Alternate Viewpoint: A Journal Technique

James Pennebaker’s research findings demonstrate that the shift in pronouns in personal writing predict improvement in the writers’ health. See  the article “The Power of Words,” in the January 2003 LifeJournal newsletter. This shifting of pronouns demonstrates that the writers are changing the ways that are thinking about themselves relative to others.

My question is: could one consciously encourage change through trying to shift one’s perspective? In our recent correspondence about that notion, James Pennebaker replied that he has started experiments that help nudge writers to shift their perspectives. He has no findings yet, but you might want to do your own research with the journal technique, “Alternative Viewpoint” and see if you notice any changes.

“Alternative Viewpoint” is a simple technique that requires that you consciously make a change in your viewpoint, shifting the perspective from first person singular to third person. That is, just change your perspective from “I” to “she” or “he.”

You might try this: Go back to a journal entry in which you have written about something traumatic, troubling, and something that is still bothering you. After reading the entry, close it and open a new journal entry and write about the same event or situation from a different point of view, perhaps changing the “I” in the story to “he” or “she.” Or you may want to tell the story from the point of view of another person closely involved in the event.

Keep track of your Daily Pulse values (and maybe mention in your Pulse Notes that you have written in that day’s journal entry about a particular event/situation from a new perspective.) Write yourself a “Letter to the Future” that will open in a few months from now reminding you to check and see if you notice any change of your Daily Pulse values over the weeks and months after trying this exercise. Also look to see if there are any noticeable changes in your attitude or other parts of your life that may be connected with the situation that you wrote about.