Writing for Emotional Balance: A Guided Journal to Help You Manage Overwhelming Emotions

A Review of a Book by Beth Jacobs, Ph.D.

by Ruth Folit

Have you ever felt so angry, betrayed, frustrated, or insulted that you have lashed out and blurted out words that you wish you hadn’t?  Or felt so intimidated, shy, fearful, and overwhelmed that you didn’t say something that you wish you had?  Or not emotionally resolved a difficult or painful experience from your past? If so–and I would guess that each of us to some extent has had one of these experiences–then Beth Jacobs’ book is definitely worth reading.

Psychologist Beth Jacobs  offers readers clear, simple, yet sophisticated explanations about emotions–how we experience them, how they can become problematic, and step-by-step examples how we can manage them, but not control them– by writing. She explains that there are three “C”s of emotional management: consciousness, clarity, and coherence.   And in order to understand your  emotional patterns, Jacobs takes you through a series of experiential exercises writing about your emotions and observing your feelings over time.

Jacobs has broken down emotional management into specific, learnable skills. Neither talking down to readers nor using jargon, Jacobs offers insightful descriptions and observations about how emotions generally work, and ably conveys the complexities and nuances of the emotional world.

For example, Jacobs creates an analogy of weather and emotion:

“Your emotional life is an internal climate.  Like the weather, emotions are the result of the convergence of many forces.  Also like the weather, your overall experience is made up of many factors…You don’t control the weather, but you deal with it.…Meteorologists don’t make the day sunny. They study how different weather forces combine, they assess the prevailing conditions, and then they advise on how to dress for the weather or whether to expect a bad rush hour.  Emotionally, you also have to be adaptive in such ways.  You study and watch over the conditions and make the adjustments you can.”

Dr. Jacobs divides emotional management skills into seven actions: distance, define, release, refocus, organize, regroup, and maintain. Some of us are better at one skill than another, but with some knowledge and practice–through writing exercises in her book, writing journal entries and later re-reading your journal to spot your emotional patterns–you can become proficient at all the skills.

LifeJournal can easily be used in working with these exercises.  One recommendation is to assign topics to these exercises so that you can quickly perform a search to find them later.  Jacobs also discusses a Mood Log, the principles of which can easily be implemented in LifeJournal’s Daily Pulse.

I recommend Writing for Emotional Balance to everyone  between the ages of 10 and 100 who wants to get a better handle on his/her emotional life through journal writing.