What is Prescriptive Journaling
The Excess Baggage App is deliberately designed to use ‘prescriptive journaling’. This basically means that it gives you guidelines and prompts that will enable you to move through a memory, into feelings about the situation, which in turn allows you to understand your current thinking about it and how it may be impacting on your life today.
You begin the process by describing a memory. You describe the setting, the environment, who is there with you and any other relevant facts. By describing the memory this way you are laying the foundation for you to access your feelings associated with it. It is important to be able to objectively ‘set the scene’; often we are consumed with the feelings associated with a memory and are not able to move past them. If you are able to recall the event with some clarity it enables you to sit with it more comfortably and move into deeper feelings about it. Quite often an uncomfortable or upsetting memory stops us in our tracks, because it is overwhelmingly sad or frightening or just unpleasant. This first step in the process may enable you to objectively access the memory and the journal can ‘hold’ it for you, until you are ready to move into your feelings about it. By being prescriptive, it encourages you to take the journaling process in steps. You can pause at any time and come back to it when you are ready. If the memory is not something you feel you can move through the steps with alone; this is perfectly ok. You could take this description of a memory with you to a professional counsellor and together you can begin to unpack it.
The next part of this prescriptive journaling process is to access your feelings associated with it. By going back and reading the objective description of the memory, you can now reflect on what feelings that brings up for you. It is important to use one word answers as this keeps you in the feelings and stops you moving too quickly into your thoughts. Your feelings are descriptive words like, anxious, happy, sad, angry, ashamed, etc. This part of the journal may seem too simple, but it is important to name your feelings. It can bring up a feeling that you didn’t associate with the memory at all initially, but it could give you an insight into why you feel the way you do. For example, you may not have realised you harboured anger at an event or person from your past and had until now only described it as a sad event.
Once you are ready, you move to the next step in the prescriptive journal of processing how this memory has impacted your thoughts and your life today. This process may have the most significant impact on your daily life and it is encouraged that you take your time with it and be honest with yourself. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. The benefit of prescriptive journaling is that it gives you the tools to analyse how your history or ‘emotional baggage’ shapes who you are today. In this third step, you are recognising your thoughts about yourself and how you understand and interact with the world around you. You will gain invaluable insight into your reactions, actions and relational patterns. You will become aware of how your emotional baggage may be impacting on your thoughts and behaviour in your daily life. Once unpacked, using this three step process, you are ready to neatly repack it in the suitcase and store it safely.