Five Reasons Fear Journals Benefit Mental Health
We should keep a fear journal because, well, life happens. Some things are good and, let's face it, some things are down right horrible. All the while we are trying to make meaning around what we experience. As we try to make sense of it, we weave a story of it in our heads. These stories shape how we perceive life, and the stories we tell ourselves can cause a lot of unnecessary fear. As we create our stories, it is hard not to weave these biases in. The best way to get around this is to keep a fear journal. Keeping a fear journal helps you change fearsome thoughts to more realistic ones.
Why Do You Need a Fear Journal?
1. To get fear out. Our fears have much more power on us when they are inside our head. Saying them aloud or writing them down undermines this power right away. It is the proverbial 'taking the weight off.' It is taking action, which is the antidote to our anxiety and fear.
2. To see fear from a distance. Writing puts the fear outside our mind. When the fear is outside our mind, we can separate ourselves from the chaos of it, and see it for what it is. You know how other people's fear doesn't seem so bad to you? One person is afraid of crossing bridges another deathly afraid of dogs and the two almost wish they had the other's fear because "that would be easier than what I have." The distance gives us a new perspective. We can do that to our own fears. Sometimes from this distance, we see a puny or ridiculous fear. Other times, with this new perspective, we can have some space to make a plan of action.
3. To feel validated. Feeling validated is healing. Since doubt and fear is at the core of most of our problems, they de-validate us. We don't want to "validate our fears" (confirm our fears are true). We want to give our selves value by learning what we hold precious that is in the shadows of our fears. For example, a fear of bridges might mean you value being safe. A fear of getting cancer, means you value your health.
When you keep a fear journal, I'd advise you to write down what these fears say about what is important to you and then acknowledge yourself for caring so much. Make your plan of action around keeping these precious without fear guiding you, but with their preciousness guiding you.
4. To re-write the story. There is more to you than fear. Unfortunately, when fear is powerful in your life, you may forget all your other identities. Time to bring them forth, because they are how you are going to get over this fear. If you can appreciate your kindness and skills in eating healthy, or skills in setting limits with people who are abusive, you can begin to get over your fears. See what these say about what you give value to. Put your energy here.
5. To invite an audience. When you write things down you become an audience to your story. From here you can appreciate it and you. Or you can invite other to read it. And they can acknowledge and appreciate you. When I make therapeutic documents in my counseling practice, people share them with family members as a way to sustain their journey out of fear.
Also later when you look back at what you wrote you can see how far you've come!
What to Write in Fear Journals
There is no one way to make a fear journal, but here are some ideas:
- Write stream of consciousness entry to get it all out.
- Write a goodbye letter to the fear.
- Write a list of your fears, and/or the tricks and tactics of them.
- Write down where they came from and/or what holds them there. (i.e. what evidence you have that they are "true.")
- Write down how you know they are not true.
- Write down what is precious behind the fear.
- Make a plan to express that preciousness in other ways. (i.e., fear of losing your mom, spend more time with her.)
- Make a list of your skills and knowlegdes.
- Write affirmations (that work).
Did I forget anything? What have you done or received from your fear journal?
LCSW-R, J. (2013, July 24). Five Reasons Fear Journals Benefit Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/07/five-reasons-you-should-keep-a-fear-journal
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
If I'm out somewhere and I feel extremely stressed or anxious, I will write something down and throw the paper away in the nearest trash can or crumple it up and put it in my pocket, sort of to just get the emotion out and to push forward in what I'm doing.