Indigo's Peer Journal Exercises- Exercise #1
Making an Association Web
This exercise can be so helpful to identify any problem or trigger, or root out the cause of any emotional discomfort, I felt it was a great place to start for myself. It can also be used to solve other types of problems- for example, a work situation or a household project. Another word for this project might be "Brain-Storming".
When I first tried to make a Web, it was HUGE! I ended up having to break it down into several smaller ones, and piece them all together. I think the end result was something like 4-5 pages of poster board-sized paper : ).
Whatever works for you, that's fine- but you really must be absolutely honest with yourself. If it starts to upset you, simply put it away for a time, go back when you feel stronger, and try to relax in between.
One thing you may notice is that things come up over and over, but sometimes seem like several different things instead of the same one. This approach can help to identify those "common" aspects that aren't always so obvious.
A word of caution:
Don't start this unless you feel ready to face what may come out of it. Remember you can always put it away and come back to it later. At this point, I chose to start with the word "Distress", but you might choose anything that makes you feel uncomfortable in a vague way or otherwise- maybe a color or other potential trigger that would be good to explore.
Here's how it works:
The web uses what is called "free association". That means you write down one word or phrase, and then write everything that jumps into your mind after that, without regard to whether or not it seems to fit or makes sense at the time.
Pick a time when you can be undisturbed for a time- maybe a half-hour or an hour.
Start with a generic word or phrase that you know is related to your experiences, but is likely to be touchy for you- in this situation, I tried to intentionally use something that caused discomfort, but it shed a lot of light on how my thoughts worked for and against me. Remember, you are being honest with yourself- if you can't do this honestly for yourself, at least try to start a web with something that doesn't feel very threatening.
Place this word or phrase in the center of your paper.
Then start writing all around it. Let your mind flow freely. Don't worry about making groups of ideas or being neat or anything but "fleshing out" your web.
Even things that don't seem relevant should go on the paper- anything and everything that comes to mind. When you run out of thoughts, stop and rest for a few minutes. Then take a look at what you've got. Notice your reaction to what you have written and write it down in your journal, then come back to that later.
If you feel up to it, you may want to draw arrows from one word or phrase to another that seems to consistently be related.
For example, if you put words like "self-indulgent", "guilty", "ashamed", "NO", "fear" and "hurt" in your web, and you know you always feel guilty when you say, "no" about something, you might link those two with an arrow. If you do this, you should put the arrow from the word that causes the other word to occur. If saying "no" causes you to feel guilty, put the arrow pointing from "NO" to "guilty", showing the cause-effect relationship.
You may feel pretty wiped-out after you finish this. That's okay; rest or do something distracting for a while. Keep your web in a safe place, and refer to it when you feel up to it. If it seems to change after a while, try making another one to reflect the "new" you. If you feel really strong or feel like doing some hard work, you may want to make several different ones- maybe one for triggers, one of your weaknesses, one of your strengths, etc.
What you can do with the Web:
For someone who is trying to understand his or her triggers, I think a web is essential! It gives you lots of different leads about where to look for them, how they relate, where several may fall into place, and other relationships you may not see without a helping hand.
For someone who is re-defining their personal perspective and self-identity, you may want to have some handy references about what you expect from yourself and why you want to change a certain behavioral pattern- and a web can help define that pattern and what needs to be worked on to reach the desired goal.
For someone who is trying to piece together memories, a web can take seemingly unrelated bits and pieces and make it easier to tell what belongs with what- or help you decide if something quite doesn't fit, or if something else seems to be missing.
The possibilities are only as limitless as we make them.