A Deeper Truth | Feeling Stifled | more thoughts on writing
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Feeling Stifled | more thoughts on writing

Feeling Stifled | more thoughts on writing

Yesterday and today I have been reading some of the books I have on writing. I am still thinking about this issue of writing and why it is a struggle. When I think of sitting down to write, there is a resistance. I know this. In my last post I wrote about this, in that writing feels like swimming through molasses. But I have a question today about this process and the process for any of us held back by aspects of life.

Ultimately what keeps me from writing is not liking the slow drawn out experience, the time it takes. But what is this? It is an experience, a feeling/emotion. Why does this stop me? How is it that emotions or internal experiences are this powerful? If I want to be a writer then I should write. If someone else wants to be a dancer or a painter or an account executive or a gardener but feels stuck in moving forward toward those goals, how is it that emotion alone can keep them stuck?

We have internal states of being that are a part of our being. We dismiss emotions a lot of the time and talk about moving past them, feeling them, being mindful of them, and not always letting them run the show. Other times we need to listen to them and let them run the show. But we also underestimate the power of these internal forces. They are usually much broader and deeper than “feelings” or “emotions”. They are ‘felt senses’ or ‘being-states’ that have very much to do with being alive, being us. So it isn’t as easy sometimes to just say, who cares what you are feeling, just do it anyway. I’m not saying this is never appropriate or most beneficial to us, but I also think constant pushing through being-states just creates the type of being-states that keep us stuck in other ways. Being-states must be felt and experienced and understood.

But back to my question. Even if all that is true. I’m still amazed at how powerful my resistance to writing can be. How powerful my resistance to any discipline really. I hate it. I hate assignments, I hate keeping notes as a therapist, I hate regular activity that must be maintained. My best explanation for this is my utter distaste and fear of being trapped. I believe I felt very trapped in childhood and this feeling continues to get in the way as an adult. It is more so my own perception of being trapped that creates a feeling of the need for explosion. I feel stifled by discipline and I feel stifled by writing. I’ve always said that “I just want to be done!” When I would write papers for school I would just sit down and write as fast as I could to get done as fast as I could. I barely re-read the paper because once I was done I felt FREE!

Freedom. Freedom is why I don’t like writing. Once I sit down to write, which is slow and methodical, I feel trapped. I feel the same feeling inside I might feel if I were to hold my breath. I want to exhale loudly and get angry, pushing off the stifling force holding me under water: the words and sentences and paragraphs that require my critical thought and my sitting in one place, my “having” to be there in that moment. I read a book on perfectionism once and it talked about an internal dynamic called “demand-resistance” and this is something one can apply even to their own demands. I suffer from this. I resist all demands in order to feel freedom. But am I really free in my freedom if I am not doing what a deeper calling within me wants to do?

I realize that freedom isn’t being able to do whatever you want. But this is still how I live my life: in fear that any turn or decision will leave me trapped, without ability to freely escape. I don’t like committing to much. I don’t even fully commit to a psychological or spiritual theory. The interesting thing is that I am a 6 on the Enneagram circle and it requires security. Sixes usually struggle with anxiety, as I do, and need and look for security, finding it in relationships and theories and other sorts of experiences that make them feel secure. I need this, but I don’t give it to myself. I work on my own, with no connection to other colleagues in my town, no commitment to doing my job under one theory, and I can’t even commit to being a therapist. I also left my childhood religion because it was way too confining and the 6 in me wants to return for security. But I have a stronger part that perceives almost all of life as a loss of freedom.

Through this, I wonder if I struggle to even commit to myself; to allowing me to fully be me, because even that would feel confining. But the irony is in the reality that embracing me and all my limitations and boundaries will actually bring freedom. I believe and understand that we can only experience freedom within the boundaries of our lives in specific and within the boundaries of life in general. So I must embrace the feeling of trapped-ness in order to embrace the deeper part of me.

I can feel the stifling right now. I’m very aware of this energy stifling me. I feel angry. I want to push back and break it to pieces and say “get the fuck off!” What would I encourage my clients to do if we got to this point? I would encourage them to spend more time with this stifling sense and get to know it – that it has information in it that it is trying to communicate. I must be so annoying to my clients when I tell them that because I don’t want to sit with this feeling at all. I seriously want to smash it, I hate it. But I know the power in staying with it. It’s amazing how much it feels like someone is holding me down. I have an idea where this comes from but I’ve thought it before and felt no new movements. It’s a recurring theme and feeling in my life and possibly one where insight alone is not enough. One I must work through internally, one I must work through in writing possibly.

  • William Fraker
    Posted at 18:16h, 15 April Reply

    I feel like I know the writer’s struggle as you describe it. It makes me want to tackle my own blocks. It makes me wonder if the blocks and incompleteness in us can become a bridge to others when it is refigured into writing or made visible in art or given expression in therapy. Any sense of wholeness could not be recognized without brokenness and its burdens. Even failure provides hope when it does not keep us from returning to the writer’s struggle.

  • JMac
    Posted at 09:23h, 16 April Reply

    I like that William. The bridge of art. We connect through the shared experience of brokenness put out there in front of us in writing, music, art, dance, etc.

  • Giovanni Vidotto
    Posted at 21:48h, 25 April Reply

    I don’t feel a resistance to writing – I want to write; however, I don’t always enjoy the process, but do find it rewarding and fulfilling. I find it sometimes fatiguing, demanding. I feel more like a sculpter when I write – trying to free the figure trapped in stone (like Michael Angelo described). What I enjoy is the final product which I then like to transmit with my voice to an audience. I want them to hear the piece as my soul conceived it. I need that relationship with a person or group of persons who “hear” my work, and then give feedback. I want to witness the way in which my work impacts people, and adds to their lives.

    It would be great to get together with you and other writers that you may know of and talk about writing. Perhaps we can share our work with one another and give feedback. What do you think?

    • William Fraker
      Posted at 03:55h, 11 June Reply

      I am finding a local group of writers helpful because they are committed to their own writing, offer feedback, and provide artificial deadlines for me. This past weekend I learned that I could use a snipet of writing from several months ago and use it in connection with a current issue for me. It led to the basis of a poem written in about a half hour. The group, later in the afternoon, helped me remove one line. I learned the value of writing regularly, even if I don’t know what to do with it. I will now save the scraps that I would normally discard. A virtual group maybe something to consider. Maybe the poem deserves additional feedback:

      On a Rainy Day in November

      A rainy day surfaces as the hours past.
      I get into the garage and look for books to include
      In the packages prepared for sailors at sea in November.
      I, too, want to run to the ocean until I realize
      There lies a beast or a wonder, unsuspected,
      Contained in articles and boxes
      Left untouched, covered in neglect,
      Framed in the resets of generations.
      After putting my mother into a nursing home,
      Years of waves no longer connect to a tide.
      I no longer sense the shore or the harbor
      Of my childhood home; I, too, am cast at sea.

      © W. Fraker

  • DDunc
    Posted at 17:49h, 10 June Reply

    Just came across this after googling “feeling stifled” – as I read your words it was as though I heard my own voice speaking them (remembering perhaps the times I’ve tried to write on why it’s so hard to write!). Thanks for posting this. I’ve often described others as chronic resistors only to realize that it is my own perspective that frames them as such, thanks for giving a name to it — demand-resistance describes perfectly an aspect of my perception that is so fundamental as to be invisible (if you know what I mean). Any chance you could remember the reference for that, or know of any other good resources on the demand-resistance dynamic?


    • JMac
      Posted at 20:49h, 10 June Reply

      Hi Dylan. Thanks for stopping by and reading! I heard the concept in a book called Too Perfect about a variety of manifestations of perfectionism. The concept is very psychodynamic, focusing on internal conflicts. You might find that book helpful.

      Cheers and good luck!


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