Symbol Journaling

I journal a lot but sometimes I must admit I find the pursuit of words frustrating. Being a visual learner and artist, I find that words often don’t seem to do justice to what I am trying to express. I also find that they often complicate the whole process of journaling, so out of a desire to simplify my journaling I developed, symbol journaling.

The use of symbols removes the process of word selection. In addition the idea of this type of journaling is that of an exchange. Firstly, a current emotion or feeling that you are not happy with or about is expressed, in symbol form. Then you select another symbol which is the expression of what you desire instead, or what you hope to feel or experience. By marking them down on the paper together it is as if you are exchanging one for the other.

The amount of times you record the symbol on the paper is an indication of how consuming that feeling or emotion currently is for you, and equally how much you desire the replacement emotion or feeling. The intention with this journaling method is to remove the conscience decision making process required in choosing words. The process is meant to be more subconscience and instinctual. Looking back over these pages of journaling can be quite revealing.


A sheet of graph paper (Stick it in your journal when it is finished.)
Table top to work at
At least ½ hour (probably more)

Use the following guidelines for symbol journaling:
1. Relax and prepare for the task at hand (Environment is important, put on some relaxing music that makes you feel good and burn a candle or some aromatherapy oil)
2. The first task is to create two lists of symbols. You should do this on a piece of graph paper and stick it into your journal as these two lists will be come the legend or key for the next time. The first list you will be creating is those feelings that you tend to feel, but don’t want to. They can also be things that you spend a lot of time thinking about. (For example: anger, bills, work, frustration, your children, tiredness, fear…) The second list is those thoughts, feelings or attributes that you would like more of in your daily life (For example; patience, compassion, friends, hope, strength, determination, self control… )
3. Next you need to ruler a square- about 6cm x 6cm on your graph paper. The reason for the square is to give you boundaries in which to journal. This just makes the experience a little less intimidating. The thought of filing an entire page with symbols could be enough for some of you to not even give this form of journaling a go.
4. Once you have ruled your square, journal away.

Now that you have finished you may wish to reflect on the experience in your journal. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

· Were you surprised by any of the symbols that you chose to use?
· How did I feel while journaling in this way?
· Were you surprised by any of the feelings/ thoughts you expressed? Why?
· Does the page of journaling have a message for me?
· What have I gained from this experience?