When I worked the 12-steps in Adult Children of Alcoholics, we were directed to locate a childhood photo of ourselves, where we were smiling. Today's Personal Journal Assignment is to use a photo image as a prompt that will help us get out of the victim mentality.
If the smile in your childhood photo image was genuine and you were raised in a safe, happy environment, slant the following exercise toward gratitude. Let your photo tell its smiling story.
Some of us weren't as fortunate. We are abused and afraid, always afraid. It is my greatest hope that this Personal Journal Assignment will work its magic for you, as it did for me.
Photos Tell a Story
Every photo has its own story. When you feel confused or fragmented, a photo image will point toward repetitive painful patterns, which happened before and keep happening again.
Find a picture of from your childhood where you were smiling, gaze at your image and listen for "aha" moments.
One Word at a Time
In your Personal Journal, write a one word description of the photo image you selected. If the appropriate word doesn't pop into your consciousness choose one of these: anticipation, confidant, inspired, flinching, cozy, worried, angry, safe, depressed or happy.
Embracing your Personal Power
Our aim is to get out of our victim mentality, one word at a time. Written words light our journey to wholeness.
Look at the one word description of your photo image and write a list of feeling words to describe where you were in your life. Go with the feelings. If you are moved to tears, take time to cry. If you feel angry, write out the anger. Did you hate the situation at the time this picture was snapped? If you are angry and feel hatred toward a parent or caregiver, explain why these feelings surfaced to your Personal Journal.
Following each session of photo journaling, you will take back one or more aspects of your personal power that you had stuffed away in order to survive.
The child of an abusive alcoholic lives in chaos. As a result, survival becomes imperative. In order to survive, we bury aspects of ourselves, such as anger, laughter, initiative, self-love, confidence or freedom of expression.
Therapeutic journaling offers boundless growth opportunities. By integrating one missing piece of our psyche at a time, we gain the wisdom to let what is past be in the past and the confidence to change our present lives.
My Photo Journal Experience
I had difficulty finding a childhood picture where I was smiling. Finally, I settled of one taken before the Junior Prom. In it, I wore a gorgeous yellow dress and my straight hair was in curls.
The word I chose was "flinching". (This is why I incorporated "flinching" in the list of words.) The fake smile in the picture was on the outside, on the inside I was crying. Before getting dressed, my mother had beaten me with a belt. My legs were covered in whelps and stiffness of the dress material hurt me each time I moved. What should have been a night of laughter was filled with pain and sorrow.
As I looked at my smiling picture, I took the opportunity to cry those tears I'd stuffed a long time ago. And then I wrote out page-after-page of angry, hurt feelings. Afterwards, I felt drained, but excited because knowledge is power. Due to the "aha" moment of clarity, I could emphasize with the smiling girl in the photo, who was crying on the inside, Simultaneously with my positive action in permitting both of us to weep, another piece of personal power was integrated into my present self.
Use Photo Image as a Prompt
I'm in total agreement if you'd prefer to suffer a broken bone than to work the photo image exercise. Our victim mentality can become so comfortable that we have no desire to scratch, claw and dig ourselves out of past pain.
But, I shared part of my story the smiling picture told, with the sincere belief that you will benefit from it. Because I've been a victim and now I'm physically, mentally and spiritually free. When you live in freedom you will smile on the inside.