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Personal Growth

We tell ourselves stories to make sense of our lives, and these internal narratives shape our identities. They also have a profound impact on our wellbeing.

In these workshops, called Writing from Ourselves, we will learn how narratives can be key tools for personal growth. We will look at research in the burgeoning field of narrative psychology, respond to writing prompts, and work on autobiographical essays. Our stories may give us surprising insights into the way we think and show us why, sometimes, it’s useful to challenge our thought patterns. And why the maxim, “Don’t believe everything you think,” is exploding in popularity.

This experiential workshop will primarily focus on writing as a therapeutic process, but also can serve as a foundation for essays, memoirs and other writing projects.

Some topics we’ll cover:

Expressive Writing

We’ll practice this form of personal writing, which is the basis of narrative therapy, and discuss theories about why it can help people deal with life’s challenges. We’ll participate in a variety of exercises, such as writing in-depth descriptions of minor but meaningful events, and also look at research showing that expressive writing can boost people’s immune systems and reduce symptoms of depression. We may write about challenges, life transitions, traumas or losses.

Ways to Analyze Stories

We’ll analyze our stories in several ways, looking at characters’ sense of agency, positive affect, and even use of pronouns and articles. We’ll use computerized textural analysis and discuss how some word choices are correlated with personality and well-being.

The Secrets of Framing

We’ll experiment with framing a story in multiple ways and also discuss theories about how we frame – or present – information affects how we process it. We’ll look at the work of Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning economist and best-selling author of “Thinking Fast and Slow.” We also will consider research by George Lakoff, a pre-eminent linguist dubbed the “Father of Framing” by The New York Times, whose recent book “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” explores the importance of framing in political debate.

The Power of Revisions

We’ll revise some of our writing and explore why this process may reduce feelings of helplessness and shame. We also will examine how revising our work increases self-awareness and helps us find and strengthen our voice.