For Freud, the way to wellness was to expose our unconscious patterns and stories, and to explore present-day feelings and behaviours in terms of their relationship with the past. The goal is to join the dots between what we previously thought of as unrelated things.
Becoming self-aware in this way can free us from the world of repeating histories. We can change our future when we understand the algorithmic patterns of our past. Without this, we become lost, stuck in a perpetual time loop. Doomed to live like Bill Murray in Punxsutawney in the film Groundhog Day.
What Freud did was to develop a system that helps in the exploration of the conscious and unconscious. It is a method of making associations and linking previously unlinked connections. A new story is built from patterns, symbols and associated feelings, similar to how a detective follows the inter-connection of clues. The idea is that, when you know the original programming, you are able to recode a different outcome.
Life is a series of patterns and stories
A pattern, no matter how complex it is, is changeable. It can be seen as a repeating habit triggered by an external influence on our inner life. If you seek out your own patterns, you are one step closer to taking charge of your story by reducing the impact of destructive triggers.
This is what excites me about Roam. By making it easier to unearth these triggers, it has the potential to become a game-changing therapeutic tool.
Using Roam as a Self-therapy Tool
There are two areas of focus in therapy and personal development: short-term solutions and long-term resolutions.
- Short-term solutions aim to answer questions like How do I immediately make myself feel better and How do I ease some immediate suffering so I can get on with life?
- Long-term resolutions address questions like How do I find the root cause of the problem so I don’t trip and fall again and How do I liberate myself completely?
I am not going to set you up to fail by tackling point 2. It would take much more than a blog post to explore this and its how tos. The first option is the one that is easier and less time-consuming to put into effect. This is where we can utilise productivity, goal-setting and habit-changing processes.
Journalling and building my Wellbeing Toolkit
I have a long history of wrestling with depression. It’s complicated. I am complicated. For the most part, considering where I started from, I have done a pretty good job of turning things around. Yet, out of the blue, I can still be floored with an unexpected bout of depression. There is no obvious trigger. No event. Nothing.
What is actually happening is that there is a story or a feeling unconscious in me. I am reacting to something.
I do not yet know what that something is. What I do know is that I am feeling depressed and frustrated. So I begin to withdraw from the world. I stop eating. I stop looking after myself.
I hate this feeling, so I was determined to find more effective ways to deal with it.
I wanted to create a quick and sure way to change my mood and motivation. I needed a personalised, effective set of self-help actions. I needed to develop effective mood-changing habits.
I had tried all the ‘gurus’ with their lists of doing this and not doing that. But these off -the-shelf solutions had never worked for me. What I know works is what I had seen people find for themselves in the therapy room. The solutions to their problems were to be found in their past.
Writing my daily journal in Roam
I have been writing my daily journal in Roam for three months. My previous journal entries have been imported into Roam so they are also available to me.
Each day I start on the Daily Notes page. I journal on there as an indented block using a #[[My Journal]] tag. I do this because it is useful to be able to read all my daily journal entries in reverse order.
The search for patterns
I use these journal entries to look for clues. I am searching for patterns, repetitions, associations. I am looking for related stories but I am also looking for opposites.
After all, if I am sad, it is important to know the things that make me happy. So I look for both in my journal entries.
And if I want to figure out how to stop feeling depressed, I need to know both the times I am sad and the times I am happy. I also need to know the context of those stories. And I need to unearth the bridge between the two feelings so I can see what may have turned me from one to the other.
If I have writer’s block, I need to research entries both about being stuck and about writing achievements.
The important thing in self-reflection is to look for both what you have and what you lack, to find both what you are feeling and what you want to feel, and then discover the associations between the two.
Searching in Roam
In my search in Roam, I began with two simple words, sad and happy. I read through linked and unlinked references. I begin to see themes and patterns. I see there are repeating themes in the context and background of my stories.
This is what Roam threw up as evidence.
When I’m sad, I withdraw and become demotivated. I avoid mirrors. I stop shaving. I stop showering. I hide away from the outside world. I stop going outside. I stop walking. I avoid people. I even stop listening to music, a big passion in my life.
Without getting too personal, I am sure you get the picture. I do not always recognise that I am slipping into depression until I wake up already sunk in it. At these times, I often avoid writing in my journal. Of course, this absence of words in my writing space provides its own clue to my mood.
On the other side, I find beautiful, interesting, happy, positive and optimistic entries. Entries that are full of life and soul. Entries from periods of wellness. When I am happy, I am sociable. I relish people’s stories. I listen to a lot of music. I wash. I shave. I eat well. I walk a lot. I write a lot. I talk a lot.
Can you see it? The cross-references of content? There are things that I do when I am happy that I go out of my way to avoid when I am sad.
So I explore a little more. And I find three very clear themes in the context of my stories:
- an abundance or absence of music
- shaving and not shaving
- walking and not walking
I know there are others but, for the sake of simplicity, let’s just see where these three go.
When I am happy, I listen to a lot of music. When I am sad, I listen to no music. Therefore I know that, if I haven’t listened to music for a day or two, I should check in with how I am feeling.
So I add a music page to my Wellbeing Toolkit in my Roam. What I have found is certain songs have a profound effect on my moods. In my list, I have Hawkwind’s Orgone Accumulator which seems to lift me right up. I also have Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. This may seem a melancholic tune to most but, for me, it is peaceful.
I didn’t even remember all the associations I had for this music until Roam showed me. Now they are both on my Toolkit Roam page with YouTube links for instant play. They also appear on my Spotify Toolkit list.
Most of us already know that science has proven the benefits of walking. Walking in green spaces especially improves mental health and wellbeing. So it’s a given to go in my Toolkit.
The evidence in my Roam journal shows I love walking. I love walking on the beach, both in the sun and rain. I love being in the forest at certain times of the year, but less so at others.
Remember you are making your own personal Toolkit. Mine contains favourite walks, even down to what season I prefer. I also have entries on which people I like as company and the times when I prefer to be alone.
The thing that most surprised me was about shaving. I discovered that, after a few days of depression, the catalyst to change was often having a shave.
I had a shave and, shortly after, I felt well again.
I dismissed it at first until I reflected some more. When I take a long slow shave, it is often the first time in days that I have actually looked in a mirror. For the first time in a while, I am looking right into my own eyes. Try it. Get a mirror and look into your own eyes. It is weirdly powerful.
I shave and I can see I look brighter and feel a little better. So I wash or shower. I then feel fresh which leads me to want to put on clean clothes. I do this and I begin to feel presentable to the world.
My attention is now changing from ‘lack of’ to ‘having’. From self-loathing to self-care. My motivation is lifting, my sense of self is changing. I’m hungry because the depression is lighter. I go downstairs to make food and put on some music. Soon I may like to go for a walk. It’s the butterfly effect. The more complicated the problem, the simpler the solution we should seek.
Shaving is now my number one thing to do when I recognise I am falling down. I have invested in this ritual habit which I now associate with positive and motivating feelings. I now have an old fashioned razor, sandalwood sweet balm and an old vintage tin to keep my things in. It is a ritual like a meditation that leads to my healing.
I may never have realised this without Roam.
Roam has helped me to identify that these three things, as simple as they may seem, lead me to much brighter and better feelings. These are not off-the-shelf prescribed solutions from someone who doesn’t live my life. These are self-discoveries made through the therapeutic use of Roam. These are tools that I have overwhelming personal evidence of helping my life.
The evidence is right there in my journals, with their linked and unlinked references to my past.
These discoveries are quick and possible with a tool like Roam.