The journey of individuation, or finding your personal myth, involves peeling away the layers that are keeping you from yourself and becoming whole. Becoming whole involves a willingness to constantly allow, welcome and integrate what is ready to emerge from the unconscious or shadow realms. Journaling can be very effective for working with the unconscious. The tools for thinking and living with the conscious mind are different from those that help to unveil and work with unconscious or shadow material. Neither is more important than the other.

Unlike more formal writing, where syntax, vocabulary and spelling need attention, journal writing is private and free in terms of the way we express ourselves through it. It is a safe refuge from the literary rules and expectations that so often keep us blocked from fully revealing ourselves in other writing contexts. It is this freedom that enables the pen to follow the waves of information that begin to reveal themselves from deep within. One thing about the shadow or unconscious is that until it comes forward into consciousness, we cannot know or even have any idea what it is.

Journaling needs you to momentarily ‘forget’ the socially refined and adapted parts of yourself to allow for something deeper and more primal to emerge. With the literary confines lifted, you can record immediate feelings, thoughts, interests and reactions freely and spontaneously. There is no need to filter or judge what is noted and a deeper, less self-conscious part of yourself can find expression.

The way in which you work with your journal, the journal itself and the content will become a unique, unrepeatable story of yourself, as you experience new encounters and develop new skills and understanding on your journey to becoming whole.

A journal gives you the ability to write intuitively and freely without filtering. This allows space for new patterns of meaning to emerge and unexpected dimensions and insights can reveal themselves. You can record more honest and more profound reflections of your experiences. Because your journal is private and does not have to be shared, it should encourage your openness and honesty.

Journaling goes beyond the surface of things. It is important to be continually asking yourself, “What do I feel? Where do I feel it? What does it feel like?” Learn to let the writing flow without worrying about correcting yourself. Allow yourself to expand and develop, as much as possible. Be as true as possible to yourself in the present moment. See hear, feel, taste and smell your experiences in a way that is unique to you.

It is your hand that should be doing the writing, not your mind.

Attain the most passive or receptive state of mind possible, forget your genius, your talents and those of everyone else…write quickly with no preconceived subject, so quickly that you retain nothing and are not tempted to reread.” (1)

When writing intuitively some people prefer not looking at the page at all and some even close their eyes or write with their non-dominant hand (i.e. your left hand if you’re right handed) to free their unconscious. One thing about the shadow or unconscious is that until it comes forward into consciousness, we cannot know or even have any idea what it is, what it holds. A sign that you are contacting shadow material is when in your flow of writing, you begin to express emotions, memories, happenings, ideas and concepts that you have not thought of before or made connections about. You will feel the surprise or new insight, and this is a sign you are on the right path.

Our journal becomes a mirror to the self, reflecting and encouraging personal transformation. We never know where our journaling is going to take us or what will naturally evolve from it, but it is clear that it will change as you change. Your unique development through life is what makes each person’s journal unique. Your journal will become a repository of the mystery and magic that reflects your own personal myths, as they emerge from your connection with the world we live in.

When working on a particular theme in your life, feeling or belief, you may want to couple journal writing with an aroma that will also help the unconscious material to surface. For example, at the moment, I am working intensively with Saint John’s Wort essential oil since I dreamt about it helping me connect with my inner sacred masculine. I smell the oil on a scent stick or directly from the bottle and allow the aroma to lead the way. As I tune in and witness the action of the oil within my physical body, I allow my pen to write. I try not to think about what I am writing. The aim is to allow the words to come from a deeper place than my mind encouraged by the movement of the oil. If I am doing it right, an opening appears, and I feel as if a different part of myself is being allowed to come forward and express itself.

Without reflection on our inner world, we succumb to broad generalizations. The patriarchy is confused with masculinity; femininity is defended with those same patriarchal power tools is so fiercely derides; fitness is con fused with body awareness, with no attempt to listen to the body’s messages.” Marion Woodman, ‘Conscious Femininity’.    

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1) The New Diary by Tristine Rainer