Happy birthday? Not always: The process of pushing out a child, or a book

Stan Grof studies the psychological impact of the birth process

There is a movement within psychology which looks at the impact of an infant’s birth experience on later behavior. This is a controversial arena, and in western culture this position was initially articulated in the 1924 book, The Trauma of Birth, by Otto Rank, who was an important member of Sigmund Freud’s inner circle. He did not remain in the inner circle after he published the book.

More recently, these issues have been explored by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, whose therapeutic techniques and experiences led him an interesting theory about the birth process. In a nutshell, Grof asserts that a our experiences before, during and immediately after birth have far-reaching consequences in forming our style of viewing the world and handling reality during our post-natal existence.

Whether Grof’s theory makes sense to you or not, as a writer it may be instructive to view your style of engaging (or disengaging) in writing using the metaphor of the birth process. Here are some ways of doing this:

* Childbirth and writing projects both have an arc that include a germination, incubation, growth and development, energetic movement forward amidst resistance, and a final release out into the world. With your writing, where in this schema do you experience ease, struggle or blocks?

* Throughout both processes, there is the risk that things will happen that complicate the journey, perhaps even threatening the life of the baby/project. Is there a repetitive pattern in your writing of hitting points where it all seems too complicated and the project is aborted?

* There may be intense emotion and pain in both of these creative processes that is unavoidable. Mothers, babies and writers all encounter challenges in their labors due to physical, psychological, or interpersonal factors that make them feel stuck during the process. Consider whether intense emotion or pain is connected with being stuck in your writing. How does it arise, what do you feel, and how do you handle it?

* The mother, the baby and the writer all benefit from human support during their labors, but at the end of the day they go through the experience alone. Are you supported in your writing by others? Is the experience of aloneness ever a factor with your willingness to continue with the labor of writing?

* When the baby is finally born, or the book is finished, there is typically a sense of accomplishment, joy, pride, gratification and relief.  Are you able to complete the delivery of your writing? Ralph Ellison labored on his gestating second novel for 40 years, to no avail. To prevent it from dying, his editors had to pull it out with forceps after Ellison passed away.

How is your vulnerable, newborn work received, and by whom? Do these reactions impact your productivity or readiness to write? In the not too distant past, babies were lifted from their mothers and spanked heartily as a welcome to the world. Newborn books sometimes get spanked too.

Have a happy birthday, and give yourself the gift of a writing a few more lines for your baby.

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About David Arnot Rasch

Author, psychologist, speaker, workshop leader
This entry was posted in Famous writers, Mental health and writing blocks, Tips for overcoming writer's block and procrastination and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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