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Self-Knowledge • Know Yourself

Complete the Sentence – and Find Out What’s Really on Your Mind

A tricky aspect of the way we’re built is that many of our real concerns don’t break through into our conscious minds – because of the somewhat surprising, shocking, poignant or vulnerable nature of our true selves. We prefer not to know much about what we genuinely think – but we buy our peace of mind at a high cost, with an increase in background anxiety, sadness and irritability.

In order to learn more about our true selves, it pays to lean on one of the great exercises of modern psychology: what is known as a Sentence Completion test. The test involves taking a whole lot of unfinished sentences and completing them as fast as possible, without censoring whatever first comes into one’s mind – in order that one discover a range of things about what one deep down really feels, fears, wants, regrets or are cross about. 

‘Master of the Female Half-Length’, Lady Writing at Her Desk, c. 16th Century

To use the test:

1. Set aside a quiet period in which to run through the stubs, all sixty or a selection.

2. Try to complete the sentences at speed, ‘without thinking too much’, that is, by saying the very first thing that comes into the mind, however shocking, direct or emotional it happens to be. Be sure that your answers involve a complete sentence, even if the sentence stub is very short. The exercise will pay dividends if you run through the stubs unselfconsciously enough not to let the mind’s mechanisms of censorship swing into action. There should be no concern that the answers sound ‘respectable’. The stubs will be effective only to the extent that you can surprise yourself into realising what you’ve known-but-not-known all along.

3. Consider writing down your answers (quickly) in a journal – and then return to them for further slower reflection afterwards. In what way might your answers be slightly different to what you would ordinarily have understood about yourself? What are you learning about who you might really be?

4. For a more lighthearted but also perhaps more confronting experience, consider answering these stubs as part a group exercise. 

5. Repeat as often as possible; the unconscious is never static.

60 Sentences to Complete

If only…

My mother… 

Men are…

The pain…

I want…

Enough…

I adore…

I’m so grateful…

I wish…

Women are…

_____

The world…

Deep down I…

I am …

The day is…

Only because…

My only…

My father…

The best would be if…

If friends…

The best…

_____

I’m gradually…

At the end of the day, I…

Money…

As I look back, I…

In the darkness, I…

What I really want…

Next time, I would…

My colleagues…

Sex is…

I absolutely don’t want to forget…

_____

I don’t want…

When it will be all over, I…

Happiness means…

Throughout my life…

My greatest relief…

Behind the social facade…

I’m furious that…

I wish I could go back and correct…

I’m longing to tell…

When it’s very quiet I…

_____

I’ll never be able to forgive…

In the next decade…

If I didn’t worry what people think…

When I can finally…

Stop always…

I want to say sorry…

In my depths, I…

A good life involves…

If I wasn’t so scared…

What people don’t understand…

_____

It’s only normal…

Now is the moment…

When I’m tired…

I’m not really…

I should pay less attention…

The real obstacle…

Underneath everything…

The truth…

When all is said and done…

I can’t ever forget…

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