Writing the Mind Alive: Proprioceptive Writing to Access Your Inner Self

For years, we kept a Gary Larson cartoon taped to the wall of our office at the Proprioceptive Writing Center in Maine. It showed half a dozen aardvarks seated comfortably in the animal self-help section of the library, intently reading the following titles: How to Avoid Natural SelectionDo It By InstinctDare to Be NocturnalPredator-Prey RelationshipsBecome One of the Herd. Larson's irony, as always, was delicious. These aardvarks had mastered the school-taught tasks of life, like reading, writing, and library decorum. But, when it came to their own instinctive aardvark behavior, they apparently suffered a serious information deficit.

We humans, too, must sometimes turn to information from outside ourselves to teach us what we have the sense to know on our own. We have the capacity to know unaided who we are and what we feel. But, somewhere on the way from childhood to adulthood we lose the knack of knowing ourselves inwardly, of learning from our emotions, of responding to the world in new and novel ways. 

The symptoms of this disconnect are familiar: lack of self-trust, emotional and intellectual rigidity, fear of change, perfectionism, addictions, and free-floating anxiety. This dis-ease is commonplace in our society, regardless of age or sex, race or class, education or income. The world we live in is its breeding ground.            

When the pain of these symptoms reaches a great enough intensity, most people search for relief. Some search alone, some in groups. Some with the help of a priest or psychotherapist or guru. People call it, variously, a search for identity, faith, a spiritual path, self-expression, voice. However we name this breakdown in intrapersonal communication, repairing it is invaluable to us. Disconnected from ourselves, we cannot feel our true vitality. 

Not only our bodies, but our minds can suffer from information deficit.  Then the proprioceptive crisis is emotional: Information about the feeling component of our thoughts does not reach us. In this state, we seem unknowable to ourselves. With a Proprioceptive Writing practice, you can forge a new path of communication to transmit information between your intellect and your heart. As an empathetic listener who is also the thinker and speaker, you can explore your thinking at your own pace and question the assumptions that have become fixed in your mind over the years. You can imagine new responses without having to act on them. You can allow yourself to express emotion without causing damage to others or feeling guilty. And because you can do all these things on your own while writing, you develop confidence in your native intelligence and trust in the way your mind works. In short, you can correct the information deficit that exists within you; you can become your own emotional healer.

Excerpted with permission from Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice by Linda Trichter Metcalf, PhD, and Tobin Simon, PhD.

Find out about upcoming programs with Linda Trichter Metcalf at Kripalu.