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Dealing with stressful situations

Adapted from pages 129-133 of Unlearn Your Pain by Howard Schubiner and Michael Betzold. Mind Body Publishing, 2019. Used with permission of Howard Schubiner.

In this practice, you will write about stressful situations to allow your mind to more fully uncover thoughts and beliefs, some of which you may not even be aware of. This process gives room for Jesus to heal you so that you can get unstuck from areas that cause you problems.

Creating a web

To prepare for fast writing, you will start by creating a web, using these steps described in Schubiner and Betzold’s workbook.


  • Print the journaling pages for this practice.

  • Choose a stressful situation in your life to write about. Write it in the center of a page in an oval. This is the nucleus of your web.

  • Begin to free associate on the topic or issue you chose. Open your mind and write down whatever thought occurs to you. Try to write it down in a one- to four-word phrase, and then circle what you’ve written and connect it by a line to the nucleus.

  • Now write down a word or phrase that represents your next immediate idea, circle it, and connect it to the nucleus or satellite circle, whichever prompted it.

  • Set a timer for five minutes. Continue this process until the timer goes off. You will end up with a cluster of ideas and thoughts, which may look like a web filling the page. 

Fast writing - free write

When you write faster than you normally would, helpful material that you would usually censor before writing it down is allowed to surface. Shubiner & Betzold (2019) describe this process based on the work of Natalie Goldberg. (Writing Down the Bones. Shambala Press, 1986)​

  1. Keep your hand moving. Write faster than you would normally; attempt to take dictation from your thoughts as they stream across the radar of your awareness. Write whatever comes to your mind or your hand.

  2. Don’t cross out anything, even if you didn’t mean to write it. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar.

  3. Allow any thoughts and any feelings to be expressed. Search for anger and express that fully. Then look for guilt or shame as well as sadness, loss, and grief. Express those feelings completely. Finally search for feelings of love that may be present and direct those towards yourself and others involved. If you need extra support, process this with a counselor, therapist, or spiritual director.

  4. Set a timer for ten minutes. Do fast writing on whatever thoughts the sentence sparks until your time is up.

Note: When you are writing about negative thoughts or feelings, consider shredding or destroying it when you are done. This symbolizes separating from these thoughts and letting them go. As you destroy the paper, release your negative thoughts to God forever. Let him know that you are going to let them go and move forward. Thank God for this release. 

You can start your writing with this prompt (write your topic from the nucleus of your web in the blank): My feelings about me and ________________________ include:

When you are done with your free write, write the following affirmation three times : I am relieved to express these feelings.  

Fast writing – praying through your emotions

The idea in this step is to process your feelings in prayer.

  • Use phrases such as, “I see that…,” “I realize that…,” “I hope that…,” “I need to…,” “I want to…,” “I can…,” “I will…,” “I understand that…,” “I appreciate…,” “I wonder if…,” “I have learned…,” “and “I have discovered.” 

  • Continue to use the steps of fast writing.

  • Set a ten minute timer for your writing.

You can start with this prompt: Lord, my understandings about me and______________ include: 

When you are done with your prayer writing, write the following affirmation three times: Understanding these issues helps me feel better. 

Fast writing – closing prayer: receiving his love

  • Imagine God’s face looking right into your eyes, shining with love, and saying, “I love you. I approve of you. I sing over you.” Imagine his face overflowing with joy as he looks at you. 

  • Place your hand over your heart. Breathe deeply. Breathe his kindness into yourself. Allow these feelings of kindness to fill your lungs and then to move into your whole body. Visualize his kindness and shining joy spreading to every cell of your body. This is the immovable foundation of your self worth. Feel the love and joy like that of a baby and adoring mother as they look into each other’s eyes.

  • Repeat these prayers for yourself: “May I be peaceful and contented. May I be loving as I am loved. May I forgive as I have been forgiven.”

  • If there are others involved in your stressful situation, pray these prayers for them. “May they be peaceful and contented. May they be loving and loved. May they be forgiving and forgiven.” 

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