Concerned Letter from a Self Authoring User

Selfauthoring.com is a series of online writing exercises designed to help people articulate the past, present and future. It’s based in part on the work done by James Pennebaker. His book on the topic is called Opening Up by Writing it Down. The future authoring program, which we have studied most intently, has helped thousands of university students improve their grades (+20%) and decrease the probability of dropout (-25%).  A paper detailing some of those results can be found here.

Selfauthoring.com user: Hi Dr Peterson, I started doing the ‘Past Authoring’ exercise this evening. I was pretty sure before I started that I’d made peace with most of the events in my life. But very quickly into the exercise I was hit with a sudden wave of feeling that everything is pointless, call it depression maybe. I’m pretty sure it was related to the prospect of looking into my past as I don’t get these feelings very often anymore. My question is; should I wait until I’m feeling better and go back to the exercise, or should I stare into the abyss and see what the abyss has to say?

My reply: That is not uncommon. The research indicates that initial unhappiness may result. But the effect over months is beneficial. The “abyss” indicates that there are events in your life that you are still carrying. Writing your way through them should be helpful. It’s standard practice for facing the unknown to start with fear, even dread. There is an exception, however: Writing about very recent trauma (say, more recently than 18 months) might be ill-advised as, without some temporal delay, there can be little difference between remembering and being re-traumatized. It is for this reason that “trauma counselling” in the immediate aftermath of a terrible event can do more harm than good. I would also say, however, that you don’t have to terrify yourself to benefit. Start with just a sketch of the event that is bothering you. Wait a day or two. Then come back to it, and fill in some details. It doesn’t hurt to have a period of sleep in between writing episodes. It’s also good to concentrate on what you have learned from the event (particularly if that learning lowers your future risk of the same negative events).

Selfauthoring.com user: I’m going to sleep on it tonight and resume tomorrow. It’s an uncomfortable exercise for me but I can tell it will be beneficial. I guess these waves of feeling that everything is pointless is part of the process of cutting through to what’s meaningful to me, right? Thanks again for your support, and keep up the good work. I really appreciate the material that you’re putting out on the web. All the best.

My reply: Don’t feel that you have to push yourself too hard. Even tentatively encountering feelings of dread and anxiety can be helpful, as long as you get something written down. Do a bad job, if necessary. There’s nothing like a good bad job to get you started.

2016-12-29T13:27:20+00:00
  • BF Aho

    Can we’ve a conversation my email is is bryson941@gmail.com I just had my first anxiety attack and I’m 20 years old. It wasn’t a bad anxiety attack it was because of my aha moment the night it happened. I was breathing in to much CO2 and I thought to myself self I am dying on one of my favorite day of my life etcetera TY If you read this.

  • Patriarchy Pete

    Before I even heard of this particular program for writing, I’d instinctively used writing in the past to pour out frustrations on things like failed relationships. The clarity and sense of calm writing produces is astounding. If anyone has heard of the [likely] fictional author Jed McKenna, he extols the virtues of writing for clarity too in a process called “Spiritual Autolysis.”

    • LKNIII

      I agree that writing has phenomenal benefits. However, McKenna’s process of spiritual autolysis involves vaporizing components of yourself through writing until nothing is less. Such a result lies somewhat counter to the goals of the self authoring program. I would be fascinated to hear Dr. Peterson’s take on Jed McKenna’s writings.

      • Patriarchy Pete

        I respectfully disagree. Jed’s method is fundamentally no different than self authoring. You may already know, but Jed is something of a self-styled oracle — some sort of informal spiritual guide. Jed quite rightly scoffs in his inimitable style at spiritual seekers as people that want all the frills but none of the fears.

        Jed categorizes two general groups of people: those that are really after something he calls “Human Adulthood”, in essence a very well-rounded and healthily developed I/ego complex, and the second, albeit much smaller group of those that wish to see “what’s behind the curtain” or that which gives rise to that same “I” complex. Either way, it may be a matter of when the seeker choose to stop, but in either case the effect of his Spiritual Autolysis is greater mental health, not less, and certainly not a resultant nihilism.

        • LKNIII

          I have read Jed’s first two books and found them very thought provoking and well written. I admire his dedication to finding truth and cutting through illusory constructs. My issue is that his conclusions are fundamentally nihilistic. His non-dual perspective is devoid of values even to the point of suggesting awakening itself is pointless. I might be more inclined to subscribe to his ideas if he hadn’t ended up a pitiful broken record. He wrote “The Damnedest Thing” in 2002. Today he spends his time “answering questions” on his forum, repeating the same exhausted theory he has been peddling for 15 years.

          Contrast this with Jordan Peterson. Like Jed, Peterson is genuinely concerned with the pursuit of truth. But where Jed has floated around expounding his “true awakening”, Peterson has educated countless people on important subjects, helped patients in a clinical setting, supported a family, conducted research, and publicly opposed dangerous legislation. I’m sure from Jed’s perspective Peterson is just caught up in Maya’s palace, but I consider him to be a deeply inspiring individual who has accomplished remarkable feats. I don’t think Peterson would condone the annihilation of self associated with spiritual autolysis,.

          I find merit in Jed’s contribution to spiritual canon and do not wish to disparage your opinion. I am only clarifying my assertion that the Self Authoring program is fundamentally different from spiritual autolysis by comparing them to their respective proponents Peterson and McKenna.

          Here’s Jed’s forum for reference- http://jedmckenna.createaforum.com/general-discussion/

          • Almost Infinite

            Jed Mckenna at Createaforum is an imposter. He openly admitted it on his previous forum.

          • LKNIII

            If that is the case then you may overlook that point in my comment. You may consider his recent “Dreamstate” book as evidence that he a) needs income to support his “awakened state” b) needs attention from others to vaildate his “awakened state” or c) feels his own conclusions about reality are incomplete and require further written description. All of these are inconsistent with the persona he set forth in “The Damnedest Thing”. If the long term effect of spiritual autolysis is turning you into a washed up author then I do not such much value in it.

        • Jono Scott Staly

          I just caught your article there, very timely indeed. Can I just say that it is definitely possible to look beyond the veil but the power gleaned from doing so can destroy someone if their don’t pay careful attention to their mind (mindfulness) body (health) and soul (whatever loose definition works). It is only because we live in such an un natural world of deceit that glimpsing the spiritual truth of the world seems so ‘out there’ and foreign to us today. It is the re-establishment of sound spiritual philosophy that will form part of a natural centralising and empowering principle grounded in psychology in the future. It was this way in the ancient past and it is being rediscovered again in today’s world. Endogens are not needed for everyone, some people just recieve prophecy through mental gymnastics, music (particular rythmns) extremes of body stress and learning ancient coded knowledge. As the Individual grows in balance and consciousness this unity can only be viewed in a positive light. These people are enlightened you might say.

    • BF Aho

      Dr Peterson my name is Bryson F. And recently had a psychological meltdown because I’m the type of person who looks for an idea to help the world. I’ve always wanted to be buisness person. I grew up in hawaii where you play sports because you wanted to make it. I
      Always was one leg in and one leg out. I would think about poverty rates and just suffering in General and I thought there was a conspiracy against me but
      I’ve realized. It’s a social and economic chess game in real life. 2 days ago I was over excited to get back online because my mom got me new phone and I had a Aha moment. I tend to over think everything so I was having an anxiety attack.
      My first time and I’m 20 years old. The idea I had came from the problem you open my eye’s to. I over think so much. I gave you a hypothetical job title HPA Human psychologist Applications.

    • Almost Infinite

      I’ve been following Jed McKenna and Prof. Peterson, among others, for 7 years. I’ve done the self-authoring suite and practiced Jed’s autolysis. They are very different processes aimed toward very different ends. Autolysis is much more inquisitive and emotional. Nice to see another student of Jed and Prof. Peterson. : ]

  • Jono Scott Staly

    Id take strength from the fact it’s probably useful pain if approached correctly. I find I have to go out into nature and get into a zone to write, I know what I write will most likely be banned as it deals with evolving areas of technology far past current paradigms, developing an egalitarian society from sound pyscological principles grounded in knowledge of self, I call it quantum pyscology because it deals with the collective consciousness in a scientific way using maths ( vortex and fractal) to explain misunderstood energy principles and a surprising amount of misunderstood symbolism (subconscious) and a lot more besides. Kind of a map for future conscious evolution. A future where the education system teaches you HOW to think not WHAT to remember, ive always thought teach how if you want intelligence, teach what to produce boredom and or clones just capable of operating the outdated economy. I quit a well paid electrical design job to do this because we are going to need a map if and when the current direction goes ‘tits up’. We can’t jump from our current path into the void we need a ready made exit strategy, call it a plan B. I’m slightly scared by the books power but more scared of the current ‘situation’. Why is no-one asking why the life today is imitating art written in 1948. Doesn’t that strike anyone else as odd? Food for thought. I didn’t want to have to write but it feels like destiny.

    • Jono Scott Staly

      Why is secret communist Obama talking about pearl harbour just before he’s meant to leave office? Yeh keep lighting fuses- your masters failed to bring in a despotic leftist Goverment so your now catalysing the nationalistic wave of populism to the brink of war.
      You can’t stop it so your redirecting it. Defend your country but don’t become a pawn in a much bigger game.
      Chessboard away.

      • BF Aho

        Warning I just got my phone 3 days ago
        Here’s my synopsis of life as a kid I was chubby I had a gf as a 1st grade I will always and my family’s not the healthiest place because I was teased at home and school because I soiled my bed until I was 17 during this time. I smelled bad
        I’m 6ft 3in 360 lb. I would join sports but wasn’t interested. I felt pressured to join the sports because of my size my SR classes was AP psychology chemistry agriculture I decided to drop out because I felt. I had no future because I would start off In debt when my family was homeless about a year

    • BF Aho

      Can I ask what is your profession? I agree with what your saying whole heartily. I’m thinking of trying 3 start up to attack this lie first culture.

      • Jono Scott Staly

        Don’t take this the wrong way unless you want to, I’m the most open person one could ever meet by a mile but I’ve just realised I need to keep the details of my discoveries in all fields under wraps. I’m an advanced design engineer, (day job) song/poem writer/ truth seeker/ list goes on too long sorry. I can’t understand how people don’t revere knowledge and more so wisdom above all else I try not to read philosophy because as much as that’s pretty much all i think about I find when I do it’s like reading my own thoughts so when I write I don’t want any particular phraseology coming through were someone could say- that’s Dostoevsky for example. I try and work out one new thing the world needs everyday, sometimes just a positive saying, I worked out how eating meat transfers the stored fear energy to a person through the chemicals (store the electrical fear charge) then this manifests as stress in the person. I was thinking about a meat to war likelihood ratio for a population then found out Dostoevsky said something similar so I try not to let anything cloud my clarity. I’m glad you have made it this far pain is useful, remember religeon is for people who like to talk about hell, spirituality comes to those who’ve experienced it and lived to tell the tale in my experience. By all means attack the current outdated paradigm but it’s always more useful to build new grass from the bottom up, I know the world can be frustrating but don’t hate the people they are largely asleep rather than bad. As a technique I find lies are better fought harshly and truth is better spread gently, what we fight builds resistance and also when evolving your current situation id say always remember that we don’t attract what we want but what we are at any given point in time. Can I ask you if your life feels like either a test you sound like you’ve seen the crossroads just follow your heart but use your head to do it we need to merge both hemispheres, I like music to do this but strange things happen if I go to deep, please believe both free will and determinism both exist in juxtaposition to each other the trick is learning who you are so that your emergent consciousness can resonate with your natural life path as laid out in energy lines within the universe. I’ve found that it’s pointless trying to fit in with any collective consciousness they are stuck in a box marked ‘present’. I must warn I can only speak for myself here and it can be overwhelming. No drugs needed however. Have you had any contact with the spiritual community they may offer you surprising guidance, the universe exists both within us and we within the universe, all connected by a much misunderstood sea of energy, energy that creates matter. We are that energy experiencing itself. I’m looking at the maths of this, kind of sacred maths in a way, can you give me something specific we can discuss I’ll literally be here forever. Thanks

        • BF Aho

          That fine I was preparing my 6 start up company. Really trying to focus on the logical and social ramifications of a unbalanced mind and affect of modern civilization.
          I’ve been up most of the time these week thanks for the advice

          • Jono Scott Staly

            You sound really inspiring, have you experienced a massive perspective change on the world since 2012? There’s a lot of it going round. I’ve been talking to people about crowd funding for a social platform to raise human conscious awareness and knowledge of self as the true bottom up centralising principle in any society, this balance is key to all further balance found as the institutions get more complex and more diverse. The old left-right paradigm needs to go, not to a vacuum we don’t want to attract authoritarianism of any label but I believe the key lies in good information. You know good in = good out Dr Peterson or Bad info in = bad info out (current Marxist re-educators) I believe sociological science should be a measure of how well our psychological science is being understood and allowed to thrive from an individual emergent principle, rather than let the individuals degrade to the point where a massive predatory top down political and control system has to be put in place. Have you considered localised banking and the abolishing of fractional reserve lending? It would be good to talk further I suspect we could help each other I have a few aces tucked away…….

          • Jono Scott Staly

            I have mathematical and ancient proofs for creating balance and harmony amongst people, it underlines gender as 1 of 8 energy principles- no one can fuck with this information without throwing all logic, history, science and spirituality in the bin. You wouldn’t believe how I recieved the information but let’s just say the universe doesn’t make mistakes. I don’t trust electronic coms unless we can get encrypted system going, my laptop stopped working I was about 20 pages into setting the frame for my book, I’m on a bloody iPod now! I quit my job to try and go from thinking to writing as the worlds going to change soon and there’s going to be an unearthing of new information on the planet. I need to write this so people can put into an understandable and useful everyday context. I’m serious like I got rid of my house and my car to test myself. Have you seen the same information I was told a handful would see it this generation by someone who has NEVER been wrong about my future. Paradigms are going to change. Your subject matter sounds like the central theme to my writing I’m genuinely interested.

          • BF Aho

            Can send me a LinkedIn page and we can continue from here thank you

          • Jono Scott Staly

            Thanks BF Aho
            I’m struggling to use my linked in on my IPod (lol) but I’m at
            jonostaley1981@gmail.com

          • Jono Scott Staly

            It sounds like we’ve got a similar idea for what I refer to as raising planetary vibration but that’s just semantics I’m here to help the world, humanity is lost right now on the whole. I’ve worked on a 360 degree solution to help all I’d like to talk.
            PEACE!

          • Jono Scott Staly

            Sorry to go on (and on and on) have you a Facebook account I put some of my long held thoughts on there last 12 month or so, just so you know who your dealing with
            Jono Scott Staly
            Without the e before the y. Ch33rs man

          • BF Aho

            Okay I’ve been up 18 hours I’ll check it out some time in the future