Creating Effective Exercises With Sentence Completion (Part Two)

In a previous post I summarized Nathaniel Branden’s ideas for sentence completion exercises. These include a “stem” that begs for completion, such as:

  • My parents speak through my voice when I tell myself…
  • Sometimes I undermine myself when I…
  • An effective way to handle anger might be to…
  • The very next action I will take to achieve my goal is…
  • The habit that I most want to change right now is…

Following are more suggestions from Branden for getting the most from sentence completion.

Focus on a small number of stems each week. Complete the same sentence stems each day, Monday through Friday. Keep the number of stems limited — 4 to 7 per week.)

Write your sentence completions early in the day. Whenever possible, do them in the morning before you start the day’s business.

Copy the stems to a personal journal. The goal is to build a written record of your responses so that you can review them at the end of the week. Every day, copy the sentence stems into your paper-based journal or a document on your computer. Leave space beneath each stem for writing. Then write 6 to 10 endings directly below each sentence stem.

Complete sentence stems quickly — without stopping to revise. If the day’s writing takes more than 10 minutes, then you are censoring yourself or otherwise overthinking the process. Remember that sentences don’t have to be profound or accurate. Your aim is simply to expand each stem into grammatically complete sentence. If your mind goes blank, just invent an ending — anything.

Fresh start each day’s writing. Do not read the sentences you wrote on a previous day. Repetitions from day to day are fine.

During the weekend, sum up the week’s writing. Review your sentence completions, looking for themes and major insights. Then write at least 6 endings for this stem: If any of what I wrote this week is true, it might be helpful if I…

Notice the effects of writing. After your 10 minutes or so of writing each day, go ahead with your planned activities. Stay alert to any changes in your thinking, emotions, or behavior that seem related to your writing. You might agree with Branden that:

Doing sentence completion on a daily basis as described here is a kind of psychological discipline, a spiritual practice, even, that over time achieves insight, integration, and spontaneous behavior change. People sometimes ask, “How do I integrate the things I am learning in sentence completion?” The answer is that practice itself, done repetitively, brings about the integration.

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