Beginner’s Guide to making Journals by Nik the Booksmith:
Beginner Junk Journal Tutorial – Liz thepaperproject:
Another sequence of videos to help make a journal from scratch:
How to make a journal from an old book:
Beginner’s Guide to making Journals by Nik the Booksmith:
Beginner Junk Journal Tutorial – Liz thepaperproject:
Another sequence of videos to help make a journal from scratch:
How to make a journal from an old book:
A FEW GUIDELINES FOR THERAPEUTIC, VISUAL JOURNALING
Whatever format you use to record the story of your past and to document your current work to move forward with your life, here are a few more guidelines about how to proceed:
*** VALUABLE LINKS TO BOOKS & ARTICLES ON VISUAL JOURNALING:
A great article about combining art and writing into a visual journal: https://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog/art-therapy-combines-art-and-writing-into-deeply-personal-art-journals
Here is a website with extensive information on art journaling: https://yourvisualjournal.com/art-journal/
MORE YOUTUBE VIDEOS THAT CAN INFORM AND INSPIRE YOU TO MAKE AN ART JOURNAL:
Journaling tips for survivors of abuse/trauma: https://www.loveisrespect.org/content/journaling-tips-for-survivors-of-abuse-and-trauma/
How to prepare an existing book to become a journal: https://artjournalist.com/how-to-prepare-an-old-book/
Article about value of visual journaling: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/arts-and-health/201312/altered-book-and-visual-journaling
Altered Art Therapist Blog by Jennifer Navarro: http://jennavarro.com/?s=altered+books
General information on altered books via “Go Make Something”: http://gomakesomething.com/category/ht/ab/
Great website with ideas on how to create an art journal: https://mymodernmet.com/art-journal-ideas/
This flow chart is modeled on the Barbara Sher design. Your flow chart may not have two paths such as in the template above. You may have better results creating your own, but use this one at first to get a feel for working backwards from the goal to where you are now.
Click HERE or on image to download.
This mind-map is not as free-flowing and right brain as a mind-map should be. It is however a place to start, if you feel you need one. Once you give this one a try, move on to simply creating your own using a central hub you wish to build ideas around.
Download this mind-map template HERE.
If you are a survivor of undue influence, coercive-control, cult abuse, political or spiritual brainwashing, etc. you have been subjected to emotional trauma. The trauma can be devastating and the recovery process is full of challenges, stress and pain. And yet it is not uncommon to hear people who survive and recover from such traumatic situations say things like:
If you are caught up right now in the midst of the worst of the stress and suffering after experiencing the trauma of deception, manipulation, control or abuse, you may understandably scoff at such seemingly pollyanna-esque pronouncements. However, testimonies from victims of a variety of life crises, and recent psychological research in the field of trauma and recovery reveal that this is the case for many. It can be the case for you too.
Neurologist, psychiatrist and existential thinker, Victor Frankl suggested this years ago in his seminal work “Man’s Search for Meaning”, when he explained that once we can identify underlying significance in a crisis situation, when we can make meaning out of life’s miseries, it lessens the distress, makes the entire experience more bearable and makes it less psychologically stressful or damaging.
In the mid-nineties psychologists and researchers Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun named the phenomenon of finding meaning in misery, “post-traumatic growth”. Tedeschi and Calhoun were not simply talking about developing resilience in the face of suffering, but about an awareness on the part of the victim of growth, renewal and good in the midst of their recovery. They studied victims who, post trauma, felt the struggle with abuse and the feeling of being shattered by it became a springboard for positive change and exciting transformation.
Tedeschi and Calhoun’s research went on to identify five areas where post-traumatic growth is possible. These areas are:
Kasley Killam, referencing the work of Tedeschi and Calhoun in the article “How to Find Meaning in Suffering” adds, “By focusing on one or more of these five areas, we have an opportunity to turn suffering into personal development. In particular, several factors can facilitate this process. One is receiving care; it is important to seek out emotional and practical support from loved ones or community members following trauma. Another is approaching rather than avoiding the task of coping by accepting the tragedy as irreversible and embracing the grief process. A final factor is recognizing that we are in charge of how we move forward, and thereby perceiving control over our recovery.” (Bold added)
Imagine! The above five areas of personal growth can emerge as a result of the trauma and suffering you are experiencing now. Or perhaps your traumatic experience is now behind you, but you have never stopped to consider how you may have actually benefited and matured from the pain and suffering. Take a moment and take stock of how much you have learned, changed and grown due to your experience of undue influence or coercive control and your efforts to survive and recover.
It is encouraging to know that there is not just post-trauma stress after crises, but that there can be positive effects and a positive legacy that can result from traumatic experiences – post-trauma growth.
While post-traumatic growth cannot be forced and while grief and healing must run their uniquely individual course, once on the road to recovery we can consciously turn our focus to:
If you were deceived, exploited and abused due to coercive controls and are now in the middle of the suffering that ensues once free, please find hope and solace in the fact that there is a body of research and a wealth of anecdotal reports demonstrating that this very trauma and suffering can initiate possibilities and personal transformation that you might never have thought attainable.
The traumas that break us open make space for new understanding and opportunities, and as they say, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Ernest Hemingway articulated it best when he said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
Take time to take stock of your entire traumatic experience. We have to own the victimization. We have to own the losses. We have to own the pain. We must not forget to claim and own the growth that is possible post-trauma.
Further Reading on Post-Traumatic Growth:
“The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook: Coming Through Trauma Wiser, Stronger, and More Resilient”, Richard G. Tedeschi, Ph.D., Bret A. Moore, 2016
“What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth”, Stephen Joseph, 2013
“Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth”, Jim Rendon, 2016
“Posttraumatic Growth in Clinical Practice”, Lawrence G. Calhoun, Richard G. Tedeschi, 2012
 Scientific American, December 15, 2015
Ellen J. Langer, author of “Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility” says: “The hefty price for accepting information uncritically is that we go through life unaware that what we’ve accepted as impossible may in fact be quite possible.”
In another of Ellen J. Langer’s books, entitled, “Mindfulness” she says: “If something is presented as an accepted truth, alternative ways of thinking do not even come up for consideration.”
In the same book, “Mindfulness”, Langer adds: “The more we realize that most of our views of ourselves, of others, and of presumed limits regarding our talents, our health, and our happiness were mindlessly accepted by us at an earlier time in our lives, the more we open up to the realization that these too can change. And all we need do to begin the process is to be mindful.”
If you lived for years in the confined, repressive milieu of a high-control group – especially if your ‘captivity’ included your childhood years – once out, you may still be operating under a set of erroneous assumptions about the world and about yourself.
In many high-demand groups there are controls and limits put on our access to information, reading materials, associations, education, our freedom to explore the world and our freedom to explore our own talents and inclinations. Having now liberated yourself from such undue repression, it is imperative that you question any premature assumptions you were forced into making about how the world operates and about the scope of your own aptitudes, abilities, capacities and latent talents.
Having spent the first thirty years of my life in a pseudo-religious cult, I experienced all the controls and repression that that cult imposed on its members. Immersed in their sea of rules and dogma, it never occurred to me that I possessed talents which I had never had the opportunity or the encouragement to explore. Even once out of the cult I assumed that the adult I was, with the competencies I was aware of, constituted the range of my skills and abilities. Fortunately, an innate need for expression and the interventions of kind, not-so-encumbered mentors eventually helped me push past my “presumed limits” and discover worlds and possibilities I had never dreamed of.
Are you too, unknowingly placing limits on what you believe might be possible for you? Are you still, unknowingly living by the constraints and controls forced upon you in the high-control situation? Have you made assumptions or accepted statements about yourself that now mean exciting options or possibilities do not even come up for consideration?
Once out of the high-control group, we not only have to work at clearing our mind of the ideology and fears instilled while serving someone else’s agenda, but we also have to clear our minds of assumptive limits about who we are and what we are capable of.
If you notice yourself thinking or saying things like, “Oh, I would love to be able to do that, but I don’t have that kind of talent”, or “Some people have all the talent”, or “I’d just make a fool of myself if I tried to do that” or “There’s no point in exploring that, surely I would know by now if I had the ability to do that”, etc. etc. CHALLENGE THOSE THOUGHTS!
You were carefully groomed to not believe you had any abilities that could take you away from service to the high-control group. PUSH PAST YOUR ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT PRESUMED LIMITS OF YOUR ABILITIES. Reach out to learn. Claim your right to explore. Dare to test your presumed limits. Of course, you will not discover aptitudes in every area you explore, but you may find one that brings tremendous meaning, joy and delight to your life. The discovery of latent talents may not bring wild success, acclaim or riches but will absolutely enhance your sense of self, your ability to fully express all that you are, and your ability to add meaning and joy to your life.
I remember once out of the high-control group, both admiring and envying people who could write. I recall saying to my husband that I could not imagine a more idyllic life than that of being a writer. But my old assumptions about who I was and about what I was capable of immediately dismissed the possibility for myself. It was only once in university and writing term papers and my thesis that I began to notice that I often received positive feedback about my writing skills. Then, many years later when a series of opportunities converged, when I saw a need in a niche population, I stepped out of my old, cult-designed constraints and dared to think of writing a book. It seemed like a huge presumption due to old, mainly unconscious assumptions about myself. It felt like a huge risk. It was hard work, but I discovered that I loved the process. There was joy in allowing myself to try to develop a talent.
Now, a few years down the road, I have written six books about recovery from manipulation, exploitation and thought-control that have thousands of grateful readers. I would never have believed that possible if I had not been willing to take the risk to push past old “accepted truths” about myself, learned in a controlling group.
Because, as Langer says, I took things I learned about myself in the cult “as an accepted truth, alternative ways of thinking (did) not even come up for consideration”. I had to challenge and push past the limiting assumptions I had made about myself as a child of high-control abuse. I had to be willing to take risks, test my abilities, make a fool of myself, and perhaps experience disappointment in order to discover if abilities I admired in others were also possible for me.
Another example: As a child in school, I always received good marks on art projects, but I compared myself to young artists in my class who could draw exact representations of a horse or a human face. I could not, so I jumped to the conclusion that I could never be an artist – besides such a goal would be summarily dismissed in the cult. I ignored the fact that nothing excited me more than blank pages and colored pencils. I thought it was just me desiring something that was not possible.
Once out of the cult, a few people began to compliment me on my design and décor. Psychologist colleagues who rented consultation rooms in my offices and loved the decor said on more than one occasion, “You should have been a designer!” I found the remark amusing and did not let it burn through my long-standing, limited assumptions about myself.
Once while at a dinner party, the hostess brought out some paintings she had just finished in an art class. Something in me thought, “I could do that – and I want to do that.” This time I listened to myself and went out and purchased some canvases and art supplies. Still not convinced I could paint, I began to tentatively create collages using tissue paper and glue. As my family saw the work I was doing, they expressed their admiration. That positive feedback emboldened me to begin to try to paint textured abstracts on large canvases. Whether anyone found them worthy, or not, whether they had any artistic merit, or not, I had just discovered the most exciting form of personal expression I had ever known!
What joy! What satisfaction!
The point of sharing these personal stories with you is that to become or enjoy anything that I now value – being a psychotherapist, becoming a writer, enjoying painting abstract acrylics – I had to push past “accepted truths” and imbedded assumptions about myself and what I was capable of.
What assumptions have you made about yourself? What assumptions encouraged in a high-control group are limiting you? What might you discover if you pushed past any “presumed limits regarding (y)our talents” and opened up “to the realization that these too can change”? As Langer says, “… all we need do to begin the process is to be mindful”. Pay attention to clues that you have made erroneous assumptions about the limits of your potential. Do not allow the high-control group to continue to control your life and your potential with their old, repressive beliefs.
Be mindful now about skills you notice that you admire or envy in others. What information, for example, might be contained in simple thoughts such as “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to play bass guitar in a band” or “I’ve always admired jewelry designers” or “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a teacher” or “I’ve always been curious about urban design” or “I’ve always envied people who lead a contemplative life”, etc. etc. Take such thoughts or statements as a possible nudge from your unconscious about hidden talents or abilities waiting to be explored. Challenge your assumptions, groomed by a controlling, repressive group that did not want you to have your own goals or work on your own projects which would take you away from service to their goals.
Sometimes a certain ennui with life, a recurring depression, feelings of despair, anxiety, or hopelessness can be sourced in not living up to our full potential. Are you plagued by unexplained, seemingly unwarranted anxiety? Consider that it could be due to unexplored talents or abilities yearning for expression.
What assumptions are you still carrying from your experience in a high-control group that are limiting the full and meaningful expression of all that you are? How are old, outdated beliefs about yourself limiting your potential and enjoyment of life now as a free person? As Ellen J. Langer says, “… what we’ve accepted as impossible, may in fact, be quite possible.”
Recovery from Coercive-Control Abuse Requires an Open Mind
Nurturing an open mind is a means to inoculate people against undue influence and exploitation. However, people who have recently exited coercive groups also need to open their minds to new information, to new ways of thinking and being – and to release their minds from constricted worldviews – if they wish to recover.
In exploitative environments, individuals are carefully and persistently manipulated into narrowing their vision – of the world, of people, of good and evil, of life, of themselves. Such narrow perspectives limit vision, understanding, curiosity and make it easier for the manipulative group to continue to indoctrinate and exploit its recruits.
We leave coercive groups with a mind that has been insidiously closed to new ideas, to other points of view, to learning, etc. The closed, limited, insular experience in the cult-like group can make the recruit feel sheltered and safe.
Emerging from the coercive group after awakening could incite one to ‘close down’ even more, to prevent further intrusions, interference, control, and manipulation. This self-protective impulse, however, will not help with recovery from the after-effects of being used and abused.
The newly-free ex-member of a high-control group needs to make a concerted effort to loosen and discard the constraints on their mind and their thinking. There is a wealth of information that has been denied them and there is much to learn to reclaim the right to freedom of thought and action.
One way to reclaim their mind and allow it to open is to challenge (question, re-examine and reconsider) specific beliefs and patterns of thinking acquired in the group. When automatic beliefs are challenged, it is like opening a curtain and letting in the light. With the fresh perspective that light allows, one may very well decide that they want to keep a certain belief – but will do so knowing that it was after careful consideration of other views. They will have applied their own ‘light’, perspective, critical thinking, judgment, and made their own choice.
Here are some things you may want to re-examine and reconsider in order to open your mind after leaving a high-control group:
Each time you challenge, question or re-consider old, cult-sourced thoughts or patterns of thought, you release a notch on the belt of constrictions that were tightened around you in the group. You open your mind from their imposed constraints and discover you can finally breathe and live freely again.
It is important that you not try to reclaim your identity and rebuild your new, free life based on the constrictions and limitations of the close-minded mentality learned in the group. Open your mind enough to keep what is good, release what is false and what limits you, and make room for new information and fresh inspiration.
After practicing opening to new ideas, perspectives and patterns of thought (decided upon by you), you can then move a step further and open yourself to new ways of doing things, new ways of functioning in the world, and even open yourself to inviting new people into your life. Truly exciting possibilities!
To help develop an open mind, consider using silent affirmations, such as:
“Open … an open, discriminating mind is the best guide to reconstructing my life”, or “Open … it is an open, questioning, critical-thinking mind that is my best friend now”, or construct a phrase you like and use it often! It takes diligent practice to re-open a mind closed by thought-reform, deception, coercion and manipulation.
Instead of living in a narrow limited way, as was required in a manipulative group, open yourself to life and its many wonderful possibilities. Invite yourself to fully explore and enjoy all that is available to you on this glorious planet. Allow yourself to entertain new ideas, new options, and new ways of proceeding – while retaining your right to question, research or reject anything that does not feel right, appropriate, or safe…for you.
The goal is to be open to explore and embrace all that life has to offer – not gullible and accepting of every idea or option put before you. You want to be open and discriminating – able to distinguish and tell the difference between what you desire for yourself and what someone else might want to impose upon you. Open to examine, question and then – based on your own rational assessment – choose that which will enhance your personal growth and recovery.
If you would like to know more about this subject, I suggest reading Ellen J. Langer’s, “Mindfulness” – “a book about the psychological and physical costs that we pay because of pervasive mindlessness and, more important, about the benefits of greater control, richer options, and transcended limits that mindfulness makes possible”. Daniel Kahneman’s book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” – a New York Times bestseller that helps us to understand rationality, reason, the way we think and choose, etc., is another highly recommended read.