3 Steps to Journaling with Impact Storm's Edge Therapy

3 Steps to Journaling with Impact

3 Steps to Journaling with Impact Storm's Edge TherapyAlmost every self-help approach will advocate Journaling as a tool for emotional processing, but so often it simply doesn’t work. This is because there are foundational principles that make recording your inner world therapeutic.

I Did It My Way…

First Key Principle: you need to do it your own way. We probably have a picture in our mind of sitting in a window thoughtfully recording in a hardcover journal with the red ribbon bookmark hanging down. Romantic indeed, but everyone is different with different brain wiring and different life experiences. So when we journal, we can write notes in a book or we can take a large format sheet and fill it with colour: splashes of paint, or crayons, or drawing spider diagrams, etc, etc. Find your way of getting what is inside out onto paper. Yes, digital can work best for some people.

You find whatever works for you and it must be yours. It can be as weird and as creative as you like because it’s about you processing what’s happening inside of you.

Express, Process, Integrate

Second Key Principle: There are 3 different and discrete stages to Therapeutic Journaling; there are different needs for expressing, processing and, then finally, integrating. Because people don’t understand the differences, they muddle them up and journaling doesn’t work to shift an issue.

  • 3 Steps to Journaling with Impact Storm's Edge TherapyWhen you’re feeling something emotional that you’re trying to express, you need to start with a venting process to just get it all out. The standard term here is “evacuating”, which means emptying – getting as much out as possible with as little interference as possible. Get it Out.
    • I phrase this as “just write words”;  so there’s no structure, there’s no thought, there’s no judgment. You have a word in your head and you put it down; it might be the right word or it might not – that’s for future you to decide. It doesn’t have to be a good word it doesn’t have to be a clever word, it just needs to be words.
    • So simply get a piece of paper and write words, phrases or even sentences. The only requirement is an ejecting (vomiting) of what is happening inside and then the recording.
  • The second stage is processing; the moulding of your raw material into something. The task of this phase is ordering your inner world to make some form of sense. Processing is another common, perhaps cliched, term, but what does it mean in practice. Simply put it is about moving from point A to point B. Point A is the ejected insides where the journey starts and point B is the new understanding you are exploring. The question for this phase is what does this mean? Make Sense.
    • Allow the outcome to be something new, even unexpected (possibly uncomfortable). The more that you try to structure the material into what you already think or what you want it to be, the less you will allow change. Remember that you are only doing any of this because something that is unresolved is bothering you. By definition, you need something new to emerge.

You know who you are, but know not who you could be. William Shakespeare

  • Once you have expressed your inner thoughts and feelings creating the raw material that you processed into some useful understanding, what do you do with this? This is now the step of integration; of taking what you have gained and bringing it back into your life. Here you ask the question what do I do with this new understanding? Plan and Take Action.

The crucial element behind this principle of journaling for growth is that these three stages are discrete processes. When you muddle them, they just cannot work. There’s no functional way that you can express yourself deeply while also editing and judging yourself.

3 Steps to Journaling with Impact Storm's Edge Therapy[BonusBar: A final point of great value is that once you have created your raw material the second two phases can be repeated multiple times, reordering for different needs/contexts and then also replanning with different strategies. The basic resource can be used over and over and even combined with raw thoughts from different times.]

“Your audience gives you everything you need.” (Fanny Brice)

Third Key Principle: to have an audience. In that first process of getting it all out, there is no audience, you are not even an audience. However, our brains are built to make meaning and, in particular, social meaning. So after the initial expressing, there needs to be a context to the processing; this is a key difference to when thoughts are spinning around in our own head. People that are more socially driven find it best it imagines a particular person or scenario. While more systems orientated people are better able to related to solving a particular problem.

  • How would I explain this to them?
  • How do they see this and how do I change their minds?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What is the best way to help them understand what I mean?

In Short: Find your own way. Separate expressing, processing and integrating. Have an audience (remember not for expressing).

[Sidebar: if you need emotional safety, then think about a context rather than a particular person or problem; this strategy should be less triggering.]

Journaling can be an effective way of self-therapy, but needs to be done in a way that digs deep enough and then encourages you to apply helpful understandings. Therapeutic Journaling can be used to uncover motivates which are proving difficult to find or to shift; as well as a tool for managing intense emotions or difficult memories.

What is a Personality Disorder? Storm's Edge Therapy

What is a Personality Disorder?

What is a Personality Disorder? Storm's Edge TherapyDistress, Dysfunction, Danger

A person has a disorder of their personality when they don’t feel safe and secure in the world; they do not assume their world is safe; therefore, they are compelled to make it safe for themselves. However, they only have one strategy to make themselves safe in the world using this tried and tested strategy in all situations and all of the time. While in theory, these are good strategies, their unsystematic causes distress, dysfunction and/or danger. This means that their earnest efforts at creating a safe and secure environment have very real limits; their approach does work at times but when it doesn’t, they have no flexibility.

Let’s take a look at some of these helpful strategies that now they might cause harm to a person due to a lack of flexibility. There are different types of personality disorders; these are defined by their safety strategy:

  • The Narcissists’ strategy is to feel safe by being insulated (not isolated) and superior. This can be a great approach to situations where others are “losing their heads”, like in a crisis for example. This is one of the reasons that narcissists thrive in certain roles like management or as surgeons. However, this is a terrible way of trying to make friends, dating, when trying to make a sale, etc; any area of life that requires connection or co-operation.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder makes safe by cocooning themselves in chaos; in crisis they legitimately don’t need to worry about the bigger picture, like who you are or where you belong.
  • Dependent Personality Disorder, they are safe by exclusively focusing on the needs of others; you don’t have needs, so you don’t need to feel safe as long are others are ok.
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder, they are safe from reality in magical thinking realms.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, in perfectionism they feel safe because they do everything possible hoping that a problem never even arises.
  • And so on for each personality disorder; centred on one inflexible strategy to be safe and to feel okay.

What is a Personality Disorder? Storm's Edge TherapyThe House Always Wins

One of the most well-established psychological principles is that when a reward is inconsistent its use is reinforced, in this case the occasional success of your safety strategy. This means that when there is a disordered personality, the sufferer knows from experience that their approach does in fact work. This fortifies the idea that “if it is not working now, then I should just try harder”; the problem today is my implementation, not the proven strategy. This is the same scenario that digs gamblers into deep holes, an instinct called doubling down. The gambler was winning with a strategy and when their “luck turns”, they stick to the same tactic merely because it worked well in the past.

The key flaw underlying this entire problem of personalities in disorder is the lack of flexibility. Like the gambler, you are not evaluating why your current method of making safe is not working. This is largely because you feel too fragile to let your defences down long enough to look at the situation and partly because you don’t have alternative tactics ready to apply. Deep down you feel fragile, vulnerable, stuck and don’t know what else to do.

Do take a look at our pages and other blogs relating to personality.

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Myths and Misunderstandings about Self-Harm Storm's Edge Therapy

Myths and Misunderstandings about Self-Harm

  • Myth 1: People who self-harm are attempting suicide
    • Fact: Self-harm is most often used as a way to keep living despite experiencing emotional distress, rather than a way to end their life
  • Myth 2: People who self-harm are just attention-seeking
    • Fact: In fact, they tend to keep their self-harming a secret as a result of feelings of embarrassment, shame or guilt as well as not expecting others to understand or that it is a deeply personal act. It is not ‘just attention-seeking’ however sometimes it can be a cry for help
  • Myth 3: Don’t approach a person who self-harms, leave it to the professionals
    • Fact: Taking time to listen without judging encourages people to get their problems out into the open; the first and essential step along the road to recovery. You don’t need to focus, or even discuss, the self-harming, rather focus on the distress that is underlying the need to harm
  • Myth 4: You will know if someone is self-harming if they have cuts on their arms
    • Fact: Cutting is one form of self-harm; others include burning, hitting, bruising, swallowing, poisoning, etc. There is usually a great deal of effort made to keep the injuries and scars hidden; including actions that leave no mark or a mark in an area hidden by clothing
  • Myth 5: Self-harming is just the latest fashion and young people will simply grow out of it
    • Fact: Self-harm is not a phase or a fashion; read our blog on the different functions of self-harming. Listening to certain music, or dressing in certain ways does not lead to self-harming. People of all ages, backgrounds and of both genders self-harm. Self-harm is always a signal that something is seriously wrong
What is Self-Harming? Storm's Edge Therapy

What is Self-Harming?

In its broadest sense, self-harm describes a wide range of acts that people do to themselves in a deliberate and usually hidden way, which are damaging; includes cutting, burning, scalding, banging heads and other body parts against walls, hair-pulling, biting, swallowing or inserting objects as well as self-poisoning. It is a practice that has not fully settled on a name with other terms frequently being used; self-injury, self inflicted violence, self-injurious behaviour and self mutilation. Currently the phrase Deliberate Self-Harm (DSH) is being used in professional contexts.

Importantly, Self-harm in defined as inflicting immediate and direct physical damage or pain without the intent to kill oneself. The damage can be alarming with the uninformed not being able to understand and, therefore, making the assumption that the act was an attempt at suicide. Self-harming has many varied functions, but it is always a sign of emotional distress and that something is seriously wrong.

It is listed in the DSM-IV-TR (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association) as a trait for diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder and often associated with mental illness, trauma & abuse, low self-esteem & perfectionism and eating disorders.

People self-harm for a number of reasons, for some people self-harm provides the means to cope with overwhelming emotions, a way to control feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. For others, self-harm temporarily combats feelings of numbness to the world around them. It is important to bear in mind that everybody’s experience is unique, and there are no universal rules or reasons for self-harm.

Read further about the different function of self-harming.