One Simple Strategy for Developing Self-Awareness

How freewriting accesses your inner thoughts

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What is Freewriting?

Freewriting is essentially writing what is on your mind. But, it is doing it without thinking it through or stifling your first thoughts. There is no analysis, it is just putting it all out there. It is important not to restrict yourself or censor the more negative thoughts that might appear on your page. This is just for you. It is a way of connecting to yourself and gaining a greater understanding of what is happening in your own mind and the ways in which you sabotage yourself on a daily basis.

As a technique this gives you access to parts of your mind that you are not aware of in your everyday life. It provides greater access to your thoughts and feelings.

However, don’t expect a beautifully crafted essay to come out of your mind. It is more likely that what will emerge is disjointed, looping, self-interrupted thoughts that follow no specific pattern and often jump from past to present. But this seeming disjointedness is what give us the clues to how our thoughts, experiences and emotions are linked within our mind.

Why Freewriting Works

If we acknowledge that all our experiences and memories are intertwined and connected in our brains we can understand why we feel we overreact to minor events in our lives. It is because the emotion that arises is connected to all the times we have previously experienced that same emotion and we are transported back to those experiences and the emotion is multiplied. This happens in milliseconds and typically we are not aware of it.

This is where freewriting or journaling can allow you to access some of these connections and help you to understand why your emotions and reactions may at times take you unawares or cause a greater than expected reaction.

By using your hands to write directly from your mind you create a powerful link between different areas of your brain. Your inner experiences become connected with the ways in which you hold emotion and memories in your physical body. It’s a small movement but one that creates powerful connections and pathways in the circuitry of your brain helping you to bring the unconscious into awareness.

Jack Kerouac in 1958 set out some guidelines for freewriting in “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose” (1958) advocating it as a method of connecting to the unconscious while Natalie Goldberg in; Writing down the bones: Freeing the writer within (1986), encourages us “to keep the hand moving”, with this continual movement being key to the success of accessing our underlying thoughts

Freewriting can be challenging to begin with. It sounds so easy, “just put your thoughts on paper” but that is not the case because most of us have been trained to censor ourselves in various ways throughout our lives. There are certain things it is acceptable to say or not to say. We have been encouraged to think logically and to access emotion we have to move past logic and refrain from analyzing what we allow to pour onto the page, at least until we are finished. This is an activity where you need to move beyond grammar and punctuation and let go of your handwriting to just let it all spill out onto the page. In this way you will capture your first thoughts, your instinctual mind, all the parts that we tend to squash but that influence our daily lives in profound ways.

If you want to develop your self-awareness, which is so vital to change of any kind, then try this technique. But have patience with yourself and allow yourself just to be in the space of your own mind and let go without any judgement.

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Dr Kate Price is an Executive Coach and Organizational Development Consultant with a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has 20 years’ experience working with individuals, groups and organizations enabling them to overcome difficulties and develop skills in life and leadership. Contact her at [email protected] or visit

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