Because we live in an ego-based world where appearances are more valued than the truth, it is easy to forget who we are on a deep level. The aim of honest, raw art journaling is to strengthen and reclaim authentic self-expression - to make it more familiar - more self-mirrored and self-validated - so that we can take our inner truth into the outer world.
When we do not see our inner visions in our outer world, art journaling can make our inner truth concrete and possible in a world where conformity is the norm. Since our inner world creates our outer world, finding a way to tend to our inner truths helps us to create our own life.
The pressure to conform intensifies in our teen years. When I began a daily art journaling practice as a teenager, I was barely expressing myself truthfully to anyone.
I had visions for my life but could see no example of my inner truth in the outer world. I had no human mirror for the uniqueness that I felt inside. I walked through my teen years not feeling seen, known, or mirrored - until I began art journaling.
In my journals, I discovered the joyful process of witnessing what was inside of me. As I saw the inside of myself - visually and tangibly on the outside in my art journals - I began to feel real, substantial, and important to myself. As my years of raw and honest art journaling progressed, I discovered I had a particularity - a uniqueness that I had not recognized when I was trying to conform in my outer life.
Daily Journal Practice
We are not supported in our western world to explore authentic creativity and honest self-expression. We are valued by how well we conform. In a busy, outer directed life, we could spend our entire life not looking within. Most of us avoid taking time for contemplation in the pursuit of distraction, diversion and paying the bills.
Daily, honest journaling can seem like just one extra thing to cross off our list until the surprise and aliveness of self-discovery begins to take hold. Disengaging away from our outer ego world - away from the "world of appearances" - to attend to some kind of regular authentic inner practice helps us to discern between the outer social self that we present to the world vs. our authentic, inner self-expression.
Working and engaging in the outer world requires a certain amount of "getting along" and agreeing with familial and societal structures. We have to fit into professional work roles and systems to earn a living. In our daily, practical life we have to peaceably interact with people of various levels of understanding, interests, and life perspectives. We could call our private art journal practice our honesty practice - because in so many ways we live in a world of falsity. As a society, we do not yet fully share our inner truth with everyone we meet but we all need a sacred place to do so.
Sticking to a regular creative practice takes diligent, regular action to crack open the pervasive familial and societal conditioning that keeps us mired in habitual outer referencing.
When authentic self-expression asserts itself from behind the conditioning, the fear of losing love on the outside can feel intense. When I first started reclaiming my own truth, beginning a new art journal did not always feel inspiring. I sometimes felt a sense of reluctance or fear, as through a protective part of me dreaded what I might find out.
Our ego tendency is to stay the same, repeating the familiar patterns of thought, belief and action that have won us love and approval in the past. Spontaneous visual and written journaling brings forth images from the heart and the unconscious mind that do not always fit into the status quo.
When we first delve into our unknown there is often resistance to standing out, expressing difference, and asserting beyond outer expectations. Our subconscious and unconscious feelings are stored away in the darkness for a reason. They have not previously experienced an accepting mirror in our outer world. As spontaneous imagery and words slip past our habitual censorship gates, we learn that the journaling process nurtures the disowned, neglected, yet essential parts of our psyche that we do not normally find room to express in our daily lives.
In our ego world of appearances we all have something to hide. We all have something that does not fit into the narrow standards of familial or societal acceptability. Perhaps secretly, in some way, every one of us fears that we do not belong or fit in. And in some particular way - we don't. When we become unique, we challenge normal outer standards. We bring new truths and information to life that may feel challenging to our loved ones.
We often hold back and hide certain aspects of ourselves from others, as this is how we learn to belong. But whatever we hide from ourselves decreases our ability to connect with life and other people. When we do not know ourselves, connecting with other people can feel draining and false. When we cultivate our own truth, other people become more fascinating. They do not trigger or bore us so much. We start to see how incredibly unique everyone is - under the surface.
As we mature into our authentic truths, we must find ways to positively mirror ourselves. Whatever parts of ourselves have felt ignored or rejected in the past await our recognition, validation, encouragement and integration through the art journaling process.
Daily Journal Devotion
Over the years I have been a passionate and devoted keeper of journals - written journals, art journals, collage journals, dream journals, intuitive drawings, sketchbooks, and poetry journals. I also have kept "themed journals" such as intuition journals, inner child journals, visual symbol journals, and mandala journals.
From my teen years onwards, I have found a sense of fundamental belonging to my own truth in my journals. I felt a sense of delight and discovery that I was far more multidimensional and interesting than I originally thought I was. I felt like I belonged in my journals. They became a place where I could witness all of my all of my emotional struggles to find my originality and magnitude. Daily art and collage journaling, which was initially difficult to commit to, became a living language for me that guided me through fear, anger, and the grief of feeling like I did not belong.
Journals have their own life and their own agenda for healing. My journals often reveal a theme for growth that I was not previously intending. Sometimes I set a pre-set intention for my journals to process major life events or pervasive habit patterns that no longer serve me. And sometimes I do not know why my life is not progressing in the way I think it should. I journal to find out why.
After my divorce I filled an entire anger journal on how I stifled my authentic voice in my marriage. My journaling turned to rage at myself for making choices out of my need for security and acceptance that were destructive to myself and my family. When I owned my part in my outer conflicts, I settled inside. I found peace and forgiveness.
I filled several collage journals while I struggled with the depression and uncertainty of letting go of the old roles of dutiful daughter and compliant wife fall away - waiting in the unknown for authentic new truths that had not arrived yet. I explored my conflicts around my sexuality in my journaling process until I felt cohesive inside. I kept dream journals that still make me laugh. I giggle at the outrageous dream scenes of the self-assertion of my feminine power that contrasted starkly with my daily life reality of going along with the status quo - denying my own self-expression to make sure that everyone felt comfortable in my company.
Expressing Original Experience
To be visionary in our inner life and practically engaged with our practical outer life can seem surreal and difficult at first. Joseph Campbell speaks of the challenge of moving out of the society that protects us into the fire of original experience. He said, "Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so you've got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it, or you can't."
To have a daily sacred space where we can be utterly ourselves is a precious and private ritual of authenticity that will eventually extend out into our life with practice. To see our honest self-expression - to compassionately witness our authentic truth in visual, symbolic and written form in a daily journal - makes it easier to "practice" who we really are and "induct" our unique truth into our practical, everyday world.