Journaling is a great way to disconnect our emotional hot buttons. Some call this a post-mortem analysis because it happens after the event. The goal is to identify the distorted thinking that lead to our over-reaction, then challenge those thoughts.  Below is a suggested journaling process. After a strong emotional reaction, write your answers to the following questions:
  1. What happened? Write down a brief account of the incident. This will remind you later which incident you wrote about as you review your notes.
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how big of deal was this? 1-10 is just an example. You get to choose the scale.
  3. On a scale of 1-10, how big was my reaction? After journaling about 4-5 incidents, you may notice a pattern that your reactions are almost always bigger than the situation called for. 
  4. What feelings did I experience during this event? Feel free to look at a list of emotions if you need help naming what you feel. Answering this question each time helps you become faster at identifying your emotions.
  5. What beliefs do I hold that might have caused these feelings? Look for distorted thinking in these beliefs. Some ​common examples of distorted thinking can be found here.
  6. What challenges can I make to these beliefs? Once you identify distorted thinking that may be causing your bad reactions, challenge those beliefs. Follow this link for examples.
  7. If this involved another person, what might have been going on with them to cause them to act as they did? Try to imagine a scenario where the person had very different intentions than what it was you reacted to. Think about explanations – not excuses – for their behavior. As you put yourself in their shoes, does your compassion for them grow?
  8. How could I respond to this situation differently if I had it to do all over again? Think about the outcome you want and how are you most likely get it. Use our Different Endings Simulator to practice responses in a low-pressure situation.

Here’s a sample journal entry:  my_journal

Journaling after the fact does not change the outcome of anything that’s already happened. However, it does help us identify the distorted thinking that leads to strong, even violent reactions. It therefore helps us respond differently the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation.