Journaling and Emotional Balance: An Interview with author and psychologist Beth Jacobs

This is an interview with psychologist and author, Beth Jacobs:

Ruth Folit, designer of LifeJournal:  Most of your work focuses on the theme of emotional balance.  What exactly does that phrase mean?

Beth Jacobs:  Emotional balance is a flexible state where people feel emotionally connected to their experiences and also are able to process feelings and make decisions based on more than their immediate emotions.

Ruth:  Why is that important and why is that so hard to do?

Beth: Researchers are finding out more and more that emotions dominate brain function.  Yet researchers are also discovering that the most evolved part of the brain, which is the part that integrates experience and judgment can develop better connections to the more primitive and emotional part of the brain.  More and better connections mean that emotions are experienced as less dominating and less fragmented.

Ruth:  How does journaling help that process?

Beth:  I thought you’d never ask!  Journaling is a tool that is tailor made to help you integrate emotional processes with other brain processes.  You have to focus and use fine motor coordination to write and you have to use symbolic, language, and narrative abilities to write.  When you apply these kinesthetic and thinking skills while writing about things you feel, you almost automatically help yourself more fully integrate your emotional experiences.

Ruth: So are you saying that the very process of writing helps you integrate your emotional experiences?

Beth: Yes! The physical act of writing combined with imagination and rational processing of your emotions brings you closer to emotional balance!

Ruth:  What can you do when you are in the more overwhelmed side of emotions?

Beth:  It’s really helpful to actually plan for those states of being emotionally overwhelmed, because we are human and these emotionally challenging times will happen.  When you are caught up in troubling feelings, it’s best to vent by writing for a specified period of time and then finish your writing with something more analytic or reassuring, such as writing a series of questions to ponder about your emotional reaction or an affirmation that you have managed it as best as you can at that moment.

I created the Emotional Balance Add-On to provide a format for helping you learn more about your emotions by writing about them.  The Prompts, Quotes, Tips, and Topics List were designed with this in mind. By regularly focusing on emotional balance, you also raise your threshold for emotional flooding.  Every bit of emotional work you do, including writing and responding to the components within the Emotional Balance Add-On, builds more awareness and more pathways and connections in your brain.

Ruth:  It sounds like acceptance is an important part of emotional balance.

Beth:  Absolutely!  Our brains are wired to feel strongly and to use these strong feelings as markers — registering important information and learning for survival.  Emotions make life rich and interesting, that’s for sure.  We need to accept two things to help our emotional balance: One is the fact that we are feeling creatures, and two is that feelings change all the time and every emotion will eventually evolve into another one.