I would like to share two processes I have found really helpful as tools for personal development, both of which involve WRITING.
1) Letters into the ether ; )
I'm sure everyone is familiar with the idea of writing a letter to someone whose behaviour you have found hurtful, pouring out all your angst onto the page and then burning it, rather than sending it.
I never tried it until recently, and to my surprise, it really worked!
Actually my approach was a little different, but not much. I never wrote a physical letter, and I didn't burn it. What I did do was to type a really sincere 'letter' to someone whose behaviour was extremely hurtful and distressing to me. I took time to really pour it all out, not in a venomous vengeful way, but in a totally sincere and direct way, with the intent of accurately expressing my thoughts and feelings regarding this person's behaviour and how it affected me.
Wow, it really helped! That is not to say that my issues with this person are totally resolved, but it really helped to get all that stuff off my chest, and also to clarify my own thoughts and feelings about their behaviour.
Since then, I have written 'letters' to a number of people, and each time it has been really useful to express my thoughts and feelings in this way, partly just to get it 'out there' and off my chest, partly to help me understand my own thoughts and feelings, and also because each time I do this I seem to receive insights into the situation that help me understand both myself and the other person better. This unexpected bonus is perhaps the most helpful aspect of the process.
I have found this 'letter'-writing process especially helpful for situations where I've been holding onto negative thoughts and feelings towards someone, but also for situations where I've felt badly about how my behaviour may have affected someone else. Whatever the situation, writing a 'letter' enables you to get this stuff off your chest, and in the process, can help you to understand yourself and the other person better.
2) Self-shrinking: an approach to overcoming negative patterns of behaviour
Another process I have found really helpful is what I call 'self-shrinking'. This is a problem-solving approach designed to help overcome negative patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour.
This process also uses writing, based on a template I made for myself. This template consists of a text document containing a series of questions which prompt me to analyse whatever the negative pattern is, including the contributing factors.
Negative patterns I have used this process to address include recurring negative feelings and behaviour that I have noticed in myself, and which I want to stop. For example, the tendency to overreact in a particular type of situation, or a particular feeling that arises from time to time and gets me down. Through the process of filling out the template, I am prompted to examine my thoughts, feelings and behaviour, and to search for constructive ways to overcome the negative pattern.
It is no exaggeration to say that I have found it life-changing to use this process to analyse what is going on, by identifying the behaviours, beliefs and attitudes that are causing me grief (quite literally), and to come up with new behaviours, beliefs and attitudes that would be more constructive.
Speaking for myself, through this process I have most often found that it isn't necessary to change my actual behaviour, but to adopt more constructive attitudes. It's amazing how we can hold particular beliefs and attitudes without even realising it! Yet our beliefs and attitudes have a profound effect on how we perceive the world, interpret events and respond mentally and emotionally to things that happen in our lives.
Again, I consistently find that through this process I receive insights into the problem and myself that I find hugely helpful in helping me to understand what is going on with me and what needs to change. As a result, I have come back to this process time and time again and continue to do so.
For anyone interested in having a go at 'self-shrinking', I have pasted the questions from my template below – feel free to use and adapt for your own purposes.
In my view, the key is to be totally honest, and 100% sincere in your desire to overcome the problem, in other words, having pure intent.
I hope someone out there might find these processes as helpful as I have : )
What's the problem?
How is it affecting me/others? (= why is it a problem)
In what situations does the problem arise? What happens? What does the problem look/feel/sound like?
What triggers the problem?
What factors contribute to the problem?
Are there any 'bigger picture' contributing factors?
What are the feelings associated with the problem?
What are the thoughts associated with the problem?
What attitudes are behind the thoughts?
What beliefs are behind the attitudes?
Are any aspects of my own behaviour exacerbating the problem?
Is anyone else contributing to the problem?
What would I like to be different?
What, if anything, would I like to do differently?
How would I like to feel instead?
What thoughts/attitudes/beliefs might be more helpful?
Is there anything else that might help avoid or alleviate the problem?
Is there anything else I could do to help overcome this problem?