Tag Archives: Fear

A Conversation with Writer’s Block Part III

I burned Cate's book today in the woods as a symbolic conclusion to this project.

 

WS : Your underlying premise so far has been that writer’s block is caused by a subconscious, psychological process designed to protect me from experiencing uncomfortable feelings.

WB : Yes, that is essentially what I am in a nutshell.

WS : So how do I break through?

WB : The first method is to muster the awareness and courage to break through the writer’s block which means you have to allow yourself to experience that uncomfortable feeling that you are unwilling to experience.

WS : That sounds simple enough to do from a theoretical perspective.

WB : It is simple but unfortunately it is also impossible. At the very least it is extremely difficult to do.

WS : Why is it impossible?

WB : Because you cannot change the fact that you are unwilling to experience something simply by declaring that you are willing to experience it. The truth of the matter remains that you are unwilling to experience it and making a declaration of your willingness to experience what you are unwilling to experience is simply a misstatement of reality.

WS : How does a writer get through you then?

WB : In order to bypass the mechanism that I personify a writer must distract me or sneak by me in some manner.

WS : How does a writer do that?

WB : What I am about to tell you will probably only apply to you on the level of the specific because everyone has different fears. However, it may work to shed light on the process of writer’s block in general and in that regard may help someone other than you who happens to be reading this.

WS : Lay it on me.

WB : A method you are employing right now is to write in dialog. For some reason this allows you the freedom to generate ideas in a way that writing prose does not much of the time.

WS : Why is that?

WB : I think it works because you are in a sense stepping out of your head which is where the fear resides and stepping into the head of another entity that does not have that particular fear.

WS : Yes but the head I am stepping into is created from my head so really I’m not stepping out of my head.

WB : True, but you cannot deny the results. It is a slight of hand, but it works so why question it?

WS : Are there any other methods?

WB : Sure. Recently you have been generating a great deal of material for your blog by debating a certain individual who is let’s say easily antagonized. This seems to be another way in which you can bypass me. Do you know why that is?

WS : Well, by entering into a dialog with him it is in a sense like entering into a dialog with you. We bounce ideas off of each other and together we come up with something that neither one of us would have come up with on our own.

WB : Yes, that’s part of it. The other part of it is that you sort of “get off” on fucking with the poor guy. You get a charge out of it and that charge is perhaps more enticing that the fear is scary. Does that make sense?

WS : It does although I am not proud to admit it.

WB : Part of you is not proud to admit it. Part of you thoroughly enjoys it. We’re entering into territory that you have covered extensively on this blog. It is the addictive nature of trolling that is caused by a personality that was shaped by shame.

WS : Yes. A shame based personality enjoys making other people feel ashamed. This is the primary reason why people pass judgment on others and why they cloak their judgment in morality. They judge other people because they get off on it. It feels good to put other people below them hierarchically. But they cloak this desire for relative supremacy in morality and objectivity in order to mask this true desire.

WB : Right. We don’t need to go too deep into this. It is good to acknowledge that is what is going on here and to recognize what a powerful motivating force this is. It is so powerful, for example, that you can harness it to bypass your fears.

WS : But there is an evil negativity associated with it.

WB : Yes. It is dishonest in that it claims to be doing something good and right when it is actually serving a base desire. It is also evil in the sense that it achieves its goal of benefiting you by hurting someone else.

WS : Yes, and the more I use it the more I feel pulled to the dark side and become dominated by it.

WB : It is an addiction in other words.

WS : Yes, it starts out serving me or perhaps more accurately it starts out with the appearance of serving me but eventually displays it’s true nature and becomes my master.

WB : So although it can be a powerful force it is probably better to leave it alone.

WS : It is difficult to do that. I find that it comes and goes in waves. I will indulge in the behavior. At first it is fun and exhilarating but after a period of time it begins to disgust me. At that point I cut myself off. At first being free of it feels liberating and peaceful but after a period of time it becomes stale and boring. And so I think maybe I can do it just a little bit. And so I do and the cycle repeats itself. I know that if I were to strive for a more perfect me I would divorce myself from this cycle entirely. But again it is difficult.

WB : It is but if perfection were easy we would all be perfect.

WS : Assuming we all want to be perfect…

WB : Good point.

49 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Conversation with Writer’s Block

MoonI have been working on a story lately. It is actually a rewrite of a rewrite of a rewrite of a story my cousin and I collaborated on many years ago. I have made a few attempts to write it in a final form but I always seem to get derailed and end up not finishing what I have started. That is why, in the tradition of Gestalt therapy, I have invited my writer’s block here today to discuss what is going on and perhaps get to the bottom of it.

WS : Let’s cut to the chase. Why do you block me?

WB : The simple answer is that I am writer’s block and blocking your writing is what I do. But I know that you are not looking for the simple answer. You want to know why I desire to block you. I could answer that question in one of two ways. The first way I could go is that I block you for your own protection. Whatever you are attempting to write about or the reason for which you are trying to write is causing you to push up against a fear. I am protecting you from having to experience this fear. The second way I could go is that I am blocking you from writing because I am fucking with you. Which way do you think I am going?

WS : Probably the first one.

WB : I suspect you are right although it is difficult to be sure. Why I think you are correct, however, is that writer’s block is a type of lethargy, procrastination or inaction. This is always fear based although it feels like laziness. The fucking with comes in afterwards when you beat yourself up for being lazy.

WS : Alright let’s go with the protection theory. I like that better anyway. So what do you think I am afraid of?

WB : Most writers experience a fear of being judged. When they write they are being vulnerable. What they have written is intended for others to read and there is a bit of vanity involved. So there is the fear that they will be judged for being or appearing to be vain.

WS : Is that my fear?

WB : That’s part of it. But there is another related fear there too.

WS : What is it?

WB : I’m not going to do all the work for you. I block you to protect you from this fear. That means there is a feeling that would be triggered if I allowed you to write this book. This feeling is unendurable or at least you think it is unendurable. So you won’t go there. What do you think this feeling is?

WS : I don’t know.

WB : You do, but it makes you too uncomfortable to articulate it. So you pretend not to know. Actually, “pretend” is too strong a word and it suggests that you are aware of this dynamic which you are not. Let’s say that approaching this fear becomes uncomfortable and so you by default veer off course. It is something along those lines.

WS : So the fear does your work for you?

WB : I am merely a personification of this dynamic playing out within you. You have personified me to have this dialog in order to better understand the dynamic. You know all that so don’t waste our time asking me those types of questions.

WS : I apologize.

WB : No problem. Let’s just move forward. The solution to this problem is that you must face the fear and endure this feeling. The good news is that you don’t really have to identify or label the feeling you fear in order to have gnosis of it. All you have to do is write the story and notice when you feel blocked. Then you will know that you are pushing up against it.

WS : What do I do then? How do I get through it?

WB : I have a simple answer but not an easy one. There is no other way to get through it than to get through it. In other words, you cannot face your fear without experiencing what makes you afraid.

WS : I understand that. But when I sit down to write and nothing comes out it just feels like I am experiencing writer’s block. I don’t have any sense at all that I am afraid of something. It just feels like I can’t do it.

WB : Yes. I am very good at what I do. I am so good that I can explain the dynamic to you and you still will not be able to get past it. Just remember that I do it for your own protection.

WS : Now it feels like you are fucking with me.

WB : Does it?

WS : What if I told you that I do not want your protection? I willingly want to endure the feeling by facing my fear.

WB : Are you sure about that?

WS : Yes.

WB : If you were sure then you would face your fear. You would not need me to be here. Remember, I am merely a personification of the dynamic at play inside of you. It may serve your purposes to think of me as a separate entity with a fully independent will of my own but that is not really an accurate description of reality.

WS : What are you saying?

WB : What I am saying is that if your writing is blocked it’s because you want your writing to be blocked. And like I said at the beginning of this conversation we can go one of two ways. Either you block your writing because you are protecting yourself from something or you block your writing because you are fucking with yourself.

WS : Why would I want to fuck with myself?

WB : We’ll have to leave it there for now. We’ve exceeded 1,000 words.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Procrastination When Writing is Essentially Laziness Only More Complicated

I procrastinate when I write. I have several projects I am currently working on (or should be working on) but at times I find it really difficult to sit down to actually write. Often it is far easier to find something else to do or simply just put it off.

Part of me thinks my propensity to procrastinate is laziness. That is, my procrastination is a moral failing. This is shame talking of course and feels like a very shallow interpretation of what is really going on.

Part of me thinks my propensity to procrastinate is fear based. That is, I have a subconscious fear of accomplishment or success and this fear undermines my will to actually sit down and do the work.

Then again, perhaps the fear and the shame work hand in hand. My shame makes me think I do not deserve success. As such, I fear the punishment I will receive upon achieving success. Therefore I sabotage my efforts to work so that I do not have to face this eventuality. The problem with this line of thinking is that I will feel ashamed for not writing as well. So by not achieving for fear of experiencing shame upon achieving I end up feeling shame for not working. Why is one shame based fear more scary than the other?

Perhaps then it comes back to laziness. It is easier to experience the shame of non achievement than it is to experience the shame of achieving simply because achieving requires work and not achieving does not.

Part of me does not believe these reasons (laziness, fear or the combination of the two) is the correct answer. Perhaps the answer is that I simply do not want to sit down and write. I do not enjoy the experience and so therefore I avoid doing it. But at the same time there is definitely a part of me that wants to write or at least feels like I should be writing. This might be shame talking. That is, shame convinces me that I should be performing tasks I do not want to perform and then makes me feel ashamed for not performing these tasks. The counter argument is that I have had wonderful experiences writing in the past. When I am in the “flow state” and the ideas come easily it feels physically good. I also enjoy the satisfaction of creating a finished product and receiving positive feedback. Actually any feedback is enjoyable but positive feedback is especially enjoyable.

Of course the enjoyment of feedback is ego driven. This is another shame based drive but not necessarily related to procrastination. It is really the flip side of the shame driven side of procrastination.

Perhaps I like the flow states but realize they do not happen that often. As such I figure the effort of writing is more likely to not be enjoyable so I tend to avoid it. Maybe this is the same thing a laziness only a little more complicated than it seems at first glance.

39 Comments

Filed under Writing

Each Morning I Am Born Again

A Facebook friend posted this article entitled 18 Spiritual Teachings That Will Alter Your Mind and Improve Your Life. The eighth item on the list reads:

Each morning, I am born again. What I do today is what matters most.

Thanks, Buddha!

The past brought me here, but it is over. The future is totally uncertain. I aspire to concentrate as much of my attention and effort on the present moment, the current situation and the living relationships I cultivate with myself and others.

Shout out, also, to Eckhart Tolle and The Flaming Lips. Living in the moment, cliché as it has become to say, is truly liberating. The more I practice, the better I get.

I can relate to this because I do spend too much time feeling angry and embarrassed about the past (regret) and worrying about the future. Regret and worry are both fear. Regret looks to the past and worry looks to the future. Fear is a function of my ego. I could also say that my ego is fear-based. That is why it seeks to control. It seeks to control me so that it can use me to control my environment. Of course it never achieves complete control and therefore never feels secure.

My ego does not exist in the now. It only exists in the past or the future. When I worry or regret I am ceding control of myself to my ego.  Therefore, If I do worry it is always about a future event. It might be a future event a few seconds from now but it is always in the future.

I cannot worry about what is happening right now. As such, the now is a refuge I can escape to. There is no fear in the now because I have all the information on the now in the now. There is freedom in the now and seemingly infinite possibility. My true self exists in the now. When I worry or regret I abandon my true self to fear and my ego.

I cannot change the future or the past but I can change (that is, take action in) the present. And really now is the only thing that exists or ever exists. As Eckhart Tolle says even if I had a time machine and used it to travel back in time, when I arrived at my destination it would still be now.

Therefore, now is all I have or will ever have. When I worry or regret I fall asleep to this essential fact. When I worry or regret I am not actively living my life. I am passively watching a depiction or version of my life. It is possible to have positive depictions of the past or future (e.g., nostalgia or anticipation) and it seems impossible or impractical to always exist in a state fully appreciating the now. But most of the time I find myself not in the now. So, to cultivate an active experience of the now is a useful exercise.

Leave a comment

Filed under Psychology

The Function of Labeling Things

Labeling is a function of the ego’s desire to categorize, define and otherwise put everything in its proper place relative to everything else. At its essence this desire arises out of the ego’s fear of its inability to appreciate reality as a whole. When a thing has been labeled the ego feels like it has  a certain power over the thing. The thing is now confined by its label. However, labels are not the thing that they label even though the ego tends to proceed as if the thing and the label are one.

Despite their inaccuracy, labels can and do serve useful functions. For example, labels can diminish fear. When a fear is labeled it seems to become something less than what it was. The labeler now seems to become (in a sense) more powerful than the fear. The fear thus becomes less scary. Another example is that labels allow for the communication of information from one person to another. The transmission of information is less than one hundred percent accurate but effectively more information is communicated with labels than without them. Labels serve these useful functions by digesting reality into usable chunks. As such, even though they are not perfect they make reality more understandable than it would otherwise be if left unlabeled.

Understanding reality is the chief function of the ego which has taken on the task of making a livable space within reality. Two paths an ego can take to understand reality are science and religion / spirituality. Science seems to rely heavily upon labels. It defines things and in doing so it makes them less than what they actually are. But by doing this it allows scientists to work with the information and arrive at answers.  Theories and equations (for example) are labels. This is the language that science speaks. Religion and spirituality, by contrast, while using labels symbolically also attempts to appreciate at the whole of reality itself. This is its language. As such science and spirituality don’t speak the same language. Because of this they tend to become dismissive of each other.

The ego is an ally in that it seeks to navigate the vast ocean of reality. But unchecked the ego can run amuck. An unchecked ego does not lead to happiness. There is a balancing act between the ego and the truth of reality. The ego desires to make truth understandable. But by doing so through labels the ego makes truth something less than what it actually is. At the same time this function is necessary because without it there would be much less understanding or perhaps no understanding at all.

The self comes to understand that labels are not the truth through observation. Under normal circumstances the self thinks of the label as the thing itself. This is perhaps the best the self can do under the circumstances. Meditation seems to be a way to take in the whole thing or perhaps to take in something more than just the label. But for most people life cannot be lived in a state of meditation. As such labels are useful and necessary but perhaps should be appreciated for what they actually are from time to time.

1 Comment

Filed under Psychology, Uncategorized

Passive Aggressive Behavior is an Insurance Policy

When I act passive aggressively I am hedging my bets. I am lashing out with the thin veneer of not lashing out. Everyone knows I am lashing out (or at least can feel it) but if accused I can deny it. This behavior comes from a place of both anger and fear. I am angry. That is the reason I lash out in the first place. I am afraid of the consequences of lashing out. That is why I strive to maintain deniability. The reason I choose not to outright display my anger and fear honestly is because of shame. Shame tells me I am not entitled to display my true emotions because to do so would break the rules and defy a social hierarchy. In this hierarchy shame tells me I occupy a very low rung. I am allowed to look down upon those who occupy a lower rung but I am not allowed to impose upon those who occupy the higher rungs. Shame tells me that displaying my true emotions is an imposition upon those who occupy higher rungs than me. But that anger (being a true emotion) still exists and wants to come out of me. And so I buy an insurance policy of passive aggression. My anger comes out of me cloaked in deniability. It is not as authentic or cathartic as a true expression of anger would be but it acts as a release valve and lowers the pressure of the simmering volcano that is my bottled up anger.

Of course the recipient of my passive aggression feels the true emotion behind it. Because it was expressed passive aggressively the recipient experiences a certain disgust in reaction to my cowardice and subsequent dishonest denial of my true emotions. This disgust is palpable and I agree with it for I disgust myself (when I act with passive aggression). This increases my anger and my shame. I am angry with the world for putting me in this position. I am angry with myself for not rising above it. I am ashamed of myself for not rising above it and resorting to passive aggression as the only means of expressing my anger. The more I persist in this state of affairs the higher I raise the cost of pulling it all down. The more I persist with passive aggression the more I fear expressing my true emotions and bearing my hypocrisy to the world. They will see the truth and judge me. I will see the truth and judge myself. Maintaining deniability not only means I can deny my true emotions and intentions to the world but it also means I can deny them to myself.

And so I have purchased this insurance policy of passive aggression. It saves me from experiencing the full weight of the tragedy of my shame. Never fully experiencing it will also insure that I never rise above it. But rising above it requires that I feel its full weight. That is too scary a proposition.

Leave a comment

Filed under Shame