EMOTIVE JOURNALING ™ – How to journal away emotional baggage

Want to get rid of emotional baggage? Emotive Journaling ™ is self-therapy to get rid of emotional baggage from a difficult childhood, past relationships, bad work experiences or just stressful times.


Imagine this. Your 1st grader comes to you all upset and crying.  You ask her what is wrong and she starts to cry as she tells you about how a bunch of bullies teased and pushed her around and made fun of her.  You have her sit in your lap and stroke her hair to comfort her as she tells her story, “I was just walking home and a whole group of 2nd graders started calling me ‘big ears’ and I got really mad and told them to stop and then they circled around me. They started laughing, their faces were so mean… then one of them pushed me and I got scared.” 

Gradually she finishes her story and starts to calm down as she snuggles up to you and focuses on the comfort you are giving her.   A few minutes later she starts thinking about it again. “The worst part was that they just looked so mean, they were calling me all kinds of names, and laughing, just laughing.”  The crying begins again as she recounts other parts of what happened. Then she calms again, then she recalls something else and the tears start to well up, then calm, then upset, then calm.  Eventually, she seems ok but the next day she starts reliving it again, getting upset, being comforted, etc.  This may go on for a few days – each time she gets a little less upset – until eventually, she can talk about the whole thing calmly. 

Once she is calm you start talking about how she could have handled the situation differently and what she should do the next time she is in a similar situation.  Eventually, this stops being a difficult and painful memory and begins becoming a source of competence, confidence and wisdom. 

This is how emotional wounds heal, how emotional wounds have healed for centuries. Emotive Journaling™ allows you to create a similar pattern of healing but in a way that you can control and you can do on your own.


  1. PICK ONE MEMORY – Identify a memory that you want to work on.  Rate how upset you get on a 0-10 scale (where 10 is as negative as you have ever felt in your life and 0 is no negative feeling at all) when you let yourself mentally relive it.  Emotive Journaling seems most effective for memories that are moderately upsetting (5 or a 6 on the 0-10 scale). While some people can successfully process stronger memories with journaling, most people need the help of a therapist for these stronger memories.
  2. GET COMFY – Pick a time and a place where you will not be disturbed.  You should reserve 20-30 minutes for mildly upsetting memories and up to 90 minutes for more powerfully charged memories.  Remember that you only have to spend the amount of time you need but you don’t want to have to stop mid-stream because of an interruption.  The place should be one where you feel safe and comfortable.  Wear your most comfortable clothes, sit in your favorite chair and have your favorite warm drink in your favorite mug, have your favorite music playing in the background, have your dog sit next to you. You need to surround yourself with things that make you feel comfortable and safe. This is sort of like having your 1st-grade daughter come and sit in your lap to calm down. 
  3. VIVIDLY RELIVE – Allow yourself to vividly relive and experience all of the feelings that you had when it happened. You have to really focus on your feelings.  If you just write about the facts it will not help at all.  Use as many feeling words as you can and don’t hold your feelings back.
  4. WRITE OR TYPE YOUR FEELINGS – You need to write long hand or type it out, writing and typing are calming, sort of like stroking your daughter’s hair.
  5. TAKE A COMFORT BREAK – When you come to the end of the memory or when you finish a tangent then take a break and concentrate on the things around you that bring you comfort. Attend to the music playing, savor the taste of the tea, pet your dog, etc. After taking a break for a minute or so then go back to the beginning and start writing about the original memory again.
  6. REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT – You have to repeatedly write about the same memory.  Resolving a memory is like learning to ride a bike, you have to do it over and over, improving a little more each time. It’s okay if you go off on a tangent, if you start writing about another memory that pops into your head or if your thoughts wander off in some other direction but you need to always go back to the original memory.
  7. CONTINUE FOR 20-90 MINUTES. Continue writing through the memory, taking a break and then writing through again for 20-90 minutes.
  8. JOURNAL SEVERAL TIMES OVER THE WEEK. Continue doing this, day after day, writing down the peak level of upset each time.   Typically, as you continue to rewrite the memory should get less and less upsetting when you try to recall it, going down about a point each day that you journal.  If the peak level of upset doesn’t go down after a few days then go to another memory that brings up the same feeling.  If this memory also fails to become less upsetting each day that you journal then you will have to work with a therapist to help you get unstuck.
  9. WHEN THE EMOTIONS ARE GONE IDENTIFY HOW YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE HANDLED IT. Once the memory is down to a 0 or a 1, begin another draft of the incident, this time the way that you would like to have handled it.  Be specific, give details as to what you would like to have said, done and/or thought.   Use the same pattern of spending 20-90 minutes writing and rewriting with short breaks at the end of each pass.  Continue writing and rewriting your ‘do-over’ until you are confident that if you had the chance to do it all over again that you could handle the situation in that new way and that it would turn out better.
  10. PRACTICE THE NEW WAY OF HANDLING THOSE SITUATIONS IN YOUR CURRENT LIFE. Finally, identify situations in your current life where you can practice the approach you identified in your ‘do-over’ and make an effort to practice these new skills in every one of those situations.

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