are able to answer these questions. The more motivated you will feel in taking the right action to achieve you goals.
Journaling: the key to clarity
Free-writing is a versatile tool that you can use for many different circumstances: brainstorming solutions to problems your having, figuring out your next life goals, pulling yourself out of depression or any painful feeling you may have, or just maintaining your focus on success in general.
Sometimes emotions we feel can be complex. They become tangled up in knots along with our thoughts, and untangling them in a way that makes their energy and resources available to us can be tricky.
Free-writing for me has been one of the ways I’ve been able to effectively sort out my unpleasant emotions and turn them into energy to help spur me into inspired action, and I hope it will do the same for you too.
How have you used a journal to process challenging emotions? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments!