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A Scorpion Journal

by Stephanie Van Orman 4 months ago in advice
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A therapeutic pain journal

A Scorpion Journal
Photo by Nong V on Unsplash

When I was caring for my aging mother, one of the recurring themes in her care was unresolved issues from her past. One of the things that bothered her in particular was a young man she was dating who abruptly stopped seeing her. I'm very good at dating, love, romance, and all that. I wouldn't call myself a love guru, but I would call myself a reliable resource, so I decided to use my skills for the good of my mother. I sat down and told her to tell me everything she could remember about her relationship and to leave not one thing out.

To my surprise, she let loose and told me every last detail.

When she was finished, I told her straight up, "He thought you didn't like him. You didn't show enough interest in him and if he heard you say that he dumped you, he'd be surprised. He's the one who felt dumped."

Using her script as my guide, I took her through the relationship and showed her all the ways she blew him off. After our discussion, she was content in a new way and I never heard her mention his name again. She didn't want to talk to him again and she certainly didn't want a relationship after all that time had passed. She wanted closure, and I provided a logical explanation.

It was so effective that it gave me an idea about how to prevent these unresolved issues of hurt feelings and confusion in my own life. I did not want to be a senior citizen wondering 'what if' about various parts of my life, so I started this thing called a pain journal. This is what I wrote on the title page of the notebook I used:

Pain Journal: Where I Hide my Scorpions

It doesn't matter what the pain is. It doesn't matter if you think that what happened was your fault or if it was someone else's fault. It doesn't matter if it happened many years ago or yesterday. Anything that is causing you pain goes in the book.

For best results, these are the rules.

1. Set aside some time. It's the same time that you'd spend if you were going to see a therapist. It's the same time you'd spend getting your hair or nails done. It's time for you.

2. Write everything that you can remember about the situation or incident. Leave nothing out. There's a part of your brain that is trying to keep track of what happened, trying to find answers, lay blame, return things to the way they were, or pave a new way. You need to pull the labyrinth you're chasing around in out of your head. Just like a person will walk around in circles without adequate markers if left in the wilderness, a person will also circle around in their own brain. When you write everything you can remember down, it's like you're putting markers on the trees. Each item you write about will help you organize your thoughts and help you think straight. In doing this, I have learned that certain things were not my fault and I can forget about them. I've learned that even though some things were my fault, I really could not have done any better with the resources I had. It's okay to let it go. I've found answers that were not obvious to me at the time.

3. Write it all in one session. If it is at all possible, try to get all your thoughts on a particular matter down in one session. This is why you need to set aside a block of uninterrupted time. Granted, I have had things happen that took me days of writing all day for three days in a row because I was describing years of heartache, but once I was finished, the rewards were great (in those cases, you may need a weekend). Before I unburdened myself, it was like I had a dance studio in my head that was filled with boxes of fake court files in case I ever needed to prove my case. Of course, I was never going to need them. Once I wrote everything down, that space in my mind was clear. The wall-to-wall mirror reflected light and beauty. Most importantly, I had room to dance again. If you can't finish in one session, try to group your sessions on one subject as closely together as possible. That way, it's on your mind once and you don't have to go back there later because you didn't finish.

4. You do not need to share your writing with anyone. Most of the time, I find that once I lay down all the facts, I understand what happened in a way I wasn't capable of understanding before, so it's unnecessary to show it to anyone. I have found my peace. However, I don't think it's outside the realms of possibility that I could write everything down and still be confused. In such cases, find someone you trust (could be a therapist or it could be someone else) and go over what you wrote with them. They may be able to see a pattern or a detail differently than you do. One time, when I was a teenager, I told a teenage boy all the things his brother had done to hurt me. When I was finished he said, "My brother did all this to you?" in a way that suggested he found it impossible to believe of the boy who slept in the room next to him.

I asked him, "Do you think I'm making all this up?"

He said, "No. I just think he's not thinking of this the same way you are."

It was brilliant and he was right. If you still haven't found your peace, it might be worthwhile to speak to someone you trust who has a different perspective.

5. You do not need to keep your writing if you are worried that someone might read it. In certain circumstances, it might be helpful to date your account and keep it in a safe place in case there are ever any questions about what happened, but there are a lot of hurts that are less grievous (even though they hurt us). It's okay for you to find your answer and then just let the paper burn, go to recycling, drop down the outhouse hole, run through the shredder, or whatever you need to do to get rid of it.

I have a little library in my room of journals that have different purposes.  I have a day planner, a book I use to organize and encourage me in my writing, another one for book outlines, book bibles that help me keep track of the characters I create, a book for each of my children where I write the special things they do and say, and just an ordinary journal.  But I would be gravely amiss if I did not talk about the pain journal and the place where I hide my scorpions.  One day, I'm going to be an old lady in a nursing home who doesn't have any skeletons in her closet or any demons to be exorcized.  Maybe I'll read a book.


About the author

Stephanie Van Orman

I write novels like I am part-printer, part book factory, and a little girl running away with a balloon. I'm here as an experiment and I'm unsure if this is a place where I can fit in. We'll see.

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