Writing Technique: Using pronouns helps heal

A primary concern clients have at the beginning of my Writing to Heal + Meditation workshops is what type of language and style to use. Among other style techniques, a tip we go over and practice is using pronouns. Leading expressive writing researcher and social psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker and his colleague, R. Campbell, prove in a fascinating study that using pronouns (I, he, she, they, we) improve our overall health — immune function, stress levels, blood pressure and our social relationships.

How does the use of these simple words cultivate such profound results for an area so critical as our health and well-being? This simple technique is supported by equally simple reasoning; when we use pronouns, we tend to follow with an explanation of who these people/pronouns are. This explanation helps us understand our sense of self in relation to others. When we clearly understand ourself and our social relationships, we begin to understand the bigger picture of our lives. When we see our lives from the bigger picture perspective, we begin to uncover our purpose in life.

When we establish such clarity, we become more centered and aware of who we truly are, allowing ourselves to let go of self-identifications, heightened emotions and negative experiences. Additionally, pronouns help us see who we truly are because in defining these people, we see who they are to us. We can evaluate if these relationships have a positive or negative impact on our lives. Our explanations of other people also reveal much about ourselves, as we can see if we are being impartial in our evaluation or if we are acting with unfair judgment. Such introspection will reveal truths about ourselves and our lives — so long as we are being completely honest with ourselves in our writing!

At this point, our newfound sense of clarity begins to help us make sense of things, automatically organizing our hazy and haphazard perspectives into a fresh state of consciousness where we are aware of our freedom and free will, and how we can use such will to become our highest self, living our life’s true purpose.

Campbell, R.S., & Pennebaker, J.W. (2003).