I’m always pleased when a reader tells me he or she has begun journaling.
So I hate to be the one who sounds a note of caution. This has come up today because I’ve received a letter from a woman who says that though she finds journaling helpful, she’s puzzled by the one-sidedness of her entries. “I only seem to write about issues I’m struggling with,” she says. “I don’t find time to write about happy moments.” Is that a good way to journal, she wants to know.

This syndrome was familiar to Marion Milner, a 20th century British psychoanalyst and author. Milner believed too many people ignore their brighter moments, but that it’s valuable to pay attention to them by including them in journals. In her book A LIFE OF ONE’S OWN (published under the pseudonym Joanna Field), she stressed the importance of understanding the thoughts that go through our heads during enjoyable experiences.

If a friend (relative, colleague) says or does something hurtful, I can fill pages with my rage and pain. If that same person then apologizes and assures me our relationship is important, my spirits zoom up. Yet the happy experience doesn’t merit nearly the same space (if any) in my tearful journal.

When I was seeing a therapist, I would come to each session with an hour’s worth of tragedy. I mistakenly believed that talking about good experiences was a waste of time –not to mention money! It took years before I recognized that it was more balanced to include the brighter side of my life. It’s similar to the way many of us tend to focus our attention on a rejecting person (trying to get love from the proverbial stone?) but take the genuinely loving one for granted.

According to Milner, the value of analyzing the varying emotions we feel in joyous moments is that we can then explore what other experiences could give us that same satisfaction. Not be dependent on that one person or thing! (What else can I find that will make me feel loved, respected, esteemed?)_

Of course, recording enjoyable times has another pay-off: we can relive even years-old high points by turning the pages of our journals, If we’ve taken time to record them, they will always be there for our recapturing.

To paraphrase the great English poet Keats, writing is a way to “live beyond our midnight.”


BOOKS  :Widow’s Walk – available through; Turning Toiward Tomorrow –; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play – and

Also Amazon Kindle