Author and world-renown expert in therapeutic journaling, Mari McCarthy, recently joined Mike Bundrant of the iNLP Center for a webinar on therapeutic journaling.
Every week, the iNLP Center offers free instructional webinars to enrolled students. Every two months, we ask a guest expert to join us. For these special events, we also invite the public.
Mari McCarthy is the author of Journaling Power: How To Create the Happy, Healthy, Life You Want to Live.
This webinar, held on November 29, 2018, inspired many participants to ask how-to questions and share their experiences with journaling.
Here is the script of the video:
Mike Bundrant: So welcome to our Webinar and Mike [inaudible], the NLP center and our topic for today is therapeutic and journaling. I am not an expert in therapeutic journaling, but we have Mary Mccarthy here who is an expert in therapeutic journaling. She's from her website, is create right now, wr I t now create right now.com and she's written extensively on therapeutic journaling. And what is your book's name? Mary.
Mary: Journaling power, how to create the happy healthy life you want to live.
Mike Bundrant: Perfect. I'm Mary and I were talking earlier this week, I don't remember how we found each other, but um, I, uh, I got her book and started journaling and one thing led to another and I wanted to talk to her and, and so on and so forth because it's really, really great stuff. And I thought, well why don't we just invite a bunch of other people to join in on the conversation and find out what we can learn about therapeutic journaling. So Mary, um, before we really get into their therapeutic journaling, do you mind telling us a little bit about sort of your story, how you got into it? And what it's done for you,
Mary: certainly it's been about a 20 some years ago. Uh, I had an exacerbation and I lost a feeling on the right side of my body. So being a hard driving businesswoman, I needed a procedure right away, ted, to teach me how to write with my left hand. I was introduced to a book, a lady by the name of Julia Cameron, who wrote the book the artist's way in that she recommends a procedure she calls morning pages. And the first thing you do every morning as soon as you roll out of bed is to write three pages of whatever stream of consciousness, free writing, whatever, to, uh, to help you clear out the stuff, get ready for the day. All the above. Wow. That sounds like a no brainer, you know, very easy for you to do. So I got into it and it was a very interesting, uh, it was, uh, certainly started as physical therapy. Uh, but I got into things that I could never memories of my childhood. I started writing poetry. I had never written poetry before. All kinds of fantastic things. And I just really uncovered that I've been carrying around all these thoughts, experiences, etc, from, from childhood. And I just kept going and it was very scary because you got into things because you have this, this thought of, of who you are and what you're about and all that kind of stuff and what you, you do the, uh, the therapeutic therapeutic journaling
Mary: get into places that you never have ever imagined. So in one of the things that I think is really interesting, so I became lefthanded very, very quickly, uh, in the process of doing the morning pages, I remembered that I already always was lefthanded and that, uh, the nuns of St Bernard Grade School changed me because I'm not a good little Catholic girl supposed to be doing. So it became, it was really a regulatory, uh, and I just thought and that just kept doing it and doing it. And I thought, wow, I need to share this with the world instead of a, uh, company. And uh, that's what I did just create right now. And that's what it's all about. Writing, writing, writing, right as I call it, journaling for the health of it,
Mike Bundrant: journaling for the health of it. And so the difference that it's made in your own health was substantial, right?
Mary: Oh, definitely. It really helped me. It helped me get into my or get back to my true self and recapture my power. That has helped me make the decision to get off drugs. Um, I was taking, getting a weekly shot from a, um, a nurse that really knocked me out for, for two days afterwards, but one week she didn't come and I thought know this feeling and not having my life not losing two days of my life every week shall. And I thought and I attribute that to the fact that I had been journaling for about probably two or three years and just really got into and had gone through the whole routine of, of dealing with doctors and the established medical experience. Like I said, it really helped me get reconnect with my heart and soul and my truth. And despite that, like it doesn't make sense for me. I want the quality of life. And I said up my neurologist and said, thanks Dr Ben, the Greta Association, but no more drugs for this kid.
Mike Bundrant: Wow. So in a way, the morning pages, which is, as I understand it, get up in the morning, open up your journal,
Mike Bundrant: old school style, pen and paper, right? And then just let the thoughts flow. Whatever it is, don't edit, just write, write,
Mike Bundrant: write, whatever, whatever comes out. Is that basically what we're talking about?
Mary: Absolutely. This, that's the, you don't have to do any preparation or you just get that, just show up and write.
Mike Bundrant: And um, and from what you describe, it can take you deep into yourself and who you are, what you're really thinking, what you're really feeling. And that has a transforming effect.
Mary: Just that process alone, right? It's come into this world with, with everything. And then we have family life, parents, school, all these outside influences. And we're living our life externally and we're not living our life from the inside the house. So this gives us the opportunity to go back in and find out who really lives in our body and find out that, oh my goodness really helps sort out of our past and process things that we as children just internalize everything misconstrued and it's our fault and all that type of thing. But by going through the process of the, the writing is somehow opens up those, those issues, those, those things, and you just really are able to really therapeutic for you. Oh, that's what happened or that, you know, to get the, the detail or, and get down to the, you know, our heart and soul into find out, oh I can see why I interpreted as such and such or whatever. And it's like, okay. And then we realized that, um, Mike, we have, we have a choice. It's like, okay, we can continue to keep playing those tapes and Oh yeah, well it was me. Or I'll say, oh, okay. That was then, this is now in this, like I choose to do something differently or what, whatever it, it's just unbelievably empowering experience
Mike Bundrant: for me. It has been to, just in terms of creating self awareness, I mean, how can we choose to do something different about something that we're not aware of? Right? So if I'm thinking a certain way, feeling a certain way, it's, it may be inspiring at certain actions for me that I don't like, but I'm sort of not aware of really what's going on deeper on the inside. How can I make a choice about that? Right. And so this is a way, what I have found, it's a way to get it out on paper, but when it's out on paper you can look at it and say, there it is. And some, sometimes I, I go, I look at what I just wrote and went. It was no wonder I was feeling bad or no wonder I was feeling a certain way. All of this stuff is churning inside me and now it's not. I'm looking at it on the paper, uh, and just getting it out, um, is extremely helpful. And now that you're looking at it, what choices can you make? Right,
Mary: exactly. It's really an opportunity that we've never had to express what was really going on because we've been taught and experienced that, you know, we have, we think everything through we have to step all our emotion, so all the things that we were taught me literally carrying that around with us, but now we had the opportunity to really find out and to express it and even just the, the anger, the rage and that, oh my goodness. Just the, the amazement that emotions are good. We are. And like you say, that awareness of who we really are.
Speaker 3: Oh yeah, go ahead. Jump in. Michelle has just ordered your book marriage just as a by the white and Helen has a question. Hello, married. Thank you for sharing your experience. She's heard about therapeutic journaling a lot lately and it was suggested that, uh, you write and then rip out the pages and throw them away each day as part of the healing. Do you throw yours away?
Mary: I give it to my trash man. Tell it again. It's an individual thing, whatever. Some people keep for forever and refer back to us. Some of put stickers and categorize it, you know, it is a totally different thing. But to answer your question, yeah, that's what I do and that's why I got into the habit when I, I was doing morning pages and it's like, oh, I got that all out and you know, I, I felt I did what I needed to do. So, uh, that's why the uh, the trash band, it's a present from me every month or so.
Speaker 3: Thank you. Very happy with the answer. Any other questions at this point? Steve? Would like to know if it's done by hand or can you? Um, and I think the question is do you actually write it physically or can you type it?
Mary: Therapeutic journaling is everyday. That's the, uh, the guidelines if you will, of a therapeutic journey is a therapeutic. Journaling is the ability to go way, way deep down into your heart, body, soul, and that's why it's pending page. And there's something, you know, there's also the energetic element is the pen to page everyday is the routine.
Mike Bundrant: Okay. Mary, what if you're afraid to write? Because one, you don't know what you're going to uncover if you kind of let it, let it flow.
Mary: Um, my suggestion is just do it to just take the risk and just go for it. Or you can, you can have a dialogue with your journal. Ask, ask that question to your, your journal Journal. What I do, I'm afraid of getting into doing this because of such and such. So it because her journal is, you can certainly ask question and then that's like again, I find than just than just write, write, write whatever they know the journal's telling you.
Mike Bundrant: I love it because the journaling is to express what the morning pages express what's on your thoughts and what you're feeling right now. Right now you're feeling afraid to journal. So Journal that, right? I'm afraid the journal because I don't, I'm afraid of what I might discover here. Um, and so, and then sort of go from there. I liked that. I think also, um, some of us are concerned that if we, if we give energy or attention to the negativity that rests within us, that somehow it will make that negativity worse. That'll make it more real that if like, oh gosh, if I give in and just write out all this negativity, it's going to make it true. What do you, what's your response to that?
Mary: No, basically again, it gets back to our and inner critic head monkey mind, whatever. That's as those withheld has held us for all these years. So, um, we're so used to processing, processing, processing everything. Well, I don't want to do this. I don't want to say that I don't want to get it out, that type of thing. So it's just old tapes going through that by, but getting it out there and you just find out that, oh my gosh, there is going to be a lot of fear, guilt, shame, negativity or whatever you want to call it this going to come out. But the thing is, as the beauty of the journaling, you get it out and then in time we'll get past that because you have it released. All that stuff.
Mike Bundrant: Yeah. I find that to be true to that. Acknowledging that you feel a certain way, um, doesn't empower that negative feeling or what have you. It's sort of like, you know, you got a monster in your mind and you're scared to look at the monster because it might hurt you, but then you look at the monster and it's no big deal, don't you look at it, right. Um, it actually puts you in a position where you can deal with it and avoiding it is what empowers it to run your life. Right. So, um,
Mary: right because we've been doing, we have been avoiding it and we have been taught to be you to be a good little and all those messages and things are still in us, but by the journaling it gets that out and it's like, okay, you make space for your true self and feelings.
Mike Bundrant: Yeah. Um, so this also says like, it's sort of like meditation where you know, the benefits accumulate over time, where you told her you had a big breakthrough after two or three years of, of journaling and so forth. Does it have that? It, the effects build up over a period of time?
Mary: Absolutely. And the key is that's why it's so important to be consistent. And that's why the importance of daily I'm doing it daily, uh, and, and just really, it's really, you're giving a present to yourself that I'm first in my life and it's just a. So the key definitely accumulates. Bye. No. But by doing the routine, the self care, the self love a routine to yourself and, and to me, and it's an amazing because all kinds of things now, uh, come up. In fact, that's how I got the name for my company. It just showed up in my pages and journaling for the health of it something. So it's not the end, it's just the whole thing about document. How do you want to get to Carnegie Hall practice, practice, practice. That's why I say tend to page every day in this just like this. Even if it's something that, you know, one of my clients said, well, I said you can have a crazy busy day. I always open my journal and I just even say something like, yeah, have a great day. I love you very much. Just again, because you're just reinforcing that positive process.
Mike Bundrant: Yes. Please. We have a question this fairly closely related to what's being said, but we'd be looking for just a bit of clarification. Do you ever fall into self condemnation and how do you sort of make sure that doesn't happen? You talked about making the negative real similar, but maybe there's a little bit more you can add.
Mary: Oh, certainly, definitely. That will be. There'll be tons and tons and tons of time that you will be a beating up on yourself. I'm condemning yourself because we are all masters of self sabotage and it's like a journaling gives you the opportunity to get all this stuff out and don't be surprised or shocked that there's a whole lot of stuff in there. In fact, I look at my, uh, uh, my life at this point and say, oh my, my goodness. I can see how I made myself literally sick with ms or whatever else is going on in my body because the way I treated myself and we were just so comfortable and used to that, oh, I'm, I'm not this. I can't do that. All the negativity and all the things that our self image by and large is pretty garbage. So to answer your question, yeah, so they'll be a lot of condemnation.
Mary: They'll be, you know, but get it down with me. I'll talk to yourself, yell and scream, but just do whatever that, that is the important part is just getting through it and stay with it and it's just like, oh, they know you'll be, you'll get to a point one day and say, oh, okay, that's, that's the inner critic, or that's the whatever or the old things that I need. Make a plan to, uh, to deal with this because it's like, it's, it's ruining my life or a I need to make a choice and do something about how I can manage this or a burn, burn the page or do whatever and move on. But to answer your question, yes, there will be a lot of stuff. But the thing is you gotta get it out.
Mike Bundrant: I find too that the more I get out, that kind of thing, the less that kind of thing intimidates me. And I'm journaling whatever my inner critic is saying and you know, years ago was disturbing. And uh, now it's more like, okay, this is what my inner critic is saying. I mean, it was so used to just letting it flow through. It's not that I never get stuck or anything like that, but in general I can just sit and listen to my inner critic and stay super stable and okay and not have it throw me off. And I think that's potentially one of the big benefits to. It's like if you, if you say, okay, I'm not going to insist that the inner critic go away and not be here, but I'm going to channel it through my journaling
Mike Bundrant: before long your inner critic or won't really bother you because you're just used to listen. You know? I mean, you sort of stabilize with it in a way. Do you find that's true? I'm at the point now that, uh, because I, I call my inner critic Mike, my inner critic, he also has more, he has a, a band of merry men. You're right. That's the process. And now it's just one of these things that I, I, here's something coming up or whatever, and it's like I give him the hairy eyeball and he knows it's time to go out and play in traffic.
Mike Bundrant: So it really changes your relationship to different parts of yourself,
Mike Bundrant: which to me may be the most empowering element of it. So like there's, there's no part of me that I'm afraid of now kind of thing. When you get there,
Mike Bundrant: I think you're okay. You know, you know, it could be your inner critic goes away too. But,
Mary: but the goal is if there's nothing in me that can throw me off, I've sort of, I've achieved some sort of equilibrium with it all is true health rather than overwhelming us or over powering us or crazy stuff like fear, false evidence appearing real. And you can laugh about it now because it's like, oh, that's so crazy. Right? So a concern that while you're going through this process of journaling something very deep and traumatic, uh, comes up unexpectedly, is there a mechanism to cope with that and to manage that? I guess the. Well, that will happen a, and I think the best thing to do is, is to, um, take care, care of yourself in the process. Does it not let it a dry get crazy or fearful or whatever, just stay with it and just, and just, it's a good opportunity for you to, uh, to breathe and to just have some very healthy, productive, loving conversations with yourself and, and just, you know, go, go with it and take it, take it easy. I would add to that too, if you are
Mike Bundrant: concerned, I'm seriously concerned about something traumatic coming up while you're journaling. What, what I would do is create a kind of a con, a plan for that contingency. In other words, it's sort of, you know, make a little plan. Even write it down and say, if I become traumatized while I'm journaling, I'm going to do immediately these three or four things. Stop. Take deep breaths. Have someone that you can call or text or what have you, for, uh, for support. If you're in therapy, you know how to get ahold of your therapist or what have you. It's like if you have a simple bullet point list of three or four things you're going to do, should that happen, then at least you're, you're somewhat prepared for it and that, that might be another idea.
Mike Bundrant: Yeah. Yeah.
Mike Bundrant: We're good. Steve on questions are more in the queue. We do have a question that I've been sitting on it. It's not related to the content that's going on now. I'll hold that one off until the end mark if you don't mind. Okay. I want it to. We've been talking about sort of morning pages and just journaling to get things out there. Um, are there more structured approaches that are worthwhile to, for journaling? Like, you know, you hear about journaling prompts and programs and so on and so forth that are sort of more of a guided journaling process. Um, what do, what do you think about all of that
Mary: is what my company is all about. If you go to create right now.com, I have a probably in the neighborhood of about 360 journaling prompts a and they're, uh, they are not your mother's journaling prompts and I also have a journal, a both bonus prompt. Well and put a post those up, a lake coming up will be asking you a journal what's in this for me? So you very deep reflective type of thing. So they're uh, they're free. So they're certainly a. people always like to sometimes need to guess something to get them started to. So you will have a choice of, you know, as I say, about 365 a journaling prompts and also in my store I have probably about 22. Oh, workbooks on different topics from heal your life, love your body, a money matters. Uh, things like that site, a structure for people to have an issue or going through on the other witness on life transitions and things like that. So that, that's a, that provides structure to a, your, your process of how do I deal with this? Or, oh my gosh, I know relationships are driving me crazy or in last year we have one on. I'm 14 days to better relationships. So those are available for yet let, that's the hardest thing. You do need some structure to what you're focusing on.
Mike Bundrant: Yeah, absolutely. And are those, is the morning pages thing, is that sort of like you sit down in the morning and just a stream of consciousness, is that something you would do that as a standard practice every day and then sort of maybe add on some of these is more guided programs?
Mary: Uh, yes. My suggestion and I go back and forth like a, a one for a while. Several months I was doing ambidextrous morning pages. I would do one page lefthanded, one Patriot handed on one page, and then, and also during the day, I guess I'm probably considered an overt journaler during the day about anything and everything. I mean, if I ever have a meeting I'm getting ready for, I do one page of a stream of consciousness or one page of journaling to help me. Okay, what am I goals, all that, those types of things. Uh, and now I've gotten into a printer pretty regularly, uh, doing what I call nate notes, uh, before I go to bed, I do a page of just, you know, looking at, not rehashing the day, but taking a look at the learnings, the gratitudes, the Aha was the positive type thing. And I find that's very helpful in sleep,
Mike Bundrant: right? Absolutely. Like, especially see how sort of journey around gratitude that night would just be wonderful for first sleep. I've had that experience. Um, okay, cool. Uh, Steve, other questions bring in anything and everything at this point. And Steve, if you've got more of a question, was asked about the seven days to money mastery book. I don't know where that reference is. Probably something from the website, just wondering what the book was about. Who can benefit from
Mary: it's, uh, for someone, anyone who has quote unquote money issues and I don't know of anybody that doesn't have money issues and it gets you into understanding where your, uh, as I call it, issues in your tissues, uh, with money are, and getting back into where it comes from, with, with childhood. Uh, you know, uh, the way you were raised, just your, your experiences. So it is for anyone that needs to understand what kind of a relationship do they have with money and how do they need to, to change that. Again, I think it's like a, like Mike mentioned earlier, how about the, uh, uh, the fear thing. I just think money has just a wow
Mary: lord over us for all these years. And so the seven days, the money mastery helps us understand, uh, whereas it's all coming from and really, uh, choose to do change our relationship with, uh, with money.
Steve: Excellent. We have another couple of questions. One, going back to when we asked earlier why, why write with a pen or pencil? Is there a specific reason you don't keep an online journal or word processing at?
Mary: Well, there's nothing you can do. It really depends on your, uh, your intention and your goal. If you're comfortable, um, you know, just really dealing with a self expression and some of the, uh, um, top top level issues or the day or not that works well, but for a to really reap the benefits of therapeutic journaling, it just needs to be a pen to paper or says something is in addition to all the a scientific studies that are now occurring. Uh, there's just something mystical and magical about that process and that's just based on my 20 years of experience of doing it.
Steve: Another couple of questions we have. You mentioned that you've just got to get it out. Uh, and the question is, what do you think about replacing those negative thoughts with more positive ones? Do you think that system works or do you think being an observer and just putting it out and coming up with solutions is sufficient?
Mary: It is both. It's getting, getting an out and being the observer and just seeing where that's coming from, what's going on. And then I think too, you need to then go make a concerted effort and intention to. It's not going to go there. It's like, how do I, like I said, with my notes, I don't focus on now what the, uh, the issues were or the bad situations I just focus on, okay, what was my learning even from a bad situation? And I think it's just a question of just doing it and then really you're training your brain to really focus on the positive. So to answer your question both to get it out and just really, okay, hmm, isn't that interesting? And Trust me, that's one of the beauties of journaling as you'd go through through your day and you're taking a sour or whether something will appear, oh, that's where that comes from and that was what you can do or else, boom, something will show up on, on facebook of a book or a person or something like that. So I think that's a, you get a lot of benefits by, again, just being the observer, getting out there and then take some time and then making a concerted effort. Okay, I want to be and need to be a positive and just focus on, okay, that was unreleased situation. That was really a disastrous or whatever, but what was my learning?
Steve: We're just letting them know there's lots of really positive comments coming through the chat. People appreciating your content and your answers. There was one other question here. Do you have to write for a certain amount of time?
Mary: No. Uh, the only thing is that, uh, you, uh, give you the benefits is to do it daily. So, uh, it doesn't matter whether it's a page or two words, whatever the key is to do it on a daily routine basis. That's where you get the bang for the buck.
Steve: There was a question here regarding, do you speak with your inner child while journaling?
Mary: Oh, definitely. All the time. Yes. It, I speak also with my um, uh, my body, my body parts and uh, but, but my pain and my, you know, my physical pain in my physical challenges and things like that. So definitely with the inner child, the inner critic, the, the body, the whatever, the. It's unbelievable.
Steve: I kept going back to the, how much do you write question? The followup question is that it's been suggested morning pages, morning pages up to three pages a day.
Mary: [inaudible], that's how, uh, Julia created it and it was like three pages every day,
Steve: but that isn't a rule that or the rule.
Mary: No, that's her, her, uh, her procedure, her, her method or whatever. But with me, I have the right now I do a page of morning pages each morning, but I do that is by before my meditation. So sounds like, so you can adapt it to however I'll use my favorite four letter f word feels whatever feels right for you. I think I might have exhausted the current list of questions.
Mike Bundrant: Okay. Okay. We're going to start winding, winding down a little bit now with, uh, a couple of other, uh, a question and a request for Mary and if other questions come in in the meantime. Uh, that's great. So, um, Mary, it just in, in terms of getting started, you've made it so simple, right? Which is start doing morning pages, stream of consciousness and get a and get a routine going in. Could you tell us a little bit about, um, yeah, your book and your website and the people, sales people are already purchased the book and so forth, but for anyone who may be curious, um, tell us, um, uh, about your book and your website if you would, as we wrap up.
Mary: Okay. My book is what I call, I've created a new genre of book is called a self help memoir include is my own personal story, um, of the challenges of dealing with Ms. but then it's also gives a prompts and good practical things for people to then get into a starting a, a journaling practice. So it's uh, and also, uh, for those, uh, a skeptic. So people that need scientific information. I also have information about scientific studies have been done and there is interesting because there now coming more and more, becoming more prevalent. There were things like there's a saying, people that have divorce, a traumatic experience, grief, all, all types of things. So it's really becoming a, not doodoodoo is also, there's also a scientific verification for how it is helping us. So that's what my book is all about. Um, and uh, as far as my, um, my uh, website, uh, we're in process and probably within the next couple of weeks I'll be having a brand new website and my store will be upgraded and there'll be all kinds of fantastic free ebooks on dealing with stress. Um, what therapeutic journaling is all about, different looking at problems that we, we all have and, and how we can use a beautiful thing such as therapeutic yearling to help us realize that we have the power to, uh, create the life that we want to live as opposed to the life that we're reacting to or dealing with race and opportunity to really get inside of, of who we are and, and then just take the, take the ball and run with it.
Steve: That's great. When you're doing your, your writing, do you ever include drawings or doodles in your. No.
Mary: Oh definitely, yes. Uh, uh, doodling, drawing, whatever art work you want to use, colored pens and things like whatever. It's totally up to you. So, to answer your question, yes, all of the above is all about just putting the pen to the page and what, what comes out is what comes out.
Mike Bundrant: Steve, any, um, any other questions before we wrap?
Steve: A lot of really positive comments about the session this morning. A lot of people were really keen to get started. Some are already doing it and I've got new insights and motivation that, a number of questions at this stage.
Mike Bundrant: Wonderful. And for those of you who are not in Australia and wondering if you accidentally listening to a prerecorded thing, Steve's in Australia where it is Friday morning, right Steve?
Steve: Yes, that's correct.
Mike Bundrant: And for others of us, maybe a evening, uh, or, or, or wherever the NLP center has a students in 70 countries. And our, uh, our fabulous trainer team, which includes Steve is um, and no, I think six countries, six different countries. So, um, uh, I want to just think, um, everybody
Mary: forgot my coupon. Oh, please do. Yes. Anyone who would like to purchase any of my workbooks. If you go into my store and create right now.com. And when you're checking out, do you enter save 50, you'll get 50 percent off on all
Mike Bundrant: great deal. Save 50 in the shopping firstname.lastname@example.org. And that's awesome. Well thank you so much for taking some time to hang out with us. A super instructive and inspiring and, uh, I know I'm more motivated to, to continue my journaling practice myself, which I learned from you and I hope the rest of you will as well. So, uh, we'll go ahead and wrap up now. Uh, thanks again, Mary. Thanks for everybody to everybody for, for showing up and thank you Steve for, uh, for facilitating. Great. Thank you so much. Thanks. Take care.
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