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 Conversations with Leaders in Self-Care: A Psychological Journal as Self-Care 
Interview with Ira Progoff PhD
   as interviewed by Tom Ferguson MD

After working in the Intensive Journal on my own for several months, I decided to attend a Progoff workshop at a Catholic retreat house in Menlo Park.

The most striking thing about an Intensive Journal workshop is that so many people come together to work alone. Each of the hundred participants sat, focused quietly inward, notebooks in laps, working with the materials of his or her own life; while Progoff, a kindly, soft-spoken man, short and rather shy, sat in a swivel chair on a raised platform and, sometimes, talked. His talking, he explained, was to be regarded as background music to the primary focus of the workshop, each-person's self-directed writing.

He led first-time journal users through some introductory exercises, while those more experienced with the journal (many brought in binders bulging with pages, clearly the accumulation of years) worked away on their own, stopping to listen at times, going on when the spirit moved them.

The atmosphere was quiet, focused but relaxed. Participants were invited to make their own breaks, and from time to time someone would move silently in or out of the auditorium. Cocoa, tea, coffee, and several boxes of fresh apricots were available in a room next door. It all felt a little like being in church.

A number of the participants were, in fact, from religious vocations, but while the journal is open to religious use, participants must supply their own religion. After an exercise in which we were asked to have a dialogue with our own interior wisdom figure—a conversation with a person, real or imaginary, living or dead, whom we most admired and respected—there was mention made, in the coffee room, of Jesus, Moses, God, Picasso, Martin Luther King, St. Theresa, Lao-Tze, Malcolm X, Saul Minsky, William Blake, and Margaret Sanger.

The workshop ended on noon of the third day. Progoff had promised to meet me for an interview afterward, but first wanted to make himself available to participants who wanted to see him privately. He ended up meeting at some length with more than a dozen, exhibiting a remarkable patience considering that he had been working sixteen hours a day for nearly a week. It was late afternoon by the time we settled onto wooden deck chairs on the front porch of the retreat house and taped the following interview.

TF: One thing we've been trying to do in the magazine is to point out ways to move the focus of health responsibility from some kind of expert back to the individual himself. It seems as if you're trying to do something very similar with the Intensive Journal

IP: Yes, I would certainly hope so. Emerson's essay on self-reliance has always been one of my favorites. I see psychological self-reliance, or psychological selfcare, a way of being able to tap into resources and knowledge within oneself that can enable us to deal with our problems, our experiences, in new ways. That's the principle I've tried to build into the Journa!.

You studied with Carl Jung for several years. Didn't he have his patients keep a journal?

Jungians always keep a dream log and a kind of general inner diary. The problem with an unstructured journal, including many of the Jungian ones, is that they tend to go around in circles, and they only work in very limited ways. The Intensive Journal is set up to help you break out of that circular movement.

We were talking earlier about E.F. Schumacher and the appropriate technology movement. Do you think of the Journal as appropriate psychological technology?

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 About The Author
Tom Ferguson, M.D. (1943-2006), was a pioneering physician, author, and researcher who virtually led the movement to advocate informed self-care as the starting point for good health. Dr. Ferguson studied and wrote......moreTom Ferguson MD
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