Write to Free Yourself From the Past

Although in no way do I consider myself an expert on mental or physical wellbeing, I do find myself constantly seeking the most (time) efficient ways of optimising it. Doing so sure comes with a fair share of experimentation, but as soon as I have tried out a technique or implemented a new habit that has had a positive impact on my life, I get to write another blogpost (hooray!). One of these life-improving techniques is exactly what this post is about.

Although I realise I might be a bit late to the party, I have just managed to finish both of Joe Rogan’s podcasts with Professor of Psychology Jordan Peterson, from the University of Toronto. The overall discussion covers the turmoil surrounding Peterson’s refusal to use a long list of gender pronouns to refer to transgender or gender fluid individuals. Yet, 2 hours in, Peterson addresses the importance of “looking inward and sorting oneself out” before attempting to change the world, which for many of us is synonymous with changing those around us. He suggests that the way individuals often vehemently attempt to impose an opinion upon others is commonly the result of strong personal grievances and even past traumas. From a psychological perspective, the negative emotions many of us hold towards other individuals, out-groups, and even to alternative opinions can commonly be explained by the link these emotions hold with our memories (Peterson, 2016).

The technique he offers is called ‘self-authoring‘. Writing about your past or future to 1) understand what may be causing any strong, emotion-laden reactions you are currently experiencing 2) plan your future and the way you decide to live your life. On a neurological level, doing so helps us retrain our brains to attain a sense of mastery over the strong, negative emotions we feel in the present, which, as mentioned, have their roots in the past.

Coincidentally, a few days ago I finished writing a piece on the way in which writing about past events and traumas to understand my past has helped me significantly in my effort to become truly happy. Anywhere I go, especially on airplanes and trains, I will make sure to bring my notebook. Whenever I find myself angry, sad, or asking too many questions I write down whatever pops into my head. Most of my pages have now become filled with what is essentially an investigation of the way in which past events have had an impact on the person I have become and am growing into. At the end of any new piece, I tend to put down my pen with a sense of clarity and – you guessed it – mastery.

That’s it for now, folks. I strongly suggest you give this type of writing a try. In case you have no clue where to begin, check out the programs developed by Peterson and his colleagues on the self-authoring website.


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