Recently, I’ve seen articles and videos on the power of personal narrative – how it contributes to your psychological well-being to look at your past memories and tell a story of your life to others.
In a health research context, personal storytelling has been widely used for patients with life-threatening diseases. But I’m talking about general narratives here, such as your own experiences and life stories.
This made me think about why I’ve been writing my journal since 2013. Journaling isn’t simply recording my thoughts and feelings on events in my life. It’s also a deep psychological comfort to me. A day of insignificance turns out to be a significant event to me when I read it back a few years later.
In the article Writing to Awaken: The Story of Your Life, the author says:
‘When you tell the truth, your story changes.’
Your story is always multidimensional. As you write or talk, you might realise something you’ve never thought before.
When I pay more attention to a certain age and want to recall memories, I often remember events that I’d utterly forgotten. Let me give a brief example. Until I was 30-something, I had believed that my mother was very cold and distant in my memories. But it changed years ago, when I remembered some events from when I was a teenager where she’d really tried her best to protect me. One after another, I remembered that she was present beside me in many of the happiest and saddest events of my past. What made me remember these events was journaling. My story with my mother then changed.
The author talks about shame in journaling:
‘Shame tends to keep us dishonest and silent, sitting on our secrets, trapped in the dark. That is why finally telling the truth – in writing, therapy, or a church confessional – has such a catalytic effect.’
This is true. For years I had carried hurt feelings and events on my shoulders, put a lid on my feelings and never brought up the topics. Eventually, I reached a point where I needed closure for my feelings. I wrote and talked. My partner showed me his understanding, which I didn’t expect. The relationship with my loved ones is now the best ever.
Journaling, as a PhD student, has produced memoirs of my hard work, the development of my thoughts and my weekend baking. This means the world to me. Journaling is a tool. It shows how I’ve become who I am now.