What is Writing from the Self?
I describe Writing from the Self as a combination writing group/personal growth workshop (not a therapy group) for people of all writing abilities. It is ideal for all who enjoy writing and wish to deepen their self-understanding.
Writing from the Self can be adapted to various situations, including corporations, educational entities, medical groups, wellness retreats, etc. The program can easily be conducted for one three-hour event, a weekly workshop (usually six weeks), or as part of a weekend retreat. While it is designed for general personal growth, it can also be organized around different topics, according to the needs of the hosting party. Overall, it allows participants to learn about themselves in a new and interesting way. Furthermore, it can help people understand and get along with others better. By becoming aware of our own and others' "parts" (see below), we develop increased compassion, which can change behavior.
Writing from the Self combines elements of Internal Family Systems and a variety of writing methods, including Proprioceptive Writing. I have found - both in my therapy practice and personally - that IFS and writing can be tremendously effective when used together.
~ Internal Family Systems — This fast-growing therapeutic model is gaining attention worldwide, and is used in settings from psychotherapy offices, corporations, and hospitals, to yoga centers and beyond. Through “engaged mindfulness,” IFS teaches us to see ourselves as a collection of moods or subpersonalities ("parts"), and helps us separate from troublesome parts in order to access a state of calm confidence ("The Self").
~ Proprioceptive Writing — This structured writing ritual was developed in Maine in 1976 and has become a respected practice around the country. “Proprioception” refers to the ability of the writer to “listen” to her thoughts and record them as they occur. Specific questions are used to increase the writer’s insight into the workings of her mind — such as outdated internal scripts that don’t apply to current life.
Writing from the Self workshops include:
- Information about IFS
- Exploration of InnerActive Cards to help us identify parts
- Instruction and practice for accessing “Self Energy”
- Brief meditation to begin to get space from our parts
- 20-minute guided writing session
- Music for bilateral stimulation
- Opportunity to discuss our own parts and our writing
- Connection and healing for child parts (longer workshops)
A Note About Music:
I have carefully selected music to play during the writing sessions. I do this to promote relaxation and to help people access memories. Another key reason for using music is that it provides bilateral stimulation of the brain. The stimulation of both sides of the brain is the core of a well-regarded therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). With EMDR, people experience relief when they process memories and learn new cognitive skills while being stimulated bilaterally (either by moving the eyes side to side, tapping the knees, a small electrical charge). Observing this led me to think more about the power of bilateral stimulation for creativity and healing.
I have noticed for myself how my mind works differently when I walk and listen to music — two forms of bilateral stimulation. I get a lot of writing done in my head, and I make new connections between ideas. I have often felt like all of my parts just settle down and I feel so much better. There is much research about how music affects the brain in positive ways. As we write, the music helps us process our own memories, reach deeper layers of thought, and can assist us in unlocking stories that we have long wished to articulate.
For more information about bilateral stimulation, click here.
A Note About Nature:
The qualities of "self" that are identified in IFS are: clarity, confidence, calm, curiosity, courage, compassion, connectedness and creativity. Some say, and I agree, that being immersed in nature is critical to accessing Self Energy. You know that free and open feeling you get when you spend time outside, hiking or camping or even gardening? Ideally I would host this workshop outside on a warm day, by the ocean or in a sunny meadow. I want us to be as much “in self” as possible while writing. To that end, I have assembled a collection of nature sounds, which I play during a guided meditation. This leads directly into the writing session.
A Note About Being in a Group:
It's true that this is not group therapy, but the energy people experience while sitting with a group is important to acknowledge. In IFS circles, we talk about the magic of there being "a lot of Self Energy in the room." When all of us together access that state of calm, curiosity, compassion and so on, it creates a space that feels very safe, and is almost electric with the possibility of finding meaning.
About me and the History of Writing from the Self
Writing from the Self grew out of my desire to offer something beyond traditional psychotherapy. Since I have always been a writer, I looked for ways to incorporate writing into my work. Once I became a practitioner of Internal Family Systems (IFS), I realized that its gifts could be experienced by people through creative writing. When people are in self, their writing is a richer experience. I designed Writing from the Self by synthesizing IFS and a variety of writing practices (including Proprioceptive Writing). Along the way, I recognized how this new method added vividness and depth to my own writing, as well as my self-understanding.
When I first created Writing from the Self, I did it every day for a month. The effects were impressive. When practical, I suggest that people make time for it as often as they can. Here are some benefits I have noticed for myself after using the method daily:
- Much better understanding of my moods and how they came to be
- A sense of freedom from habitual response
- New ideas about how to manage my own problem behaviors
- More patience with others
- Refreshed creativity about projects
- Inner resources seem much stronger, like I have a confident inner guide
- Overall: happier and less anxious
Since developing the method, I have shared it in workshops I host myself, brought it to state and national conferences (including the annual IFS conference), and modified it to offer as an experiential training for mental health professionals.
Click here for Scenes from the Workshops at Room to Write.
If you'd like to learn more or discuss my bringing Writing from the Self to you, please use my contact page. I'll be delighted to hear from you.
"Taking Writing from the Self for Mental Health Professionals was one of the best things I've done for myself this year. I learned a great deal that has been useful in work with my clients, while benefiting personally, as well." - Tammie Fowles, PhD, LCSW
"The workshop was a warm place, inviting introspection, welcoming of all of me, no perfection required. Jennie has a very approachable leadership style -- she gave the sense of being on this journey with us, which made it feel like a very safe place."
"This was a wonderfully gentle avenue for me to be able to sit with some painful, tender realizations. Jennie brings knowledge, awareness and sensitivity to this work."
"I loved the 'parts' discussion, and it really helped me remember that all of us, me, my patients, my children, are made up of all sorts of parts. The bad, the good, the just whatever… remembering that we are never ALL one thing is so important, and I know I will use that in mothering, in my work, and in taking care of myself."
"(When writing), the words came so quickly and easily -- it was almost shocking as I found this voice that kept speaking to me, telling me my story."
"The workshop with Jennie Noel provides a special space for self-reflection, meditation, creativity and rejuvenation. It's a way to move out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary."
"Jennifer Noel's IFS/writing session allowed me to unpack my emotions and find an honesty that I plan to bring to my morning pages. I'm excited about what this process will do to deepen my understanding of my 'self.'"
"Jennie conveys a passion for both IFS and writing as tools of self-exploration and healing. She creates a safe environment for this work. I am looking forward to more of her offerings."
"Jennie Noel has put together personal creative process with an interesting psychological construct to produce an experience that will help you know yourself differently. It is rich and it is pleasant. I highly recommend it."
“A beautiful, rich experience of delving into one’s most precious inner gardens.”
And finally, if you want to hear it straight from me, here's a video I made in which I describe Writing from the Self. (7.5 minutes)