Journaling Journey
Prescription to Write becomes Surprising Gift

By Sheppard B. Kominars

Originally published in Skin Deep magazine, August/September 2007. Copyright 2007. Associated Skin Care Professionals. All rights reserved.

Chronic migraine headaches were giving me so much pain I was willing to try anything that might offer relief. A physician suggested I begin keeping a journal and writing in it on a regular basis. He wouldn't see me again until I'd been writing at least two weeks.

This was something I'd never considered. Keeping a diary seemed like something only for famous people. Writing about myself was about the last thing I wanted to do. I felt another migraine brewing as I considered the ultimatum I'd been given.

The migraines didn't immediately disappear, but over the next months, I noticed a subtle shift in my attitude toward the headaches. There was a chink of separation between me and the migraine. I was not a migraine; I was merely having a migraine. And whatever the cause or causes, I wasn't swallowed up by them. To my surprise, writing in my journal each day became easier. Gradually, both the intensity and the frequency of the headaches diminished. I continued writing, day after day, year after year, for the next fifty years.

Being a Survivor
For centuries, survivors have used journals to understand and enhance their lives. Everyone understands what it means to be a survivor. The word survivor comes from the Latin super vivere--to live beyond.

Perhaps you've faced a life-threatening disease, accident, or other condition that brought you face to face with your own mortality. Or you've lived through a crisis like divorce, bereavement, family separation, professional dissatisfaction, health concerns, or other issues that have the potential for changing lives. Perhaps you're facing a crisis now.

Just as with tai chi, yoga, meditation, massage, reflexology, or any other complementary therapy, journal writing is focused on healing and recovery. Through writing, you will experience how to get more life from everything you have experienced. In the process, you'll discover that what you've learned from being a survivor has enriched your life beyond anything you've ever imagined.

he Mystery of Healing
Astonishing research has been done on the effects of journaling. You can get an even deeper understanding of how important journal writing is to healing when you consider the findings of Dr. James Pennebaker. He began his important investigations in the late 1980s with the study of the effect of writing on rape victims, and his research convincingly suggests expressive writing about emotional upheavals in our lives can improve our physical and mental health.

Many other researchers have investigated this subject and have made equally profound discoveries. To put it simply, writing enhances healing. Just knowing this can offer additional hope and motivation to reluctant writers.

The process of healing, with its many aspects and complexities, is more art than science. No one knows exactly why one person heals, while another with the same condition doesn't. There is, however, an important mind-body-spirit connection essential to the process. Enjoy your journey.

* * *

Excerpted from Write for Life: Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit through Journal Writing, by Sheppard B. Kominars, PhD, cancer survivor, author, counselor, consultant, workshop leader, and bookstore owner. He holds a doctorate degree in English language and literature from Boston University. Reprinted with permission of Cleveland Clinic Press, Cleveland, Ohio. Copyright 2007. Kominars can be reached at

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