How to use intuitive journaling for closure & forgiveness

Some refer to it as freewriting or automatic writing. The idea is to set a timer for a certain period of time: one minute, three minutes, five minutes, up to you. As the timer starts, begin writing (with pen and paper) in your journal, without really thinking, without really stopping.

Write whatever crossed your mind.

It doesn’t matter if things appear to sound weird, funny, or senseless. The idea is to translate your tangled and busy mind into the paper.

Here’s the secret: DO NOT stop as you write, not even for a split second. Do not think. Just write until your time is up. Follow the chaos of your mind and write everything down. Everything.

You could even write something like, “I don’t know why I am doing this, oh, I’m so hungry, like so, hungry and my foot itches and what should I write this is strange really…”

It’s OK.

Keep writing.

I like to call this technique ‘intuitive writing’ or ‘intuitive journaling’ because after doing this practice for a while, you will notice the magical moment when your intuition starts talking to you from the chaos of the page.

The Steps

Here’s the thing: closure is not about something we need to resolve with another person, but something we need to resolve with ourselves. We need a closure not to bridge the gap between our significant other and us, but to close the gap between our beliefs, our values, our inner guidance—and us.

Thus, we can create our own moments of closure, and—hopefully, in time, forgive:

  1. Prepare a piece of pen and paper (or you can use your journal pages if you like)
  2. Prepare a timer and set it to 5 minutes
  3. Now think of a moment/hurtful experience you want to have a closure upon. While doing this and letting your feelings being stirred up, bring to your mind the image of the person who caused you this hurtful experience, imagine this person as a 4-year-old kid and then as an 80-year-old.
  4. Next, get ready with your pen and paper to do your intuitive journaling. Activate your timer, and for 5 minutes, without stopping, without thinking too much, write a letter of apology from that person to you. It may sound weird at first, but just trust your intuition and write loosely, not stopping at all—and if you’re true to the rules, at the end of the exercise, you’ll find a letter with a voice that is a bit foreign to you: the voice of the other person. Just write whatever crossed your mind. Do not try to think or analyze the person, do not try to correct or edit yourself by saying, “No, he or she won’t be saying this.” If you find it difficult, start the letter with Dear ___(your name), I am sorry for _________ and let your intuition roam free from there.
  5. Trust, and write as fast as you can without thinking until the time is up.
  6. When the timer rings, you can stop writing. Or if you feel the push to keep writing mindlessly, continue for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. When you’re done, you can: 1) mail this letter to yourself or 2) read this letter whenever you feel hurt/emotional as you remember a painful moment/incident involving this particular person.

I don’t believe in the saying that we should forgive.

I don’t think that the word should and forgiving go hand in hand together.

Of course, we could always say, “I forgive you,” or “I accept your apology.”

But does saying it means we have truly forgiven someone—or even ourselves?

When we try so hard to forgive, it feels even more difficult. Because when we are thinking about forgiving, automatically, we are thinking about the things that need to be forgiven. We’re thinking about what our significant other (or ourselves) has done that needs to be forgiven. Those thoughts are not necessarily beautiful.

Thus, it feels contradictory.

Saying I-forgive-you is easy.
Forgiving is not.

Many said that forgiveness is the key to closure. And it’s true.

However, we should not push ourselves to forgive when we are not yet ready. To forgive, we need to go through a process of understanding our heartaches, our feelings, and ourselves.

Most of the time, forgiveness doesn’t come the moment we say I-forgive-you.
Forgiveness, often, arrives when we least expect it.

There will be a day when we feel light, happy, and carefree. The day when we’re doing the things we love, having fun with the people we adore, and feeling good about ourselves. And right there and then, we will experience a flashback of an uncomfortable moment we had with someone who (either knowingly or unknowingly) hurt us.

And when that moment comes, we will feel fine. The memory stays, but it doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t bring us down. It doesn’t make us doubt ourselves. It is only a memory.

That is the moment when we experience forgiveness.

We forgive when we can access the memory of something unfavorable that once happened to us—and feel okay with that. We know it’s a part of our lives, but we don’t feel the rush of feelings or emotions associated with that particular memory any longer.

We don’t forget. We remember.

But we remember the memory as a moment, not as a feeling.

So, say I-forgive-you if it feels right. However, there’s no need to push ourselves to forgive and forget when we are not ready. For the time being, feel the feeling we need to feel. Take good care of ourselves. Build an intimate relationship with ourselves and our closest ones. Focus on improving ourselves. Focus on our growth.

And bloom.

When the time comes, we know that all that needs to be forgiven has been forgiven.

Happy journaling,


10 Responses

  1. Love it! Keep it up!
    Eh betewe mungkin ngga sih intuitive journaling ngga berhubungan sama closure atau forgiveness?
    Kayaknya aku kalo journaling selalu intuitive (haha) alias ngasal banget nulis terus ngga berenti, tapi isinya ngga pernah berhubungan dengan closure atau forgiveness jadinya ngacapruk aja. Ataukah mungkin itu namanya bukan intuitive journaling ya hehehe 😛

    Hope you’re doing well. Udah jadi orang Amsterdam nih kayaknya hahah 😀

    1. Haiii! *kangen*

      Mungkin banget intuitive journaling nggak berhubungan sama closure atau forgiveness. Dan bener, kalau kita nulis ngecapruk aja (beneran tanpa mikir) bisa connect dengan intuition kita juga. Tapi aku biasanya, memisahkan automatic writing dengan intuitive writing berdasarkan niat-nya. Kalau mau intuitive journaling biasanya emang aku niatkan, aku butuh pesan atau jawaban tentang hal apa 🙂

      Kamu di mana sekarang? Ingin berjumpaaa 😀

      1. Kangen jugak! Seandainya aku sekarang di Belanda, udah kusamperin kamu Han. Etapi kamu udah bisa naik sepeda kan? Sepeda kecil? Pelan-pelan? Kalo belum mendingan jalan kaki aja deh soalnya aku ngga stabil ngeboncengin orang lain hahah. Oiya kan kamu bisa bonceng si Mas Ojol hehehe.

        Tapi aku masih di pelosok-pelosok Aceh Tenggara nih. Pura-pura jadi petani, hahah. Akhirnya setelah berkepala tiga kesampaian juga ngerasain hidup jadi petani. Di sini enak minum kopi Gayo asli segelas cuma 3000 perak.

        Kalo tahun depan kamu ke Amsterdam lagi kabarin ya! Mudah2an ngga pas ada summer school atau workshop jadi kita bisa goler-goler di deket Van Gogh sama Rijksmuseum atau makan laksa di Red Light.

  2. I agree with you, Forgiving someone who hurt us is really hard to do. Sometime when I want to forgive someone, I just can’t forget what she/he have done to me in the past time. To be honest, when someone betray me or hurt me, I try to avoid them because when I meet them it’s remind me of the past…
    Well, I will try to do intuitive journaling on my traveller’s notebook! It’s sound really good to do 😀

  3. I feel like I may have heard of something similar to intuitive journaling before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it labelled as such; I’ve also never heard of it being used expressly for closure. I could see this is being a very useful technique for psychotherapy clients, as long as it’s done carefully and in the company of a trained professional (some people have gone through terrible traumas that might be re-awoken by this exercise).

    Also, I like how you emphasized that no one should feel pressured to forgive before they’re ready. There’s too much of an emphasis on quick, instead of effective, forgiveness.

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Legs and Apples
Do it because it’s fun. Because it brings you joy; because it’s meaningful to you. Do it because it gives you simple tiny pleasures. Do it because it makes you smile.
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I took another digital detox this weekend—I limited myself to a 5-minute screen time on Saturday and Sunday to quickly check my business account. I closed my social media account for the rest of the days.
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I am an Indonesian writer/artist/illustrator and stationery web shop owner (Cafe Analog) based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I love facilitating writing/creative workshops and retreats, especially when they are tied to self-exploration and self-expression. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.