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Can Journaling Help to Release Physical Pain? (Nicole Sachs, LCSW)

This interview is from the Like Mind, Like Body podcast. You can listen to the full interview below, on iTunes or Google Podcasts.


Nicole Sachs is no stranger to chronic pain. After overcoming her own physical pain and transforming her life, she knew that her calling would be to help others do the same. Her unique approach to doing that doesn’t involve pills or years of therapy; it simply requires an open mind, a pen, and a piece of paper. Join us as Nicole explains her philosophy and guides you in how to use her “Journal Speak” techniques at home.

Read on for an excerpt from the interview below and explore Nicole's work here.

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Your signature therapeutic technique is called "Journal Speak." Walk me through what it’s like to complete a Journal Speak session.

The first thing I would do is sit down and, even if you don’t want to make an exhaustive list right now, if you want to try the practice, get a piece of paper and bullet out 5 things that are really on your mind. That you would really prefer not to talk about. The more resistance you have to it, that’s the ones I want on the list. The family reunion coming up where your mother-in-law’s going to criticize you. Money. Your boss. Your son’s grades. Your best friend who puts you down all the time because she’s really jealous of you. Pick 5 things, list them on the page, sit and stare at them for a second and say, “what’s the one that’s renting the most space in my brain?”

Then put 20 minutes on your phone on the timer, turn the phone over so you are not watching that time tick away, pick one of those topics, stick it on the top of the page and tell the truth. The real, raw truth. I want you to give yourself the position to win every argument you’ve ever entered into. To let that little girl or boy inside of you that’s been told your whole life “sit down and be quiet." That person inside of you is screaming. But they’re screaming through your back or through your stomach or through your head or through your fibromyalgia or through your nerves or through all the things that afflict us in terms of chronic conditions. If you don’t want them to scream through your body anymore, you must give them a voice. It’s just the bottom line.

I want you to sit for that 20 minutes and you start wherever you’re at. So let’s pick my son’s grades. You might start with telling the truth. You always have to start with the circus truth because you have to invite in this deeper awakening. So tell the story - I’ve talked to him 100 times, he doesn’t hand in his assignments, I spoke to his teachers, they tell me there’s nothing they can do. You start telling the truth and if you open yourself up to not judge what you’re doing, something might happen. You might say, “I feel so alone in this because my husband doesn’t even seem to care. I’m caring more about this than my son even cares and this is exactly how I felt when I was growing up. Because my parents didn’t support me. Why doesn’t anyone support me? Why am I alone in this world?” Follow it wherever it goes. It can start with your son’s grades and it can end up with you in third grade eating lunch by yourself. And it doesn’t matter. You could be in third grade eating lunch by yourself and you could sit for a moment, if it strikes you. And have compassion for that kid where you always rejected her because she embarrassed you and you would rather her have been different.

What ends up happening in a Journal Speak practice is, I always say it’s like putting a bunny down in the snow - left, right, left, right. You just watch the trail and it’s interesting, and replace your fear with curiosity. Just say “I wonder what this is going to be.” And let it go. And when your timer goes off at 20 minutes, obviously if you would like to keep going you can, but if not you just hit the timer. If you type on your computer you can select all, delete, close the document. It’s like it never happened. If you’re writing long-hand you can just rip it up into a garbage can where no one is going to find it. And then you just sit down. I sit in silence, but you don’t have to. You could sit in a guided meditation. You could listen to Tibetan singing bowls or monks or whatever is your jam. And you put your hand on your heart and say, “I’m a good person. I am trying my best. I am showing up as a human being like everybody is showing up as a human being. And everyone out there feels these things and I am healing myself. I am saving my own life and so whatever I have to say, I have to say.”

I often say, “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, it will make a sound every single time.” So even if you think you could avoid these feelings by not doing this kind of practice, you can’t. The tree will fall and you will hear it. Where are you going to hear it? You’re going to hear it in your migraines, you’re going to hear it in your fibro, you’re going to hear it in your body pains. Because it’s impossible. It has to come out somewhere. So knowing that and knowing that this is simply brain science, this is not your body against you. This is truly your nervous system and brain working in perfect form in order to protect you from the greatest predator. The interpretation of our brains and nervous systems as far as we have evolved is our repressed emotions coming to the fore are a greater predator than our physical pain that keeps us safe, small, in bed. It makes sense why it would be safer to be sick.

But it’s not safer for you. You choose. It’s your life. What’s it worth to you? Give it a try.

[this is an excerpt only - for the full episode, listen to the podcast above]

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