I want to write

I’ve spent one and a half to two years studying Getting Real, T-groups, and Radical Honesty. These are bodies of knowledge of therapeutic communication that belong to the legacy of Fritz Perls and his Gestalt therapy. It would be fair to call these “schools” of communication, in the sense that they are each a “school of thought,” that all attempt to empower individuals to alleviate suffering – their own suffering and the suffering that arises in their relationships – by using speech to create a different relationship with their moment-to-moment experience.

Their main idea is that we all have a connection to Being and life is more wonderful when connection is free-flowing, but humans have a habit of interrupting that connection with our minds. So they teach individuals how to be precisely aware of their moment-to-moment subjective experience of their own minds, bodies, and emotions, with the idea that being able to really see and talk about what’s going on in your experience is a kind of power. Descriptive awareness is a form of consciousness, and extending the light of descriptive awareness shrinks the unconscious mind and its ability to run our lives. As the saying goes: if you can see it, you don’t have to be it.

If you were to go to a workshop from one of these schools, they’d probably teach you things like: much of what we perceive is actually interpretation rather than raw data, and our interpretations, which may be entirely ill-fitting to the current situation or outdated, determine what options we perceive and how we live our lives; it’s possible to distinguish between the data you perceive, the thoughts you have about the data, and the feelings that arise from those thoughts, and successfully distinguishing between these can loosen the sense of attachment to the moment and bring about a sense of subjective freedom; and how to describe subjective experiences of emotions and verbally label and communicate them.

I think of this as a bit like Buddhist meditation through talking.

Anyway, one of the things these schools teach is to express wants. I personally found this to be very illuminating. I realized that I want shit nearly all of the time! Even when what I’m doing right now is going pretty well!

Wants are different from judgments, and the distinction is crucial. Wants usually appear and are expressed in the form of “I want,” while judgments are usually “I should.” I experience my wants as jumping up in my mind with the charming immediacy and insistence of a toddler – “I want you to love me” – and I experience my judgments as pushing into my mind with the slouching resentment of a status-insecure teenager in a school cafeteria – “they should really like me more.” Judgments and “should”s are exercises of force, separation, and disconnected mental energy.

So, I can hear you asking, where am I going with this?

For more than half my life I have wanted to write, nay, to be a writer.

I have struggled with that want, and my struggle has felt a lot like the arguments I had in my house when I was a kid: I make a case to write, and in response I hear a case to not write; when I take a conciliatory tone I feel wounded and disappointed, and when I take a direct tone I feel harsh and rigid; and no matter what I end up feeling confused, exhausted, and no closer to a successful resolution.

I think that part of the problem has been that all this time I’ve been arguing that “I should write.” That “should” acts as a pivot point which sets write versus don’t write as two opposing weights on either side of the pivot, and then my mind starts trying to figure out which one would actually be more impactful in my life.

This turns into a courtroom argument. One part of me says I should write because it will surely produce XYZ benefits, and another part of me says I shouldn’t write because it will surely produce XYZ pains. In other words, I create and fall into a trap. I set myself up for arguments that are speculative (because I don’t actually know what benefits or pains writing will have for me until I do it) and endless (because they are speculative).

What if the solution were simple? What if the solution were just “I want to write”?

“I should write” produces an entirely different response in my body than “I want to write.” When I hear the former, I want to argue and the situation becomes ever more complex. When I hear the latter, I want to give that charmingly demanding toddler part of me what it wants and the situation becomes very simple: I can just give myself what I want. After all, I like giving people what they want.

As I write this, I am filled with goodness like honey in my belly. I wish that your world has this same goodness. I wish that you, too, know how to identify, express, and get what you want. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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