Using art, dance, and journaling, psychotherapist Jo Ashworth helps groups delve into and release their inner selves. This forty-five year old mother of three (teenagers) has been married for twenty-one years and currently resides in Mandurah, Western Australia. Read on to learn about how she uses journaling in her work and her life.
Moe: How long have you been journaling?
Jo Ashworth: I have been journaling for twenty years though I was first introduced to the technique at a youth camp when I was eighteen. I must have pigeon holed the technique only to pull it out years later after my first son was born with a disability. It really helped me to download all the confusing thoughts and process the feelings.
Moe: What kinds of journals do you have?
Jo Ashworth: I have probably experimented with them all. I prefer a spiral bound with no lines because I like freedom which kind of sets the stage for the journaling. I don’t use anything smaller than A4. It’s not very convenient to throw into a handbag but it inspires letting go, particularly if you combine some art.
Moe: How often do you journal?
Jo Ashworth: I try to journal every day. Even when I think I have nothing to say I am constantly awed at how much is there. Research suggests we think in excess of 70,000 thoughts per day. Most of these are unconscious so there is always material. The thing about thoughts is they produce feelings. If we can trace a feeling to our thoughts through journaling then the charge from the feeling dissipates. The belief behind the feeling arises in the exploring and this gives us an opportunity to decide whether it is actually of our own value system or has been modeled from family or society.
Moe: Why is journaling important to you?
Jo Ashworth: Journaling is my medicine. It is free, it is my truth and it constantly converts to peace. Something I aspire to in this world. It also offers me all the answers and guidance I need. It helps me to know myself. When we know ourselves well we know what we want and need. It downloads feelings and leaves me in a space to communicate clearly without blame, judgement and reaction from my feelings. From this place it is a peacemaker. It also then puts me in a place where I can feel compassion for others.
Moe: You were trained to facilitate journal courses, could you describe this?
Jo Ashworth: I decided I wanted to share the miracles I had experienced from journaling. I trained as a facilitator. This training taught me how to run groups and write up courses. I then researched some other authors’ experience of journaling and together with my experiences had plenty of material.
Moe: When did you become a psychotherapist?
Jo Ashworth: Three years ago. As my processing went deeper I found the groups were going deeper. I needed to train to be able to hold that space and help others continually forward their own journey.
Moe: Can you tell us about your weekend workshops?
Jo Ashworth: My work is constantly evolving. Over the last couple of years I have been including art and no longer extol journal writing but journaling. Our bodies are a journal and have oh so much to teach us. I always use the body in the work now. Feelings can have a shape or color.
For example a knot in the stomach could look like a matted green ball of wool. Extracting this visually is really important. To be able to see it offers further insights. We also always use collage and I inspire people to get a display file and start a library of images that invoke a reaction from them from the newspaper of magazines or anywhere. You begin to see themes coming through. Mine are Body, Family, Home, Environment, Words, Colour, Art, Inspiring articles and people, Cultures, Travel and Fashion. The headers evolve naturally as a result of what you are drawn to tearing out. These images are journal prompts. You can pull one out and glue it into your journal and dialogue with it to see what it has to teach you about yourself.
When we have a feeling about anything, even if it seems unrelated to our life it is actually mirroring something deep inside. The visuals are fantastic for forwarding your journey. My most recent work has included full body collages in response to the chakra psychologies, for example base chakra issues relate to survival, prosperity, family and belonging. This is an awesome prefect. Through various prompts an image depicting the journey is pasted on and we go from there. It is very healing to see your full sized body staring back at you.
Moe: One of the main questions writers ask about is discipline. Do you think discipline is important in journaling and could you provide a few tips on improving one’s journaling discipline?
Jo Ashworth: The best disciple is LISTENING to your body in this busy world. From this space a regular journaling journey naturally evolves. Track a feeling and see where it takes you in the journal. Unravelling dreams can be a good discipline. All dream images are about ourselves and have something to gift us. Simply have a conversation with the characters. Julia Cameron’s morning pages can not be ignored. They are very powerful. Journaling simply has to become part of our every day life. There just is no other way. I cannot extol the virtues of journaling enough. It is important to know journaling isn’t just about writing. In fact when other techniques are integrated it becomes a holistic approach to our wellbeing.
Interviewed for the Journaling site at BellaOnline.