Using Morning Pages to deal with emotional pain

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There are things in life that we don’t want to talk to anyone about, things that are so painful that the mere thought of putting them on paper terrifies us. Because they are real. And they hurt.

This might be a trauma we faced in our childhood, or an extreme life change that happened a few weeks ago.

When we go through emotional pain we tend to keep our pain and anger to ourselves. Repressing the memories associated with unpleasant feelings is our natural way of dealing with them; we don’t want to go through uncomfortable emotions, so we escape those emotions. But they are still with us, only in "trapped" mode.

Why is trapping emotions bad?

Emotional denial keeps us from taking action. Facing the truth is painful. It's a lot like having surgery; it will hurt, but we will get over the pain. If we don’t take action we will keep ourselves living with our trauma, and this can lead to stress and depression.

To get unstuck from negative emotions we need to acknowledge them. The good news is that there are tools for this...

How do you cope with a traumatic experience using Morning Pages?

  • Facing your emotions is necessary for healing. Think about what bothers you most. Focus on this and get your thoughts out of your mind and into words. Write only for yourself. It’s not a letter, nobody will read it.
  • Write only about traumas that are present in your mind. There is no point in remembering situations that caused unpleasant feelings in the past, but that are no longer painful to think about. Write about issues relevant to here and now.
  • Trust where your writing takes you. If you jump to another topic, go with it. Write continuously, don’t stop.
  • Consider topics you have been avoiding. If you start writing about what movie you’re going to watch tonight, force yourself back to the trauma.
  • If the trauma is too intense, or an emotional upheaval occurred very recently, don’t write about it. Time needs to pass before you can be ready to come back to your painful memories.

James W. Pennebaker, a psychologist who studied expressive writing, suggests writing for 20 minutes. Julia Cameron, the author of the book “The Artist’s Way”, suggests writing three pages longhand. In our Morning Pages app, we recommend you write at least 500 words.

When is it best to write Morning Pages?

The best time to write Morning Pages is when you aren’t inundated with other tasks and can have some time to yourself. It’s great on vacation or weekends — times when you don’t need to rush anywhere.

Morning is a perfect time of day for Morning Pages because your mind isn’t busy. Later in the day when you get occupied with work, family, shopping, getting ready for a party and so on, it can be difficult to get into the right frame of mind.

Create a writing ritual

If you prefer to write regularly, establish a writing ritual and write at the same time every day.

Morning Pages is a lot like meditation. It’s a quiet practice and it needs all of your attention. Don’t go straight to a business meeting after your writing is complete. It’s important to have some time to reflect on what you have written.

It’s a good idea to create a unique environment where you write Morning Pages. This can be a comfortable place where you don’t work. For example, an armchair in front of the window.

If the first thing you reach out to when you wake up is your smartphone, you can develop a habit of writing Morning Pages in your bed.

After your writing is done, ask yourself:

  • Did I fully express my feelings?
  • Do I feel sad or upset?
  • Do I feel happy?
  • Was my writing meaningful today?
  • What has it revealed about myself?

These questions will help you analyze your emotions and discover more about yourself.

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