One of the most common regrets that people have at the end of life and at the end of relationships is the same -- not taking responsibility for one’s own life and/or happiness.
Sometimes, in life, we are confronted with challenges in relationships that can leave us feeling angry, hurt, or worse, victimized and abused. A notebook is a wonderful place to vent. We can express all of our negative feelings in writing. We can cry. We can swear. We can yell. We can be enraged. We can do all of those things to blow off steam, to express our hurt, and to get those negative feelings out of our system in a safe space. That is a good thing.However, constructing a narrative in which you remain the victim, no matter how many times you tell the story, is a recipe for a personal disaster. How many of us have a story about a time in which we were hurt in a relationship? The first time we tell the story, we talk about how the other person wronged us or hurt us. Then weeks or months later, we find ourselves telling the same story, with the same intensity of emotion. We can feel the hurt and pain as if it were new. We feel like victims all over again, reinforcing our role in the narrative that we’ve constructed. If we hold onto the narrative, we can tell the same story years later, and we can still feel the same exact pain.
When people take accountability for hurting us, it can help move towards forgiveness, and that can be a wonderful thing. But life doesn’t always happen that way. People don’t always apologize, can’t always apologize, or won’t always apologize. That lack of apology shouldn’t mean that the past gets to have power over us indefinitely by keeping us victims in a repetitive and painful narrative.
There are numerous ways that we can revise painful narratives in our personal writing. It is helpful to try different approaches until we find one that works and puts us on a better path. Try one of these writing strategies to rethink the narrative you’ve constructed.
- You can write a dialogue in which you forgive the other person, and they respond to your offer of forgiveness. In doing this, you can experience how that forgiveness might make you feel.
- You can change the point at which you start and end the narrative. Often times we create a snapshot of a memory and forget about things that happened before and after a particular moment in time. If you use a wide-angle lens and widen your perspective, you can see things you didn’t take notice of before.
- Write about what it feels like to relinquish the role of victim and why you might feel reluctant to do so. Ask yourself how this is serving you?
- If you relinquish the role of victim and take ownership over your life or happiness, what positive steps can you take to bring joy into your own life? Make a list.
- Sometimes acknowledging our role in something is scary, but doing so in writing can help us build the muscle we might need to build, in order to do it in real life. Write about what you might have done differently that might have changed the outcome.
This is probably the most serious side of my journaling and personal writing, and even though I do it in a soft leather traveler’s notebook with a pretty fountain pen, it is a messy business. But it’s in this mess that I most often find wisdom and strength. I hope, in imparting this to you, that you can do the same.