Self-Interview as a Journaling Strategy

04 May 2021

The concept of journaling can, at times, come across as vague. I am someone who has kept multiple journals throughout my life but never really felt they were super helpful - or they would be helpful at first, and the effect would wear off as time went on.

A possible theory for why this is, would be an effect of functional fixedness. Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits a person to use an object only in the way it is traditionally used. Think of the traditional journal/diary: date it at a top, write about your day and/or feelings, then rinse & repeat every day. I would argue this is not the most effective way to journal.

Some roadblocks that came up for me when trying to journal this way were:

  • Some days were 'uneventful' and I felt I had nothing to write about.
  • The especially 'eventful' days that made me feel like I didn't have the energy to journal about it.
  • If I had a string of 'eventful' days and no energy to write about them, I would feel discouraged and want to quit - especially because so many journaling resources emphasize the importance of writing every single day - which is just not a realistic expectation for many of us working adults.
  • I spent a lot of time writing about stuff that I didn't feel was necessary to write about, so it ended up feeling like a waste of my time and decreased my motivation to continue. There's nothing you should be writing about, unless you think you should.

A few months ago I came up with an effective journaling strategy by aggressively journaling every single day in completely different ways until I found something that provided me with relief and answers.

The best way to describe this strategy is a self-interview played out in a question/response format. I try to avoid using the term "answer" and instead prefer "response" because it feels much more open-ended. You're basically playing the part of yourself and roleplaying the part of a caregiver.

Step 1: Think of a concept that you want to explore within yourself. This can be anything: an emotion, a person in your life, a hobby, etc.

Step 2: Imagine your ideal caregiver/therapist/spirit guide, etc. - basically the most attentive listener you can conceptualize. Someone whose sole purpose is to look out for you and guide you in the right direction. It is important that this person word things in an objective and rational way - with careful compassion. You might even say they have a maternal nature. They do not pass judgement, but they do ask a lot of questions. Questions are important because they call forth Answers.

Step 3: It is important to get into a headspace where you are ready to be 100% honest with yourself. If you have even a slight fear of someone reading your thoughts, you can add extra security to soothe your worries. It is okay to say anything here. Take as long as you need to write your responses out, until you feel like you have said everything.

Step 4: The caregiver's role is to start a dialogue with questions. Their speech is not limited to questions though. They can use statements like, "I notice that you..." or statements that refute illogical worries like, "If that happens, then you can..."

Tips/Strategies

  • The caregiver should start the dialogue. If you're insure how to initiate, you can start with something simple like, "Good morning. How are you?"
  • Because you are playing the part of both roles, your caregiver's perspective is omniscient to your own experiences. You can use this to your advantage by having your friend refute claims that are ungrounded in reality / a product of perception (the way a therapist might).
  • Stop when you want, don't feel like you need to follow it to "completion" (because what is completion anyway?) however, do make an effort to try and adequately 'discuss' the topic on hand. If you feel stuck, you can always come back to it or even start a new dialogue. The important part is to not be to rigid about rules.