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Journaling: How I Remember the Details

Journaling: How I Remember the Details
Journaling

When I moved across the country, I brought two stuffed filing cabinets worth of personal papers. Not bills or business papers — we’re talking about notebooks filled with minutia of day-to-day life.

Since high school, I’ve relied on notebooks (my current preference is Moleskine cahiers, though I’ve used everything from composition books to huge 200-page sketchbooks to little spiral bounds obtained at the dollar store) to write down anything that came up during the day. I eventually adapted to interpreting this information into a planner and then an online calendar. These days, productivity experts such as David Allen, call such a system “ubiquitous capture.” My grandmother used plainer language and told me that if I didn’t write things down, my thoughts would wander off without me. She was entirely right.

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A notebook is useful in the moment — it’s portable and doesn’t need time to boot up or load software. That doesn’t justify me hanging on to years of shopping lists, though. It’s the other notes that crept in that make these notebooks worthwhile. An article on Dosh Dosh yesterday got me thinking about how these notebooks are effectively my private journals. While they’re full of task lists, I also used these notebooks to record lecture notes, ideas for short stories, long-term goals and just about everything that has gone through my head. We’re talking about uncensored thoughts that often never saw the light of day again.

I read through old notebooks when I need ideas or I want to remember what was important to me at a certain time. Maki puts it better:

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The key point to note is not the therapeutic effects of writing in a journal but rather the fact that regular journal keeping will influence the way you think or feel about an specific topic. If you’re an entrepreneur, blogger or marketer, reflection via a private journal will give you a fountain of ideas and initiatives to pursue.

It’s true. Even the act of writing down notes about a story I wanted to write was enough to improve the story. I check through old notebooks regularly for ideas to write about and even to attempt to sell. Any time I experience the slightest twinge of writer’s block, I start reading my own notes.

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A few days ago, I went looking for notes from a talk I attended during my sophomore year of college. The speaker was Stephanie Elizondo Griest, and she’d spoken about traveling on her own — a woman alone out in the world. Nominally, I’d been taking notes as a precursor to an article I was writing for the student paper, but I’ve pulled out these notes for three or four different occasions, like when a female friend was making solo traveling plans. I hadn’t pulled them out when making my own plans for my time abroad (Ireland and its neighbors didn’t seem quite as dangerous to a gal on her own than Griest’s experiences in rural Latin America), but I see now that I had made side notes about the trip I intended to eventually take. I can follow along with the plans I made, the places I wanted to visit. I can even tell you about my struggles getting my passport into my hands. I’ve got the notes I would need to write any number of articles about visiting Ireland or any short stories about the bureaucracy of travel abroad.

While I think that blogs and online journals are incredibly valuable precisely because they are shared, I think that these notes written without intentions of publication have far more value when I look back. They’re the clearest indicators of how I have changed over the years, and what I have thought was important. I know many people think that a formal journal or diary is more worthwhile and a better indicator, but, personally, I could never take that formal of a style when writing to myself. I know that one of the key pieces of advice that many authors copy each other on is that young writers should journal or keep a diary. It’s a standard exercise in creative writing classes of every type: write down your ideas, thoughts, anything that could evolve into a full-fledged piece of writing. And, let me tell you, anything can evolve into a poem or an essay. My notes on PR tactics from senior year were handed in for a poetry class practically verbatim.

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Despite my internal voice, though, I think that journaling is an admirable pursuit. Beyond the benefits of recording your thoughts for later, I think a daily or even a somewhat regular writing habit is practically necessary to improve a person’s ability to communicate. And don’t forget posterity! People still read Samuel Pepys’ diary and he died in 1703. Any genealogist, amateur or otherwise, will bless your name if you leave a journal — or any other records of your life beyond a carefully emptied inbox.

Thinking of starting your own journal? Consider starting small and offline. As simple to use as a free WordPress account (or another online journaling option of your choice), there is a lingering feeling that it might not be as private as one might want. The goal of most journaling is to be able to write without even personal censorship, after all. I’d even argue against using a computer at all — if you want an opportunity to take notes of your thoughts and ideas as they occur, waiting to get back to your desk may not cut it.

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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