Favorite LOVE Links!
USE JOURNALING TO MANAGE FEAR
and you just might create some joy ...
Dr. Harriet Lerner is widely celebrated for her role in helping people with their relationships and working through their pain and anxiety. In “The Dance of Fear,” Dr. Lerner focuses on the role of worry and apprehension in our perennial struggle to find happiness and offers her own brand of “mind medicine” to help cope.
I have found when you can manage fear you can maximize love: not only for those you care about, but for yourself. For me, journaling has always been the perfect way to work through my own fear and anxiety, and to mine the love that comes from deep inside. I’m not the only one who thinks so. According to a Harvard psychologist quoted in the recent Newsweek Magazine cover article, “Taking Responsibility for Your Own Happiness,” journaling is number one on the list of methods to raise your “happiness quotient.”
Recently, I gave a teleclass on “The Joys of Journaling” for the Queenpower Institute online (http://www.queenpower.com). During that fun and rewarding hour, I had the opportunity to speak with a number of people who had signed up for the class. One of them shared with us the story of her “fear of journaling.” When she was 12 her mother got hold of her journals and read them to her entire family: can you imagine? This experience scarred her for life; she was terrified of ever journaling again, much as she would have wanted to. I tried to encourage her to let go of that fear and get back to journaling, this time doing it in a password-protected file on her computer. She was so receptive to the idea of moving forward and away from her fears, not least of which was losing her privacy. Now she’s ready to open herself to the “new” person she can become, as she told me in a follow up email (bolding is mine):
“First, let me thank you for your teleclass. I believe many exhausted wandering souls would benefit from your experience and insights.
“On a more personal note, confessing about my childhood experience with journaling was a release that surprised me; and to think it took 25 years to admit to the shock! Your being understanding and sympathetic also helped me face it and take courage.
“Thank you also for your kind e-mail. If I may be of help to anyone who is as fearful and blocked as I have been for years, please use my story… when I am writing… I tend to write from the "outside" of myself. I think that hurt 12(th) year was lost on that day, (of the class) and the new me began taking shape.
“There is so much to be said on this subject of control and fear...
“Thank you again for understanding, for offering me this opportunity to open up.”
I just love hearing from people like her, who show appreciation in such a positive way and take the time to express their thoughts. It was so gratifying to know I was able to inspire and help her. Her story will give other people the courage to overcome their fears. I myself derive inspiration from feedback of this kind. Yes, I am a woman on a mission!
* * *
Journaling has been
my passion – and lifesaver - since I was a teenager. Even at the tender age of
thirteen I realized that a journal could be my faithful companion through the
perilous journey of adolescence. I wrote in mine everyday, with a passion,
pouring out my heart out: my fear of failure and of the unknown, my self-doubt,
my hormone-driven angst, my ecstasy and confusion about my first boyfriend, my
delight at the camaraderie of the three wonderful girls who would become my
friends for life - this all went into my daily journal, until I left for
After college I got married, had two kids and began my professional career as a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. There was little time for journaling, though I did sometimes manage a few pages. But I was devastated when my husband left me - for another man.
Suddenly I found myself single, with two little kids to raise and support while holding down a high-pressure job. I was so overwhelmed I could barely keep myself from leaping out the window of my ninth-floor Manhattan apartment. I was indeed a ‘desperate housewife’ who desperately needed help. My fear was all-compassing: I was so terrified I wouldn’t survive the physical and emotional stress.
Help came from a caring friend who gifted me with a book of blank pages. I knew then what I had to do. Each night after coming home from the opera and putting the kids to bed, I curled up with my journal and spilled out my guts at the injustices of what I was suffering: being abandoned and heartbroken; being solely responsible for the needs of two school-age children; being exhausted from running back and forth from family to workplace, not allowed to ‘bring my problems to work.’
My journal was my best friend, my lifesaver. I overcame my fears. During summer breaks from the opera, when the kids were with their father, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of traveling to Europe, the place of my roots. My adventures were so intriguing that I journaled them, then put them aside. (After all, I was a musician, not a writer.) And when my children were older and less dependent on me I was lucky enough to meet my present husband, who gave me the love and support I needed. I felt blessed in my new life.
Then one day Fate intervened in the form of a speeding motorist who crashed into me as I was returning home from work. After 18 months of intensive physical therapy for the injuries, it became clear that I couldn’t sustain the grueling Met Opera schedule because of the pain. I was terrifed I’d have to give up my professional life as a violinist at the Met. Ultimately, that’s what happened, and again I was devastated. But I refused to give in to my fear and searched for another creative outlet. My passion for writing helped my spirit win out over the fear.
I began by studying screenwriting, and after finishing my fifth screenplay, I had an urge to write a novel. I recalled the journals I had written during my travels in Europe and came up with a story line: a young mom who suddenly finds herself single when she learns a dark secret about her husband finds adventure in far-off lands and rediscovers her spirit through travel. Thus Travels With My Lovers was born.
Eventually, during the process of promoting my book, I was invited to give talks for book clubs and women’s clubs. Of course, as Dr. Lerner points out, so many of us have a deep-seated dread of public speaking, stemming from a fear of not feeling we are “good enough,” of being inadequate, of failure. I overcame that fear - after all, I was a performer at heart - put it aside and put my “best and bravest” self out there. After the initial butterflies, I found it exhilarating. I had won the battle. My “inner performer” was ecstatic.
After that, I was a woman on a mission: to inspire people to journal via my lectures. Wherever I went, I tried to motivate people to express their inner thoughts, gain personal insight and express their emotional freedom through journaling to. Then I was asked to give lectures on cruise ships. It was a role I would never have imagined for myself, especially and when I found out I would have to be part of the ship’s “diplomatic corps” - to meet people, help make them feel welcome and encourage them to take an interest in the ship’s intellectual activities. My fear surfaced once again. How would I find the courage to do that? But I found a way to put a positive spin on that fear. A ship is like a floating UN - so many languages being spoken at any given time, by passengers and staff. Instead of dwelling on negative aspects, I could capitalize on my love of travel and of languages to engage the diverse population of the ship. That’s exactly what I did my first time as a “special interest lecturer” on a Celebrity Cruise to the Caribbean. Now, after several cruises, I thrive on this part of the job, which just feels so natural. As it turns out, I fit in perfectly in a mileu when I can “meet and greet” people of different international backgrounds. No fear, just joy in knowing I have so much to share.
I lectured on my
overcoming fear to re-invention from violinist to novelist. I spoke of the joys
of journaling to allay anxiety. I shared stories of ‘Opera Stars I Have Known”
to entertain people and take their minds off their worries. My post-cruise
ratings were off the charts. Perhaps, I thought, this is really what I was born
to do. The journaling lectures were by far the most popular, and I decided I
would focus mostly on those. I would show others how to overcome their fears
through journaling. These would all be voyages of discovery, both inner and
outer, for both lecturer and attendees. When I got up to talk to a room full of
devotees who asked me to sign copies of my book afterwards, I began to recognize
the power I had within me to help others turn their lives around. I realized
then what it meant to share my passion with others - without fear.
“I’d given up journaling, but you inspired me to begin again,” one woman enthused.
“I’ve been trying to motivate my teenage daughter to journal,” another woman told me. “You’ve given me the tools to do that now.”
And, of course,
there are the people like the woman from my teleclass, who need a way of
overcoming their fears: of what they’ll find inside once they start writing; of
what’s happened in the past happening again; and especially, of the unknown.
Helping people in that way make my spirit soar. It makes what I’m doing worthwhile. In sharing my passion, I am constantly reconnecting with my own ways of confronting fear, throughout my own life journey. It is a journey that I am most privileged to continue: to be alive and well and face life with courage and hope. Isn’t that what life is about?
(c) 2005-2006 www.getreadyforlove.com * love links, journaling to joy