How to Track Thoughts as They Convert to Story

In How Do Thoughts Become Story? I used a metaphor for a busy life: I referred to it as a marathon that I treated as a sprint. Often, the metaphors we use give us a clue to the stories we tell ourselves in various parts of our lives. Words are powerful, and the choice we make to use one word over the other can tell us a lot. My use of “marathon” and “sprint” tell me that, in that moment, I saw my life – my story – as one long race, requiring both persistence and speed.

James Pennebaker’s work in expressive writing (2004) has given valuable windows into the healing power of words (see my post PTSD and Writing). And through her work in journal therapy, Kay Adams (1990) gives extensive guidance in writing as a therapeutic process.

psychology, writing, growing stories, anger, depression

Writing, Psychology, and Growing Stories

But even before we recognize that healing might be needed, we can use various methods of tracking our automatic thoughts in writing. In Dr. Diane Engelman’s recent post, Observing Our Thoughts, not Judging Them, she talks about how thoughts can race through our minds, unmonitored. By writing them down, we may see patterns in them and figure out how they lead us to our self-stories.

Here are some ways you might track your automatic thoughts and begin to see where your stories come from:

  • Listen for the metaphors you use in everyday speech. Write them down. Which ones repeat? Are they positive or negative?
  • Make lists of your hopes and fears. Don’t monitor yourself; keep listing.
  • Create a dialogue between you and you; between you and others; between you and your feelings; or between you and situations you find yourself in.
  • Write about everyday events that affect you, positively or negatively. Compare them. How are they alike or different?

All of these writing processes, and more, can help you begin to see patterns and clarify recurring thoughts.

Adams, Kay (1990) Journal to the Self: Twenty-two Paths to Personal Growth
Pennebaker, James (2004) Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval

Note: In this post, the author, JB Allyn, is not directly or indirectly giving psychological or medical advice. Nor is she prescribing the use of any technique to treat medical, physical, or emotional problems. The author intends only to offer information of a general nature that may assist you in seeking personal growth. If you choose to use any of the information the author presents, she assumes no responsibility for your choices or actions.

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