Where Your Help
Writing To Heal
Journaling As A Healing Resource
Bibliography: Literature on personal
From My Poetry Journal . . .
Journaling Resource Links
JOURNALING AS A HEALING
One of our most ancient
methods for healing and personal growth is found in the art of story-telling. From the
earliest days, our ancestors sat around the fire and told stories from their lives and
their dreams. Those that were powerful enough were memorized and retold until they were
reborn as myths. Over the ages, we developed increasingly powerful ways of sharing our
stories, from the printing press to the cinematic and electronic media of our day.
Regardless how the story is presented, whether it is an experienced or fictional
(internally experienced) account, the story always begins with at least one person sharing
from their heart and imagination.
Always, the story has some kind of special meaning, if only in the heart of the one who
is sharing the story. The literary power of a story is found in the depth and extent of
shared meaning it has for the rest of us. Some stories are so personal, we prefer to keep
them to ourselves. Much personal journaling is like this. (Some of our greatest literature
began as personal journaling, for example, The Diary Of Anne Frank has become an
Personal journaling is a way of putting our experience "out there" where we
can look at ourselves in the mirror of the printed word. At times, the only safe way of
expression for us may be on that paper or computer screen where we need not hold anything
back. The therapeutic power of personal journaling can only be appreciated when it is
experienced. I have journaled at times in my life, with the result of experiencing great
relief and comfort in my efforts. Over the years, I have found that a number of my clients
have used journaling in their recovery and personal growth efforts; at times sharing some
of their journal entries with the result of greatly enhancing their progress during
There are many ways of journaling, from jotting down a few notes to reflect back upon
at a quiet moment (or bring into a counseling session), to writing detailed memoirs or an
autobiography of our most meaningful and challenging times. Our journaling may be limited
to a certain range of experiences or goals, as in keeping a dream journal, or it may be a
detailed diary. We might engage ourselves in narrative prose in telling ourselves our
story. However, sometimes written prose seems inadequate to express the depth of feeling
and the profundity of meaning we seek to express in our writing. For this, we might use
poetry to build the power into our written expression through metaphor and symbol, through
rhythm and rhyme. And some of us even put it to song.
I wish it were possible to know how much of our most revered literary and media
treasures began with scribblings in secret by some initially unknown author writing from
the depths of his or her heart. The beauty of all this is that you may write as little or
as much as you like, no holds barred in your expression, with absolutely no obligation to
share your writing with anyone! Before you feel ready to seek counseling, you always have
the option of privately opening your soul through the written word.
We all have more wisdom within us than we could ever imagine, and it often tends to
come out in our journaling. Sidney Jourard, a great psychology professor and author of
The Transparent Self, had a major impact on my growth during my undergraduate training. He
used to say that the ability to express what others think and feel is what makes poets and
sages. This is to say that the poet and sage reside in all of us. There is a story
in each of us, and we may find it at whatever point we feel challenged by life.
The first step is for us to open to ourselves. Self-honesty on paper can reveal truths
we never knew we had carried all these years! We may be practical and objective in our
writing, or we may be as artistic as we choose. The next level, if we wish to share our
efforts, is to bring our writing to others: whether in a support group or writers'
workshop or through the various media. Remember that we are more alike than we are
different. Whether you write yourself to a point of powerful personal insights on a
private level that enhances your personal growth, or whether you open to share a budding
masterpiece for humanity, I wish you the
best in your writing!
There are a number of books out there that can help and inspire you as you take up the
practice of journaling for your healing and personal growth. You can point your browser to
the great online bookstore of amazon.com (hyperlinked on my Online Resources, Resource
Links page) and do a search under the term, "journaling," where you will find
Bibliography: Literature on personal journaling
Broyles, Anne (199?). A
Spirit Journey. Upper Room
Davis, Donald (1993). Telling Your Own Stories: For Family and Classroom
Storytelling, Public Speaking, & Personal Journaling. August House. The book is
designed for families, teachers and counselors - all persons who want to inspire
storytelling either in themselves or in others.
D'Encarnacao, Paul and Patricia (1991). The Joy Of Journaling. Eagle Wing
Johnson, Richard (1987). Transformative Journaling. (Pub?)
Reznicek, Barbara (1989). Journaling To Recovery. Abbey Press
Shepperson, Vance and Bethyl (1992). Tracks In The Sand: Your Guide To Recovery
Journaling. Thomas Nelson
FROM MY POETRY JOURNAL
Here are some poems
from the personal poetry journal I have kept over the course of my life. I hope they
adequately illustrate the therapeutic value of recording our experiences and perceptions
in poetic form. You might find this approach useful in your life. Journaling is helpful,
whether you choose to use poetry or prose. Remember, your material is private: written by
you to deepen your insight and help you resolve your conflicts. Because it is private,
you need not hold back anything! (There are a lot of poems I didn't publish
here!) At the end of this section, you will find some additional Web resources that can
inspire you in your therapeutic journal writing.
Spring arrived last
You would never know
For the clouds of melancholy
Shrouding bare bones of branches,
With their frost-burned
Outlined against the darkening
I feel like those buds
Nurtured out by the warm promise of Spring …
Hardened and burned at the
By bouts of sudden
No way to turn
To retreat . . .
Sweet sap running
No . . .
The path of things in Spring is up and
Perhaps even the buds fear the sudden
After they are hardened and
Insides soft and
Broken promises oozing down last year's winter wood.
Would summer's bees and butterflies miss those
Too eager to leap into
Would you miss my broken dreams and promises,
Dried into last year's winter
While flying by on a summer day?
4/7/87 © Granville Angell
The Morning Star
No greater courage can there
To crack the certain
And cast the shards of
The giving up of what we
The sacrifice of what we
For becoming that which we can be
The bright and shining Morning Star!
May, 1996 copyright:
Some Haiku . . .
Over hills at dawn . .
So many sunrises
Fall, 1982 © Granville Angell
Late dawn in a heavy sky
Muffling a morning dove's cries
August, 1995 ©Granville Angell
Singing in cicadas' calls
Summer, 1994©Granville Angell
You sit there on the campus
Smiling back at the
Your eyes drying in the
Like a butterfly, fresh from its
I want to grow, you
Moments earlier in my
Trembling fingers and white
Marching over the battlegrounds of womanhood
Seeking the truth you already had within;
Knowing the beauty you could not
You grasped at
That perched on your
Like frozen blossoms in April
And choked up
From the sedimentary deposits of a
Of put-downs and broken
Spun like silken spiders'
Silver and sinister in the
They catch insects and
But shatter under
I offered you
And you placed your trust in my empty hands;
Together we scouted dark
And herded hidden animals to die in the
And having done
You made your decision with fear and
In daring to give
To who you already
In the first hour of its
Must lie patient and
In the air and
Before it can hope to fly.
November, 1976 Copyright: Granville Angell
go down life’s great path
seasons of our lives
time to time we stop and go
to feel, to know . . .
fleeting breath of paradise!
much we want to make it last —
our want of wants
only feel desire’s fickle grasp
clutching for one
deeper tastes of paradise,
savor full each
seasons’ passing times:
graceful leaf of fall as the budding leaf of spring,
the look of wonder in a child’s eyes
wisdom in an old one’s eyes
know a touch of paradise!
tramp the treadmills of our world
mindful to remember or to know
comes that fleeting breath of paradise!
the song of
silence of the winter’s parting winds,
smell the symphony of falling rain
warm, baked Earth . .
all Humanity in your finger
the clasp of a newborn’s hand
know, this too, is
know a touch of paradise!
in the warmth of a close embrace
winter ice in a rising
your spirits soar on faith
eagle sails the
know a touch of paradise!
paradise must come and go
mindful to be present or recall
how we got
whence we went —
came and went that
Fleeting breath of paradise?
of us dare ask or seek to know,
came and went that
Fleeting breath of
it rides the face of pain
carries it in tow,
fewer yet dare
asks, who also knows
pain and pleasure both must go?”
this not The One
remains the same
the seasons’ change,
stares back from the looking glass
changes not behind the passions, thoughts and looks -
wrinkles come and passions die
does not change or pass —
breath of paradise!
Winter, 1985 copyright: ©Granville Angell
To My Grandmother On Her 88th
She once stood tall and bold to
An apron and an oatmeal spoon she
And flower pots for toys in the secret cavern under her back
A firm and gentle hand leading me to department store Santas
And always the bedtime kiss and a loving
We've grown a lot together, my Grandmother and I —
She into that mysterious senescent season
Where people either get better or worse with time —
The artistry of the years sculpted a venerable kind of beauty
Sparkling blue eyes in a face that
a wrinkle for every
She put away her apron when Grandpa died,
And traded her oatmeal spoon for
Teaspoon which stirs my
As she speaks in her usual witty
A knitting needle
She expounds eloquently on everything
From the price of yarn to the
Found in life's
She was first to know the day I fell in love
I wanted to tell her
I hope she will be known by her great-grandchildren,
At least through what she contributed to me.
Life's been good to her and
But life, however good, remains a sovereign escort —
It runs us through its seasons on a schedule
Which is seemingly oblivious to its final
Until we reach that mysterious senescent season.
At times, she reminds us that she will be leaving someday.
We do not want her to
She's important — at least to
Not famous — though she wrote a few poems once.
A leaf on Humanity's tree
Only we shall know when she departs our branch
When winter's gusts
But since it is fertilized by its own fallen
Our tree will be greener the following spring —
And somehow, I'll know she never really left.
February, 1974 ©Granville Angell
(My grandmother departed our family
branch July of 1974.)
slide in under the shadows of clouds
stalk me on my brightest days.
who gestated behind the dying eyes of countless
sprang to life in the bright bursts of napalm blasts --
Nourished in the cadences of heartbeats and rotor beats and
whom I thought to leave behind,
stowed away in the deepest recesses of my being;
stalked me through the years,
at my bedpost,
at lamplight's retreat to slide in under the curtain of my
cling, leechlike, on the essence that feeds my hopes and
will you rise up, volcano-like, into the working fields of the
lava and poisonous gases into the sweet orchards of
stalk off into the recesses of the night,
tired, aging dragon
yourself in the mossy caves of my foreboding –
dragon, waiting for the day when sunlight will finally find
will no longer slide in under the shadows of clouds?
1999 Granville Angell
On the Third Day, God Cried Tears of
it happen here?
went up in a litany,
went up in a litany,
the blood-stained grass, fresh-greening with the coming of
huddled, crying, agonized youth,
terrified runners exiting from where shots still crack and shatter down
lives and dreams and shattering the Spring air that nurtures new
it happen here?
went up in a litany,
the students and teachers and staff,
the police and medics and press,
the parents and the People of America
the warming air, the cries mingling with scent of youth-spilled blood and
was over in a tangle of broken boys and girls and broken bodies; broken
toys of bombs and bullets; broken promises and broken lives . .
silence was shattered by the growing litany,
it happen here like it happened there?
I heard it
spread throughout the land
wondered, “How could they not know?”
I felt the
burden of a generation of counseling,
with the words of countless broken dialogues and misspent
in a universal dialogue . . .
child . .
you . . . ?" (Not my child!)
didn’t you tell me?” (While I was so busy getting my life together so I
could help you with yours)
to give you everything!” (Except enough time and hugs because of my
And I felt
the knot well up in me . . .
And I quit
writing this poem until I came across it just now, years
forgotten the reason for its title,
knot was still there, so I finished it –
would be done the next time
begin to ask: “How could it happen here?”
December, 2002 ©Granville Angell
July 4, 1982
sorry (Shots fired for "the greater glory" in other
only motivated by mere survival in ours).
apology murmured under breath
little one overgrown in her crib.
contented sighs of her sleep.
with only the guilt to break the silence, now
surveyed a future date …
next year, the cry would come,
all daddies take their kids to fireworks…"
what would I say to her then?
same senseless answer broke the silence —
Came the muffled Stabs
the belly of the peaceful dark.
thoughtless laggard … it's already the 5th!
flood seeping under a bolted door
Carrying flotsam of sickening memories in its tides,
fear returns for the briefest instant —
you are!" it screams over the crib
muddled associations gathering in the darkness.
bits of habits rear their honored heads…
Rendered immortal by virtue of saving skin . . .
impulse to "HIT IT" (on a carpet floor),
furtive glance for the black-shrouded enemy
always unseen but close;
peculiar pervading tenseness that creeps through you
graces you with the sleep of desperate alertness —
wakes you on the breath of the first incoming round.
I don't have nightmares tonight.)
1981 ©Granville Angell
On Accomplishment And Grace
sands of humanity?
unlike her to
and flow of eternity
waves passing over us,
the edges off your life's work,
great or humble it may be
victim and receiver of grace
back and forth
the sands of humanity . . .
all traces of your existence
surely as the rising
tracks along the beach.
all things new for me!
May, 1986 ©Granville Angell
From a distant
dripping bamboo grove.
flutter and perch,
Flutter and Perch
Landing on fading
A cardinal heralds
Petals scatter in
Fluttering home to
the moist warmth
Of their earthen
Angell © 2006
a picture-poem, daughters' tribute, go to
Day's End On Table Rock - 1997