Self-authoring is a writing exercise developed by a group of clinical and research psychologists from the University of Toronto and McGill University, including Jordan B. Peterson, Daniel M. Higgins, and Robert O. Pihl. They have helped to create the Self-Authoring Suite, a series of online writing programs that allow you to explore your past, present, and future. Completing these programs can benefit your personal development in several ways.
What Is Self-Authoring?
Self-authoring involves writing about your life and your personality in a detailed and analytical way. It helps to add a narrative to your life, tracing how you have changed as a person over time, what you are like now, and where you would ideally like to end up. The aim is to write freely without worrying about grammar or spelling.
The Self-Authoring Suite consists of the following:
- The Past Authoring Program: this helps you remember, articulate, and analyze crucial life experiences, both the positive and the negative.
- The Present Authoring Program: this is made up of two parts. The first helps you understand and correct personality faults, while the second gives you a chance to understand and improve your personality virtues.
- The Future Authoring Program: this aspect of the suite helps you envision a meaningful, healthy, and productive future, several years down the road. When completing this program, you will write a detailed, actionable plan that will allow you to make your vision a reality.
The Benefits of Self-Authoring
Writing attentively about troubling past events, your present situation, and an ideal future appears to achieve a number of physiological and psychological benefits. Research has revealed the following:
- Individuals who write about a stressful event in their lives typically show improvements in general physical and psychological health compared to those who write about trivial events.
- Written goal-setting helps improve academic achievement among struggling students.
- People who write about their ideal future score significantly higher on measures of psychological well-being than those who don’t. They also visit medical professionals less often.
- People who can identify goals that represent their interests and values are able to function more efficiently and flexibly across all areas of their lives.
- Setting specific goals and pursuing them can lead to substantial improvements in task performance.
Peterson and fellow psychologist Raymond Mar conclude:
It appears possible that writing, which is a formalized form of thinking, helps people derive information from their experiences that helps them guide their perceptions, actions, thoughts and emotions in the present. Drawing specific, causal conclusions about life’s important events may also help reduce the burden of uncertainty and threat that may remain active, emotionally, even years after a traumatic event occurred. Clarifying purpose and meaning into the future helps improve positive emotion, which is associated with movement towards important goals, and reduces threat, which is associated with uncertainty and doubt, and which may be experienced as hopelessness, despair, and lack of meaning.
It is important to emphasize, however, that you should be emotionally prepared when tackling the Past Authoring Program. This is because this part of the suite involves facing one’s most painful memories. However, you don’t have to complete each program in any particular order.
Having said that, the creators of the programs recommend completing the Present and Future Authoring programs first, as the Past Authoring program is the most difficult and time-consuming. Completing these first will allow you to become accustomed to the process of self-authoring. You also don’t have to purchase the whole suite. You could, for example, get just the Future Authoring Program if you would prefer to focus on your goals.
Writing can be a powerful tool for improving psychological well-being and personal development. Self-authoring is uniquely designed to enhance these benefits, helping you to live a highly meaningful and fulfilling life.