Photo by Mathew Coulton on Unsplash

This term is probably familiar to most of you, but just in case… I’m referring to using my own ‘product’ myself. I came across this name for the principle at Google, when we used early versions of GMail, Calendar and other products as our in-house tools.

In this case, I’m referring to a practice I use in my work with others and like revisiting myself–writing (or speaking) about difficult, emotionally significant experiences. I take it from Susan David’s Emotional Agility, but it draws on original research by James Pennebaker. 

Study after study shows that putting emotions into words can markedly improve our physical and mental well-being. It helps us:

  • “Process” our emotions, as our narrative integrates otherwise “unlived” moments into indexed experience, so that they don’t keep popping up as ornery little imps (our own acting out) that we can’t logically account for.
  • Create a space of separation between our selves and our emotions that improves the ability to bear discomfort and therefore our resilience.
  • Improve our emotional vocabularies, bringing more nuance and workability to our emotional lives.
  • Deal with stress, anxiety and loss so we can move on.

Noticeable impacts come from as little as 20 minutes writing (or voice recording) a day, for as little as a few days. You can throw away the content when you’re done, because the value isn’t in the document, it’s in the process of producing it!

My most recent snippets included:

  • The time in third grade when my best friend informed me that I was being demoted and replaced by my own second best friend. It even got a bit physically bullying, but I was defended by the only person I’ve ever known to go on to play in the NFL!
  • When, after decades of stellar academic and job reviews, I first received a below satisfactory performance report.
  • Difficult family revelations that require recasting many of my teenage experiences.
  • A recent disagreement with my partner.
  • When my mother surrendered me to aliens for experimentation aboard their vessel. No! That was a brief segue into my budding sci-fi career. (Minds do wander.)

These are nearly all historical (and just happened to ‘come up’ for me), but this is often about what one is feeling right now.

I find it especially useful when paired with body work–practicing ‘staying with’ strong physical sensations that accompany our emotional narratives.

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