Heal Yourself With Journaling Power By Mari L McCarthy (140pp, 12 chapters)
Mari McCarthy was a business consultant in the USA until a bombshell 18 years ago when she was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). Following the loss of function and feeling in the right side of her body, she soon faced up to the harsh fact that prescription drugs and the conventional medical approach weren’t working. She set out on a journey to take control of her own health and began a practice of journaling, difficult for her because she had to learn to write with her left hand. Quite remarkably journaling enabled her to ditch the drugs and expand her life in many new directions including singing, walking, meditating and writing.
In her first book, Journaling Power, Mari told her story and summarised evidence for the healing power of expressive writing. This new book sets out to inspire the reader to tap into the power of journaling as healing, putting us on a path to solving our pressing problems, towards better health and living our best life. So you see Mari makes a big claim for journaling and gives an exciting promise to the reader.
Chapter by chapter, in Heal Yourself Through Journaling Power, Mari draws testimony and advice from ten people for whom journaling has been life-changing (including a former Hollywood screenwriter, a Stage IV cancer sufferer, an alcoholic, a 21 year old boy going through a mental breakdown and the founder of a creative problem solving organisation who started losing his way in a business turndown after 9/11). She distils key findings from each witness, and in addition she asserts, sells and persuades us to journal daily while she also holds our hand. A few choice phrases keep cropping up to drill home the messages: “the issues in your tissues”, “where your attention goes your energy flows”.
I most enjoyed the chapter addressed to bottled-up men in which Mari sticks her neck out and commits to getting more men to “deal with the issues in their tissues”. Men who are firing off in lots of different directions can be helped to slow down to become more mindful and present. We’re to think of journaling as our own “mental man cave to hang out in”. While this might be wide of the mark for some men I know, I’m with the author again by the end of the chapter as she reminds us that much wisdom we’re looking for is already inside us, and journaling lets us access this.
Each chapter concludes helpfully with a practical writing prompt such as:
- When I think about….., I feel…
- What have I REALLY been doing?
- Do I have weeds in my life?
- My new life story, as if it’s already happening.
These prompts are varied, serving to highlight that the tone and theme of our journal may evolve and change over time.
To sum up, the message is, please just grab a pen and a pad, and start writing what’s on top of your mind. Do it now. And do it daily.
If you’re already convinced of the merits of expressive writing as I am, such full-on persuasion might feel a bit much, but if you do need to guide others in writing for well-being then you might consider making Mari’s book available as a support.
Tony Page is the author of Diary of a Change Agent (1996, Gower). His latest book “Secret Box: Searching for Dad in a Century of Self” (Telling Stories Press, 2018) is available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Box/dp/1999960718/