Archive for the ‘dangers in keeping a journal’ Category

The Shadow Side of Keeping a Journal

February 3, 2011



Our happy face is not a side we are ashamed to show, our demons are another matter…


There is a local pundit who has been making money on the idea that “a thousand things went right today.”  I cannot imagine recording such stuff in a diary as: “ I am still above ground and breathing, the sun shone today, my car started, my job is still there, the office staff is getting along great, the cat did not puke on the carpet, I have food on my plate, it rained on the garden, I was on time for ____.”  Next day: “ditto.” Interesting, huh?


Then there are books with psuedo-journal entries just bursting with wisdom for each day.

How did these people get so smart, so kind, so loving and so wise in a single lifetime?  Are they channeling all the greats…Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Muhammad, or Dale Carnegie?  For some reason I am suspicious.


I suppose we have to admit that journals are like newspapers.  They are far more captivating when there is a bit of gossip, some scandal, a little protest, and a dose of tragedy.  We want the dark side.


If we are reading a novel, let’s face it, we must have an engaging conflict or the book is just a flatliner.   An honest diary would be willing to talk about life’s little lessons – the con artists, the betrayals, nasty politics, irresponsible people, and Mother Nature’s cruelties.  And yet…how would it be if we endlessly wrote “a thousand things went wrong today”?


If you use your journal for self-analysis then your writing should reveal at least a glimpse of wrestling with demons.  Or should that be “dances with demons”?  Private journals being the truth serum that they are will often expose your secrets even if you do not intend to do so.  Who you are comes to the surface in spite of your deceptions, just as how you dress, how you drive, what you eat, the books you read and every job you do is a reflection of who you are.


Although it reveals our shadow side, wrestling with demons is not a negative aspect of keeping a journal.  I have an expression that I like to use:  “Go to meet the monster.”  It reminds me to face something that is difficult, rather than hide.  How could that be a negative behavior?


What, then, is the shadow side of keeping a journal?  Not, I say, in what we write about IF we learn to keep it all in balance between that sweet positive and dour negative outlook.  I see two potential dangers:  1.  More time writing about than living your life.  This is as foolish to me as watching hours of “reality” tv when you could be doing some real living of your own.   2.  Self-absorbed, narcissistic thinking.  We all need to bounce our ideas off someone else…someone who just might oppose our way of thinking or provide a new way of looking at a problem, otherwise we will be perpetually caught in the whirlpool of incestuous thought.   To be stuck in our own thinking, with no challenges, can be a dangerous thing.   Step carefully around the fly-paper of these perils.


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