Tuesday, September 04, 2007

TO WRITE: An "Aha!" Moment

We've all had them, though for me they don't come quite as often as I'd like: moments of sudden clarity, insight, or understanding.

For me, these flashes often occur either during a dream, or just as I'm awakening from some important-feeling dream. I suppose that mysterious sub-conscious mind is working overtime to get the message up to the surface where I can identify it. But I've also had "aha" moments when studying complicated calculus formulas or biochemical cycles. Somehow, sometimes, that period of long, arduous concentration pays off when it all clicks.

For those of us battling mood disorders, it's always important to be open to new insights about what troubles us and what we can do about it. For example, it took me a long time to figure out why I frequently belittled myself about a particular past event -- then it dawned on me one day that perhaps another person bore some responsibility there too. This was a moment of great relief for me, as well as a time of bewilderment: Why didn't I think of that before?

Play with this. . .
Write continuously for 20 minutes on a time you felt a moment of clarity or insight. What was it about? Did something special trigger it? How did it feel?

Then consider: What does this incident tell you about yourself or the particular ways your unique mind thinks and feels? Was the flash you described useful for you? Are there any ways you could replicate the situation in order to invite more such insights? (Personally, I think I will return to my old habit of recording my dreams in the mornings!)


Derrick said...

I've had many moments of insight, especially lately. I've been writing and reading voraciously. Unfortunately, the nature of mood disorders creates distrust of my own thoughts,ideas and emotions. If I have a thought and feel good about it, a voice in my head is telling me that its just a manic phase. I can never really tell what's me, what's the medication, what the disease. Maybe its all me. With depression, we are always trying to 'fix' ourselves. The underlying belief being that there is something wrong that needs fixing. Its difficult to have a good, positive sense of myself with this belief. CBT tells us that such thoughts are mistaken or distorted and they can be replaced in order to feel better. How do we know if that is true or real. Maybe these thoughts (i.e. I can't be a writer, researcher, or poet because I have no talent) are real. I get so mixed up in my head.

While watching a movie this morning, I had a moment of insight. Writers don't just want to write. They want people to read what they write. Without being published, the writing is all in our notebooks or in our head. I am a writer. I have essays, poems, and satirical pieces crammed into my notebooks. With the rare exception of friends and family, no one knows what's inside. My aha moment is that writers live with desperate need to be heard. This need may come from insecurity, low self-esteem, or a genuine belief that they have something valuable to say. Whatever it is, writers need readers.

Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer, Ph.D. said...

Hi Derrick,
Yes, I'm with you completely -- after a certain point, which is different for each person, writers definitely do need readers. I think that's a great insight. My guess is that it means you're at that point. In my opinion, it's good that you've shown even a little of your writing to others. How was that? If it wasn't positive, I'd find someone more supportive next time, such as another person with a mood disorder. There's also always blogging... I DO need readers too, for much of my writing (though I do some journaling just for me). I don't know where you are located, but if you're in an urban or suburban area of the US, you might consider submitting some of your writing to a local NAMI or DBSA newsletter and see how that feels. It can be very gratifying when someone says, "Yeah, that's just how I feel, but you were able to put it into words!" (Also see my recent posting on what to do with your writing for other ideas.) Your comments are very precise and succinct -- I don't see why people wouldn't love to read your work.

Stay in touch,
P.S. -- As far as CBT goes, my feeling is if it helps me feel better and it's not dangerous, I don't care if it's "real" or "true." For me, CBT has been a good addition to my various coping techniques; it makes me feel less out-of-control.