Keep Thy Personal Journal Private!

Feb 27 17:40 2005 Barbara Carr Phillips Print This Article

If you live with other people, I know you shudder to think about what would happen if your personal journal fell into the wrong hands. Journaling is not about writing something and then leaving it on your bed so your family can see how you really feel about them. You may be tempted to do that at times, but don't.

It's just not cool for your mother to read your rant about how ugly you think her purple polka dot shirt is. You wrote that you scrunched down in your elementary school chair until your eyes were even with your desk,Guest Posting wishing to disappear when she walked into the room wearing that purple people eater.

You can still hear little Jimmy Morgan snickering behind you, saying the dots would make good bull's eyes for his spit wads. And look, she's still wearing that thing like some kind of vintage-fashion-rage fifteen years later and you want to barf.

Of course, it doesn't really bother you to that extreme, but you were thinking about it the day you wrote it in your journal and it felt good to exaggerate. Writing even made you laugh about it. But the thought of mom reading that entry makes your face flush and your knees feel weak.

I know one mom who read her daughter's journal all the time. The daughter always left it open on her bed, knowing her mother would make the bed and pick it up. After hearing about a few confrontational episodes between this mom and daughter, I suggested that the mom buy a journal that she and her daughter could write in and exchange. This way, each person could "talk" without interruption and there would be no invasion of privacy.

Passing a journal back and forth can be great fun if it's decided in advance. All other times: Keep thy journal confidential.

There are a few ways to do this. I never buy books that have "My Diary," "My Journal" or "My So-Called Life Since You Ruined It" imprinted on the cover. I think they're too tempting for snoopers.

Once I bought a journal that looked like an encyclopedia on the outside. No one in my family paid any attention to it as it sat on my bookshelf, and I used it as a cathartic journal (a type of journal used to express emotion).

Another way to protect your journal from snoops is to buy a book at a garage sale that wouldn't interest anyone in your family, (like, "How to Prepare your 1981 Federal Income Tax Return"). Pick out a book so dry that the garage salers will whisper, "see, people will buy anything at a garage sale," as you walk away. Hollow out the cover and put your journal in it.

If that's not secure enough for you, hide it in the unsweetened, generic cereal box at the back of the pantry. If your family is like mine, they will skip breakfast if unsweetened, generic cereal is all you have left. Trust me, I've done this. I wrote about it for Chicken Soup for the Soul Bible. It works.

If you still have doubts about privacy in your household, keep your journal in a locked file drawer, desk drawer or a small safe.

It is very important that you feel your writing is just for you. Otherwise, you are not going to write about how you really feel. You can be insecure and fearful in the world, but the writing part of you, the part that you share with your journal, cannot. Write about your fears and how they affect you . . . and tell the truth.

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Barbara Carr Phillips
Barbara Carr Phillips

Barbara Carr Phillips journals, teaches journaling, writes about journaling, hangs out with journalers and sells cool journaling products at: www.journalworkshops.com

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