Tag Archives: Depression

A Conversation with Writer’s Block Part II

frogWS : The last time we spoke you said that the lethargy, procrastination and inaction associated with writer’s block is fear based.

WB : Yes, I remember.

WS : But we never really fleshed out the connection between this behavior and fear. Could you explain this in a little more depth?

WB : Well, when somebody fears something he will tend to avoid it. Sometimes this avoidance is not executed in a fully conscious manner. It feels like it just happens. However, this feeling is misleading because underlying this avoidance there is a subconscious mechanism at work.

WS : So according to your position, when I experience writer’s block it feels like laziness but under the surface psychologically I am really avoiding a fear.

WB : Correct.

WS : Why am I not conscious of this fear?

WB : Maybe the fact that you are afraid of whatever it is you are afraid of is something you would rather not think about because to acknowledge it consciously would cause you to endure an uncomfortable feeling.

WS : Like what?

WB : It is always anxiety, stress, depression…

WS : But I feel anxious and stressed pretty frequently. I feel depressed on occasion too. Why have I not blocked those feelings out or avoided whatever triggered them in the first place.

WB : Perhaps those feelings are connected to or triggered by events or experiences over which you have no control. So you have to feel them. And because you know those feelings and do not like to feel them you subconsciously choose not to feel them when it is possible to exercise control.

WS : That makes sense but I still do not understand why I am not conscious of this mechanism at work.

WB : Duty.

WS : What do you mean, duty?

WB : You feel it is your duty to feel stressed about things. You think that if you do not feel stressed about things then you are not pulling your weight or that you are not being responsible. Am I right?

WS : Well kind of…

WB : Doesn’t your stress level go through the roof if you are running late for a meeting?

WS : Yes.

WB : Why?

WS : I like to be on time.

WB : And you hate to be late?

WS : Yes.

WB : In fact, some times when you are late because of traffic you experience such high anxiety that you will yell out loud as long as you know no one will hear you. Am I correct?

WS : Yes.

WB : That’s a pretty high level of stress, don’t you think? Probably more stress than is necessary. Can’t you cut yourself some slack?

WS : It seems difficult to do under the circumstances.

WB : Why do you think that is? Other people are late all the time and don’t seem to care at all.

WS : Well they’re not pulling their weight.

WB : So?

WS : So, if nobody pulled their weight civilization would collapse. This thing that generations of hard working, selfless, brave, patriotic people built up will die out.

WB : And you would be held just a little bit to blame for that wouldn’t you?

WS : Perhaps…

WB : All because you were late to a meeting and did not have the discipline to feel anxious about it.

WS : Where are you going with this?

WB : That’s a tremendous burden to carry on your shoulders, isn’t it?

WS : I don’t know.

WB : So maybe sometimes you allow yourself to not be aware of it and instead lapse into a state of lethargy without really knowing why and that is why you experience writer’s block.

WS : That sounds a little overly complicated to me. It should be more straight forward.

WB : Why should it be more straight forward?

WS : For example, when I write in the morning I generally experience no writer’s block at all. Or if I am writing about something I’m interested in the words just fall out of me. Could it be that sometimes I am just tired when I experience writer’s block?

WB : Absolutely. Sometimes you are tired and your brain is not firing on all cylinders and it is difficult to be creative. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the times where you are well rested and have the desire to write but when you actually sit down to write you then feel like doing something else… anything else. What you described and what I just described are two different experiences, no?

WS : I guess so.

WB : Right. So how else would you account for your inability to be creative when you find yourself to be in a situation where everything is right for creativity but the creativity just doesn’t happen?

WS : I can’t account for it.

WB : Of course you can’t. That’s what I’m trying to get you to understand. The system is set up so that you cannot understand. That’s how it works.

WS : So will it still work now that you have explained it to me?

WB : Of course it will.

WS : How?

WB: It will work because you want it to work. This conversation we are having will conveniently not make sense or it will slip from your memory and you’ll go back to that pattern.

WS : What do you mean I want it to work? Isn’t the whole point of this conversation that I don’t want it to work? Isn’t the point that I want to be able to write when I want to write and not experience writer’s block?

WB : Yes, that’s how you feel. But you also feel the other way too. You want to write but you don’t want to experience the anxiety that the writing produces and you also don’t want to be aware of this dynamic so you revert to a state of lethargy.

WS : We’ve hit 1,000 words, haven’t we?

WB : Yes we have. See you next week.

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The Entitlement Generation

There is a meme floating about the internet condemning the “Entitlement Generation.” An article written by a woman calling herself Anchormom seems to typify the spirit of this opinion. In short, Anchormom argues that the current generation of young adults (I assume this means teen agers to late 20s) lacks the virtue embodied by the “Greatest” generation of World War II warriors / Depression survivors and to a lesser extent the Baby Boom generation that followed. From what I gather, Anchormom is of the Baby Boom generation.

She uses one example of a girl who wore inappropriate clothing to work and then refused to change into something more appropriate when asked to do so by her boss. She uses this girl as an example which presumably in the mind of Anchormom typifies the entire generation.

My first reaction is that I am not convinced this girl represents the entire generation Anchormom describes. Certainly all the young servicemen and women who went off to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan refute her position that this generation is an “entitlement generation.” I don’t argue that no one in this generation is entitled in the way she describes but is that not true of every generation?

Anchormom also describes how her mother hit her with a wooden spoon to discipline her when she was young and seems to be insulted by another person reacting critically to this. The way she reacted to this criticism is telling. Instead of explaining that the criticism took the spoon out of context she exclaims “I honestly had to laugh.” This response (in my opinion) was intended to shame the person who criticized her mother’s disciplinary technique. This suggests to me that behind the spoon her mother used on her was an energy of shame, a shame that Anchormom feels compelled to defend out of a sense of loyalty. This is typical of the shame dynamic.

It depends very much on the energy that was behind the spoon. If the energy was shaming then it doesn’t matter if Anchormom’s brothers are a journalist a doctor and an HR executive (as Anchormom boasts). If the energy was shamming then I suspect they’re probably not living happy lives despite their lofty positions and passing their shame onto others just as Anchormom is trying to do in this article.

The tone of Anchormom’s writing comes off very judgmental and condescending further suggesting the motivation behind her writing is her own shame and the desire to pass on this shame to others to make her feel better about herself. In another paragraph Anchormom comes off defensive, critical and angry where she compiles a list of things her generation “didn’t do” in comparison to her “entitlement” generation. Again, the characteristics of this tone suggest shame is her motivation and are also typical of the shame dynamic.

In defense of Anchormom and her parents, the world was tough during the depression and World War II era. In that generation it was probably justified for parents to use corporal punishment to get their kids in line because the stakes were too high if they didn’t. Survival was at stake. However, survival is no longer at stake in the same way and since that time the cultural pendulum probably has swung too far in the touchy-feely direction. I’m not a fan of political correctness but I’m also not a fan of shaming others as a means of behavior control and a sense of loyalty to shame. The impact on their lives and the lives they will impact in turn is just too negative and miserable. I understand Anchormom’s nostalgia for her youth and an era that seemed better to her in many respects. But I suspect her motivation in writing this article has less to do with her desire to reform this “entitlement generation” and more to with her subconscious desire to pass on the shame that was passed on to her.

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Humiliation Represses Real Emotions and Causes Passive Aggressive and Destructive Behavior

For most of my childhood I was told I was a wimp, a nerd and a geek. That was humiliating. When I got sad about it I was told I was weak. When I got angry about it I was labeled a spaz. Those feelings were also humiliating. Of course I did not like feeling humiliated but I  was stuck in a no win situation. The best solution I could come up with was to hide my sadness and my anger because I did not want to feel humiliation on top of humiliation. In this way humiliation kept me from feeling my sadness and anger.

But the sadness and anger did not go anywhere. They were still there, deep down and came out from time to time like an erupting volcano whenever I was pushed past my breaking point or when I was safely alone. For some reason every Christmas Eve I found myself alone watching A Christmas Carol and wept uncontrollably whenever I saw the scene where Scrooge finally accepts his nephew Fred’s invitation to dinner and Fred welcomed him happily even though Scrooge assumed he would not. When the sadness and anger did erupt in front of other people (and to a lesser extent when I was alone) I felt the sting of humiliation which pushed those feelings back down again. The humiliation had the effect of negating my truly feeling those emotions and getting the relief they should have provided me.

I have since learned that in order to be a full person and to grow I must be able to feel my sadness and anger without humiliation. I need to own those feelings as authentic and acceptable parts of me. I need to welcome them in a non judgmental manner and with love. They are the truest emotions I have and I can never fully feel happiness if I am never allowed to feel those feelings without feeling humiliated for expressing them outwardly. They reflect my true self and if I reject them I reject my true self as well.

For a long time I did not know any of this. I thought it was wrong to express sadness and anger. I thought strong, responsible people do not do this and only weak and irresponsible people cannot control the outward expression of their true emotions. But suppressing or perhaps repressing these emotions caused anxiety and depression. It also caused passive aggressive behaviors like internet trolling, and the sarcastic judgment and shaming of others. It also gave rise to addictions that numbed out the feeling of humiliation.

When I finally was able to feel my sadness and anger without humiliation the anxiety, depression and all the rest of it began to ebb. It was as if the humiliation was a foreign entity that invaded my body. It was a parasite that reproduced itself from person to person by the way I was treated and by the way I in turn treated other people. By becoming aware of this dynamic not only did I begin to heal myself but I also took steps to stop the spread of this illness.

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My Ego and My True Self *

Illustration by Warwick Goble to Beauty and th...

Illustration by Warwick Goble to Beauty and the Beast: the heroine is the youngest daughter in her family. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My ego’s goal is to separate itself.  Separation is how my ego first came into being and maintained its existence.  Separation is also how it procreates.  The ego first came into being when I was told that I was not good enough and believed it.  To compensate for this belief I created a false self to present to the world.  This false self was constructed by my ego by splitting myself into two entities.  My ego is fundamentally dishonest in the sense that it was born from a lie I told myself, then tried to believe and largely succeeded.  Once my ego came into being it had a self-preservation instinct like all living entities.  To preserve itself it had to split and continue to split because it is always at odds with reality and the way it copes with being at odds with reality is to split itself.  Splitting itself gives my ego a place to run when it is confronted with a reality that conflicts with its point of view.  And on and on it continues to split itself spawning egos of egos of egos.

At the heart of my ego is shame, the fear that if the world saw my true self, I would be judged and abandoned.  In this way creating my ego was an act of self-preservation made by my true self.  I can see this clearly in my children.  My youngest daughter says she likes a singer, my older daughter says she does not like that singer but likes another one.  Then my youngest daughter drops her original preference in favor of my older daughter’s preference.

For the ego to thrive, the true self must be put to sleep.  In the beginning the true self does this willingly thinking that the creation of ego and splitting the self saves the self.  When the true self is put to sleep the ego adopts the persona of the true self.  Its judgement and jealousy of others becomes true.  Its vanity and its shame become true.  The true self is mostly just awareness itself so when it sleeps there is no awareness that the ego is running the show.  As such, awareness of the ego is a sign that the true self is awakening.

Over time my ego created such an elaborate maze of illusion that coping with reality became difficult.  When this began to happen my true self began to stir in its sleep.  I would feel anxious and not know why.  I experienced a tightening sensation in my throat.  I became depressed.  Feelings in the body are always true.  They cannot be dishonest and always exist for a true reason.  They are the way the true self communicates from its place of sleep while the ego is in charge.  It was this anxiety, physical discomfort and depression that set me on my journey to awaken my true self.

If my ego came into existence through separation and illusion then overcoming the ego and awakening the true self is achieved by unity (letting go of separation) and truth.  I did this a little bit at a time. After a while, my true self began to awaken and I saw the ego and its shame and judgment as entities separate from my self.  They are not who I really am.  They are not true.  Bringing awareness to the fact that shame is a feeling brought forth by a separate entity (my ego) gave me separation from the shame.  It was there, but rather than believe it I observe it.  Separation from separation is unity.

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