by Dr. Christiane Northrup: Dr. Northrup Explains The Process of Proprioceptive Writing…
Proprioceptive writing is a powerful way to change your thoughts. I’ll never forget the day I first heard about it, years ago. I was sitting in Labor and Delivery at the hospital and I saw a postcard for a workshop about something called proprioceptive writing. I knew about the proprioceptors in muscles that allow us to know—even with our eyes closed—where our arms and legs are in space.
But I had no idea how this could apply to writing. At the time I was actually having a problem with writing, which is probably why the postcard got my attention. Basically, I found it extremely taxing to write anything scientific. There was always a big, bad editor in my head telling me that I didn’t know what I was doing. That I was wrong. And that I was unworthy.
All my years of academic training and medical school had made the voice of self-doubt worse, not better.
So I contacted Linda Trichter Metcalf, the person who was leading the workshop, and author of Writing The Mind Alive, and asked her if this course might help me. Linda, who at the time also taught English at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, told me that her method worked well for anyone who wanted to get better at expressing themselves through writing—even medical writing.
And so, pregnant with my second child, I signed up for a weekend workshop. And it changed my life. It helped me clear the mangrove swamp of my conditioned thoughts and beliefs so effectively that I eventually found my own unique writer’s voice.
The real me. It helped me understand what I really thought and believed—separate from the voice of my parents, my profession, my siblings, and my husband. It also allowed me to write my first book—and, quite frankly, all the subsequent books.
Proprioceptive writing, which helps you drill down to your base beliefs, was a lifeline that connected me to my Self. To my Soul. This method works because it helps you identify what you really believe about a subject by writing your thoughts and reflecting on them with empathy and compassion. You can do this on any topic.
So for example, if you write about the word mother, proprioceptive writing will help you see what your mind has to say about that word. You will find yourself remembering all kinds of things about your mother that you didn’t realize you remembered.
As you write, you get very clear about what you really think—not just what you’ve been conditioned to think. Not just what you are supposed to think. And when you identify your true beliefs, without judging them, you can begin to change them.
As Linda says on her website:
Proprioceptive Writing is an important adjunct to the healing arts. Through Proprioceptive Writing people learn to express their thoughts without judging themselves, reflect on feelings without guilt or shame, and experience their emotions without being overwhelmed by them—the first step to emotional health.
Proprioceptive writing combines intellect, imagination, and intuition—all simultaneously. And it is done as a ritual. It’s often done to Baroque music (Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, and so on) because this music has been shown to entrain our creativity very effectively.
You can also use Indian ragas, which elicit a different experience.
As you do this work, here’s what you’ll discover: Your thoughts have meaning. They have order. And they are going toward resolution and healing. This is so very reassuring for those of us who have been “schooled” out of our own unique genius. As Linda says, “The desire for the self, the desire not to live a life that doesn’t feel like it’s yours—that’s why somebody might be attracted to this work.”
How to Do a Write
The process of proprioceptive writing is pretty simple. You simply choose a topic and write while paying attention to your feelings and not judging what comes up. Here’s a step-by-step overview, just to make things as easy as possible.
1. Gather the following supplies: a pen, a candle, matches, single sheets of 8½” x 11″ white paper, a Baroque playlist that lasts for about 20 minutes. Baroque music has a very specific vibration that supports brain functioning; it’s known as the Mozart effect.
But you can experiment with other genres if you wish.
2. Lay out a stack of paper—20 sheets or so—and date the first page on the upper right-hand side. You will also number each page as you write, but only on one side, as you will only be writing on one side.
• Once your paper is ready, start the music and light the candle.
• Take a deep breath, and come up writing.
• When you get to the end of the 20 minutes, finish up your current thought.
• Then ask the following questions: “How do I feel now?” and “What story am I telling?”
• Answer in writing. And take as long as you like or have time for. Usually, you can do this in one to three lines.
• Now—read your “write” out loud.
Remember: When you’re writing, listen to the voice in your head—the witness self. Record what you hear. You are just a secretary. That’s all. Write everything down that comes up, even if it sounds meaningless. Every thought has meaning and significance.
Also, listen for any word that has a “charge,” and when the charged word arises (like worthy or disappointed), drill down on it by asking the proprioceptive question: “What do I mean by [blank]?” Then write down what you hear. Remember, you are just a secretary—writing down the thoughts in your mind.
Proprioceptive writing is powerful when you do it yourself, but there is a way to increase its effects even more. I believe that there is nothing more meaningful or holy or healing that doing proprioceptive writing as a group. Or at least with one other trusted person.
After the writing process, you can read your writes out loud. Then people can respond to your write by writing down what moved them or stood out for them.
This allows us to hear ourselves reflected back to us by another. It’s extraordinarily validating and strengthening as we learn how to trust our thoughts—and change them to more positively reflect the Divine within us. I’ve done this countless times with friends and family, and it never fails to bring us all closer.
And also to reflect our true selves back to each other. Most people are amazed by what happens when they’re given permission to free their minds and lose the editor who has been telling them they’re doing everything wrong.
For more inspiration for a divinely inspired life and to change your thoughts to boost your well-being, see Making Life Easy.