Journal Technique: Dialog

by Ruth Folit

We keep journals for different purposes. We have styles that reflects our purpose, personality, and sometimes, limitations. Different journal techniques help us see different points of view, to stretch our horizons to illuminate a wider piece of our inner landscape. Belief systems–the subtle, unconscious background noise that we often don’t know that we possess (like the hum of a refrigerator that you barely notice, until it stops or changes pitch)–color our worldview. Using journal techniques can be the stimulation to re-frame our perspective, catch a glimpse from a new angle, magnify the background noise so that we finally hear it, and trick us into seeing ourselves in new and enlightening ways.

The LifeJournal program introduces you to six journal techniques: Dialog, Portrait, Unsent Letter, List, Inner Voice, and Alternate Viewpoints. See Tools menu>Journaling Techniques. This article is about the Dialog journal technique.


With dialog you can create, hear, imagine, visualize, and facilitate a conversation between two or more entities and record it. The conversation can be between you and another person (alive or deceased, accessible or inaccessible), between you and a part of yourself, or you and a part of the world, a concept, a dream, a decision, or a point of view. The options are limitless-whatever or whomever has significance in your life, is fertile ground for a dialog.

Ira Progoff, Ph.D., the grandfather of personal journal writing, used dialogs as a fundamental technique in hisIntensive Journal process that he developed in the 1970s. His idea was for the dialog to come forth itself, without censorship or conscious direction.

Dr. Progoff suggests that you sit quietly for a minute or so, breathing deeply, slowly, and peacefully. Once relaxed turn your attention to the other character. Begin focusing on the other character and write about the person, object, concept, or situation, to get you in touch with it. What are you feeling about the other? What is the history of important events with the other? Try to see the world from the other “character’s” point of view. Soon a discussion will start in your mind, or a question will pop up. Listen to the conversation and record it.

You may feel awkward and silly at first, feeling as though the situation is contrived, but stay open to the process and have fun with it and see what develops. (What have you got to lose?) You may also approach the dialog thinking about the other character as a part of yourself that wants to be heard, to have a voice. Some people like to have two chairs to move between to help them be the two different speakers.

Here are some examples of other characters that may want to engage in dialog. Many of these ideas come from Progoff’s At a Journal Workshop (about the Intensive Journal Process) and Kathleen Adams’ Journal to the Self:Dialog with a person–present or past relationships, living or deceased.

Dialog with work–a project, the body of work that you’ve done in your life, your career or professional life, your creative work (writing, gardening, playing music, painting, etc.) your role as mother, father, sister or brother.

Dialog with the body–whether it is with a particular body part that needs attention because it is injured or diseased, or with an illness in general.

Dialogs with events, situations, decisions, and circumstances--this could include a car accident, the World Trade Center attack, or a choice between moving to two different locations.

Dialog with society–this includes heritage, traditions, cultural backgrounds, art, religion, sexuality, institutions such as marriage, the church, or schools.

Dialog with dream–there may be an enigmatic dream or a symbol, person or situation in a dream that you want to know more about.

Dialog with emotions/feelings–if you find yourself often feeling a particular emotion, you might want to have a conversation with it.

Dialog with resistance/block–you may want to converse with a conflict that appears and stays in your life for a period of time to find out why it’s there and what you can learn from it.

Dialog with intuition or inner wisdom-this may help you to tune into your own inner knowledge that too often is overlooked.

You can come back to a conversation at any time and add your two cents whenever you feel like it. There are no rules about interruptions, of course. And remember, you can weave a dialog into any journal entry if it seems to fit the occasion. The conversation doesn’t need to be its own entry.

LifeJournal has a Dialog Tool to facilitate your recording of the conversation. Here’s how to use it:

1. Click the “Dialog” tab on the sidebar of a journal entry.
2. To add a new Character click the “New” button at the bottom of the sidebar.
3. Enter the name of the character in the New Character dialog and click “OK.”
4. The name of the character will then be listed in the Dialog sidebar.
5. Double click the character’s name and the name followed by a colon will appear on a new line in the journal entry.
6.Type the words into the journal entry that the character is speaking.
7. To remove a character, select it from the Character list in the Dialog sidebar and click the “Remove” button.