Dealing With People Problems Through Journal Writing

    Kathleen Glassburn July 15, 2019

    A lot of my journal writing is pretty boring stuff -- just talking about what I did the day before. Still, I use my journal for all kinds of thinking, much dealing with my creative writing. When I have a problem it gets thoroughly analyzed in my journal. Fortunately, I get along well with everyone in my life, however, the occasional people problem does arise. Conflict upsets me, yet I can be reactive. Probably the upset comes because I do tend to be reactive. Through a lot of practice I've learned to keep my mouth shut until I can figure out why I feel the way I do and what to do about that feeling and possibly why the person is acting in the way they are behaving. That practice means journal writing about the person. Because I'm also extremely loyal it can be hard for me to write negative things about the people I love. I've worked that out, too. Journal writing about my people makes me more compassionate and empathetic. Owning my feelings makes me more honest.

    My first marriage ended in divorce after a lot of time spent trying to keep it together. My journal writing pinpointed what could and mostly couldn't be fixed. And, it helped me figure out the path to take independently. There were a lot of relationship wishes on my mind during those days.

    Now, decades into a successful marriage, I can claim that my journal writing has helped me through the inevitable challenges and hurdles that occur along the way. My husband had a major cancer diagnosis several years ago that frightened and confused me. Writing about questions that came up and envisioning answers and working through the prospect of possibly being on my own again made me feel somewhat in control of an otherwise chaotic situation.   

    Less severe examples of a people problem happened during my mother-in-law's family visits. After a couple of days (she usually stayed five) I'd be uptight because of her constant messing with my stuff -- washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning the kids' rooms. It sounds like a blessing to have such help. Instead, I perceived my safe place as being invaded. I'd write about it in my journal. Because of that sense of loyalty (I really loved my MIL who has been gone for a long time) I worried about her reading something I wrote. The conclusion I came to was if she found my journal and read something upsetting it would be her problem, not mine. This was freeing. I realized that my journal helped me to better interact with all my important people. And, she never did know what I wrote. Our relationship was quite good at her end.

    This sense of freedom through journal writing carried over into the rearing of our two children. Worries about so many things kept me up in the middle of the night. I'd dig out my journal and write down whatever was bothering me -- things like an argument with our headstrong son or our daughter's perfectionism. This usually meant an hour or so sitting in the living room with a cup of herbal tea and a blanket and sorting through what had happened and what to do. When it was all said, including the negative feelings that the particular child brought out, I usually came to some conclusion and was able to go back to bed and cuddle in with a clear mind -- ready to handle the pesky problem with a rational decision the next day.

    Since I've written in journals for what seems like forever, I have file drawers full of notebooks. Sometimes I go back and re-read parts. Old entries help me to see the personal progress I am making. These entries can be amusing. Sometimes, it's hard to believe that something caused me such anguish. What I have found practically without exception is that the people concern of the moment usually resolves itself within a day or two. This has taught me to be more relaxed and let the solution find me. Stating the issue and identifying the details helps. Playing a repetitive thought tape over what action to take does not. The act of writing in and of itself focuses my mind. It calms and strengthens me. And, it clarifies whatever action I might need to take. At times, it is merely doing nothing. As far as re-reading, every morning the first thing I do is read and make notes in the margin for the entry of the previous day. This is when I often see that some problem has become a nonevent. Then, I write my entry for that day. It's interesting to watch my life in this way. Plus, it provides material to be used fictionally.

    Kathleen_Glassburn_Print As noted above, there are many aspects of my journal writing -- goal setting, travel details, mundane day-to-day issues, the big questions like what's it all about and spirituality. My relationships with the important people in my life are just one area I address in these pages. I know that my relationships are better because of looking at them in this way. And, of course, I  express gratitude for the people in my life who enhance my purpose and meaning.

    Bio: Kathleen Glassburn is a fiction writer and an editor. For more information about her work please see: