How are Writer’s Block and Trauma Response Related?
“We cannot control the outcome of our actions. Still, we can turn toward the world, plant good seeds, and trust that they will eventually bear fruit”
After procrastinating all week, I finally just opened a blank page, to write my article, and I simply have nothing in the tank, no inspiration, no pithy sayings, no banter at all.
So, why am I sitting here, when what I want to be doing is to be climbing back into bed with my latest book, my puppies, and some nighty night tea? Well, you see, I have a coach and she suggests that when you hit a block and you feel you “got nothing” to say, you write about having nothing to say. I also have a rule, which is: if I ask someone for suggestions or advice, I listen to it. So here I am feeling frustrated and a little scared of being all out of words, yet practicing and showing up to my commitment to myself.
And still, I got nothing!!
So let’s try something here: … feet on the ground… taking a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly… I close my eyes… I bring my energy, thoughts, and focus home to me… and I ask “what is in the way?” I hear the softest little voice, and she says that she feels afraid, she feels vulnerable, she feels sad, and she feels alone, and although she feels lonely, she does not want to be seen.
Well, that’s interesting!! So here we go!! I have a question to write on, and that is “what makes us want to isolate or recoil when we are feeling injured or vulnerable?”
My body’s reasonable request
I guess it makes sense to want to hide out, I mean all animals tend to find a place to conceal themselves when injured, looking for a cacoon of bushes where they may assess and lick their wounds, seeking a place to be safe, in order to preserve themselves from further attack.
This all seems very reasonable, to me!!
Yet I have a niggle. and that niggle is a voice asking me the simple question; “Is this true? Are you truly unsafe and in need of cover?”
This is where I admit to myself, that I am not at risk of being attacked and although my heart may need some tending to, I have the ability to honor that need for tenderness* AND at the same time I can match my nervous system with what is true: I am safe, I am loved, I am cared for. By doing this I maintain the willingness and ability to stay engaged in my experience. I recognize that hiding is an old tactic, and at this point, I can make a very intentional and aware choice to stay awake and in the creation of my life.
- Some of the ways I was tender with myself this week: Rest and sound sleep, meditation, yoga, journaling, feeling, whole foods healthy nourishment, many long lingering baths, connection and truthfulness with trusted friends and colleagues, support from mentors, and miles of walking in nature.
Reasonable does not mean true.
As I unfold this for myself. I recognize that where I was when I began this article, is a trauma response. I was experiencing false cues of danger emotionally, and physically. Cues leftover from a time long since gone, and cues that are not useful right now, as they submerge me into a state of collapse.
“After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment.” ― Judith Lewis Herman
A trauma response where we can feel anything from unease to disconnection, to impending doom, can be completely mesmerizing and may catapult us into archaic ways of operating, in an attempt to feel safe. No matter what the operating system is, control, hiding, distraction, or any number of other behaviors, we can find ourselves engulfed before we know what is happening. We begin to see everything through the lens of dysregulation.
Above, in my public display of a miscue, because of very real recent events, I was feeling it was dangerous or unsafe to write for consumption, and my autonomic system went into an old way of operating, which is flight, shutdown, collapse, and procrastination.
Through practices of regulation (I used breathing, listening, feeling, and continuing to write), we are able to create space between ourselves and our experiences. We can recognize that although it is painful and scary, we are not in imminent danger as our nervous system would like us to believe we are*. This space allows us to create the distance needed to discern the possible mismatch of energy. In other words, is the energy or emotion appropriate to the situation, or is our central nervous system miscueing danger?
Something to remember here is that we cannot think our nervous system into feeling safe. Safety is an autonomic experience and not in the brain, and the autonomic nervous system’s job is to tell us how we are, end of the story. In order to understand my state through all of my systems, I brought my body online through my breath and through feeling my feet on the ground, I then acknowledged what I was feeling, and named it. Lastly, I guided my nervous system, to a place of regulation by asking “what is true right now? Regulation is the state where all parts of us are accessible and online, and not simply our survival state of fight, flight, or collapse.
Another thing to note is that our subconscious always knows what’s going on and is always paying attention. By becoming quiet and listening, I gained perspective and awareness, and I heard quite readily what I was feeling, which allowed the journey back into a state of regulation to begin. This state is where life is full and our heart is open. A state where choice and creativity live and where our story can transform from a story of an unsafe world and unsafe people to a story of possibility and abundance.
- I want to acknowledge our beautiful autonomic system and how useful it was in the past and how useful it is in the present. We want the ability to shunt all energy into flight at the appropriate time, we also want the ability to shut down as needed, yet today I also recognize those reactions are misaligned with the actual experience I am having.
“Trauma is hell on earth. Trauma resolved is a gift from the gods.”
~ Peter A. Levine
I feel I have just tapped the tip of the iceberg here and there is so much more to be said about living with trauma, I will save that for another article. Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey, and please do drop me a comment if this resonates.
*Although this article has some useful tips and speaks to my journey, there are varying levels of trauma. Please always take care of yourself and seek out professional support if you think you are experiencing residual trauma.
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