Counter Arts
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Counter Arts


Life Hacking “Writer’s Block”

Access the “flow” state as you need it

The headphones for when I don’t wanna make too much fucking noise

In case you don’t know this about me, Will and his prompts are currently keeping me writing.

I have a ton of stories in my head.

This one, for example, is one that I’ve been meaning to write for some time, but I often procrastinate simply because I’m afraid of rejection. (This is important, but you may not realise how important, yet).

It occurred to me, one day, that this is probably why other writers get stuck as well. I’m not a unique snowflake. Really.

In his latest prompt, Will nails it exactly, and entirely intuitively.

“The wood shed saves me from sitting around drinking”

But I’m not gonna give you any sage advice on mental health and recovery, because that often gets people into trouble. Instead, I’ll just share honestly, from my own perspective, and people reading this will take what they want and leave the rest.

This is how this works best, in my experience. And I’ve had some of that in this area.

How it works — for me

My place in my charmingly dysfunctional family system, is the “scapegoat”, “the invisible child”, or the “identified patient”.

It’s not anybody’s fault and, usually, people don’t even mean to cause harm.

This is just multi-generational trauma and shitty coping mechanisms, developed to keep the members of the family “sane”, and passed on inadvertently to those still learning, to avoid dealing with what actually needs to be addressed because:

  1. Our natural instinct is to avoid pain
  2. Trauma is the mind disconnecting from the event to protect itself (and avoiding dealing with the event moving forward to do same)
  3. Family members are taught to avoid discussing the elephant in the room (the dysfunctional family environment) by older members because of the above

What develops, are a variety of “roles” in the family, assigned depending on the personality of each person, and their relationship to the primary care-givers.

It’s complicated and too much for a short story on Medium, but researching a bit more on dysfunctional family roles will give you a clear idea of how “relational” or “developmental” trauma “works”.

Most of the emotionally intelligent kids, who also happen to be more honest than other members, and who are unable to pretend there is nothing wrong with the picture, end up being cast into one of the roles I mention above.

We can’t pretend that we’re happy, because we know there is something “off”.

We present with this “cognitive dissonance” in a variety of ways…

  1. mental health challenges
  2. addiction problems
  3. acting out / anti-social behaviour

Or all of the above.

I wasn’t happy as a child.

I ran away. A lot!

Like, at the age of six, I would pack my l’il brown school case and off I went to find a happier place. Or, I would withdraw into my room in silence.

Often, nobody even noticed I was gone.

My mom thought this was hilarious and still laughs about it today. “I would ask if anyone had seen you after three days.” she giggles.

It didn’t even occur to me that there was something not quite right about this, until I did some recovery in an Adult Child program in my forties. The sponsor leading me through the learning, just looked at me, blankly, when I told her this (laughing as well, because programming and training of what “normal” is, right?), and said, “That’s not funny, and that’s not okay.”

This is when my real recovery actually began.

The drugs, alcohol and disordered eating were only symptoms.

Being the invisible child has made me unable to go for my dreams throughout my life. Or even admit that I had any at times.

It’s not my place to succeed. It’s not my place to make some fucking noise. It’s not my place to shine.

I’m the “difficult” child. The one who doesn’t fit in. The one who sees things differently, and can’t hide it. The one who isn’t okay with the status quo. The embarrassment. The alien in the family.

Not only am I laughed at because of my different perspective on how to live, relate and connect honestly, I’ve been repeatedly told that there’s something “wrong” with me. I don’t fit into polite society’s “norms”. I don’t shut up about the awkward silences. Or the unspoken dialogues. So I must be mentally unwell.

Even now… to this day… still…

despite me finally going to get an actual diagnosis to shut them up, and getting an official all clear.

They just choose to completely ignore this “all clear”, asserted by a leading treatment facility in my home town.

How nuts is that, right?

It’s also pretty interesting, if you can look at it more objectively.

At other times, I was the “addict”.

This despite everyone in my family having clearly addictive behaviours, and some even using substances daily.

I carried the burden of the family “addiction” until I got clean seven years ago and put that to rest. But I’m still the only one, apparently, who has “addiction” problems, because I sought recovery for them and owned that shit outright.

This is how this “works”.

I’ve done years of research into mental health, addiction and recovery. And I’ve walked my own journey into sobriety, stability and peace on top of it.

I know full well how this works, why it works, and that my family don’t even mean to do this. They’re in the same dream (denial keeps everyone safe), acting out the same dysfunction, with the same coping mechanisms that were passed on to me, accidentally.

A couple of my cousins, more like I am, have also been assigned the same roles as I.

Too honest. Too aware of the insanity. Too rebellious to simply accept it. So they must be “crazy”, right?

One was diagnosed with BiPolar. She is not. She’s, also, slowly beginning to accept that her lack of peace may not actually be hers to carry. She’s been watching me move on from the family dysfunction. Her perspective is shifting because of this. And she’s gaining ground in her recovery, fast.

Writer’s block?

It’s when my “relational/developmental trauma” has been triggered.

It’s when I’m afraid to be me, because of the possible consequences. The inevitable retaliation for sharing too honestly. The fearful accusations that follow. The triggered attacks to keep me quiet. To preserve the outward appearances of “normal” and “acceptable”.

I lose my voice. Still.

This despite my years of learning and training in this area. This is how deep this programming goes.

I must be quiet. I must be a “good” girl. I mustn’t “rock the boat”. I must make sure mama/dada is okay. I’m responsible for their happiness. It’s my fault if they’re sad/angry/stressed.

Yep. Even stressed parenting causes this kind of trauma in emotionally sensitive kids.

Again. It’s often unintentional.

And every child blames themselves for a parent’s struggles. Whether they are sensitive or not.

This is a fact.

Every child thinks that there is something “wrong” with them if a parent is unhappy. That it must, somehow, be their fault.

An ongoing situation with a primary care-giver who is struggling, results in an extremely low sense of self worth in a child at best. At worst. relational/developmental trauma

— and shame is a primary symptom of trauma…

and shame makes a person hide in a corner. Quietly. In silence.

I share because I understand how this works, but an inner part of me often holds back, still. And, sometimes still, when I have been triggered by a big ‘un, I am tempted retreat in silence again.

For a while.

I know enough to fix it pretty fast.


You think you have writer’s block?

I would suggest that something within you, has set your fight/flight response off.


Writer’s block could be one of these three: Flight/Fawn/Freeze

Flight: removing yourself from a possible conflict
Fawn: people-pleasing/fawning to avoid conflict
Freeze: shutting down completely to avoid conflict

“My place has been the shed. It gets me moving and using my brain for a very different form of construction than writing.” — Will Hull

While I’m not presuming to know anything about why he may be struggling to write at times, Will steps away from using his voice and takes a far better approach to dealing with whatever thoughts and emotions have got him “stuck” — and avoids alcohol (self medication for those times that aren’t that comfortable).

This gets him moving again.


Woodwork is tactile

Using different cognition processes, and connecting with the senses, is a fast way of coming back to the present and emotionally regulating.

Seeing and naming six colours of things around you. Reaching out, feeling six textures around you, and naming them.

Basically, the goal is to come back to the present moment as fully as possible.

This is done by regulating the para-sympathetic nervous system (the “lizard/reptile” brain), which has been (unnecessarily) triggered into fight/flight.

By doing something that regulates your nervous system, you’ll be able to move back into the present moment, and (hopefully) back into the “flow” state, as it is commonly referred to.

A person can control this state, and access it as needed, using relevant skills and tools… once we are aware of what is happening.

Although the type of trauma that develops from ongoing environmental trauma (relational and developmental = C-PTSD), is hardly even noticeable because we have come to accept it as “normal” simply because we were raised with it, it initiates the same response as full on PTSD when it is “triggered.”

The only difference is… while PTSD has visual flashbacks, C-PTSD has “emotional flashbacks”.

Are you suffering with a “mood disorder”?

Anxiety? Depression?


Are you sure?

Where do I go when I can’t be here now?

I walk.

Barefoot on the earth is best.

Yes. It is.

Your nervous system actually does physically sync with your surroundings. It’s why petting animals works so well for people who are struggling. Now scientifically proven.

I also wade in streams when I find them.

Using temperature to emotionally ground is suggested in DBT practices. I did this even before I was educated on these tools, because it works like a mutherfuckin’ bomb. And I love to swim.

Splash freezing cold water on your face if you are having a melt down, and see how fast you come back to the present moment.

I look at the horizon and breathe in the open space of it while I walk.

I practice soft focus (focusing on the natural beauty / absorbing the “magic” of nature).

I lie on the ground, palms spread up to the sun and feet flopped out to the sides unhindered, to feel the support of the earth beneath me, holding me fast.

I breathe in the scent of the grass, or even rain.

I look up!

I see the enormous sky above me, the birds circling unfettered and uncaring as they keep it simple and do what birds do, and I am in awe of how big the world is. And how little all of this means, mostly, in the bigger picture.

And I make eye contact.

I force myself to smile at strangers, even if I want to disappear and hide. As I have been trained to do. This could be read both ways and I’ve left it as is, but I choose the one that moves me away from the one that keeps me stuck.

This is how you heal.

I sing!

I bang away on my old guitar that I’ve never really learned to play properly in thirty odd years, and I sing. Out of tune. My voice quavery and thin when I’m stressed the fuck out. Deeper and more melodic and even almost in tune, when I’m grounded.

Singing raises the tone of the Vagus nerve. The Vagus nerve controls the nervous system.

Singing is a quick way to emotionally regulate.

I work directly with the body to regulate and manage my emotional states.

It’s faster than “talk therapy” and it works every time, unlike the latter, which depends entirely on how good a therapist is.

In my personal experience, there are a lot of therapists who should not be working at all, sadly.

I dance

I fucking dance!

I put on tracks that uplift me, and I boogie until I am relaxed again.

I feel the hard, solid floor under my feet while I move. The air against my skin.

I work through every part of my body and consciously connect with it again. I stretch. I yawn widely. I shake it out. Until I forget that I’m even moving and I’m completely absorbed in the music.

Try it. Just move and see what you have trapped in your back and shoulders. I urge you. It’s an experiential acknowledgement of your truth, to take this all out of the mind and feel what is happening in the body.

It’s a dead giveaway.

p.s. There is nothing “wrong” with you

Thanks for your reading time!

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