Adventures in Process Work: Befriending the blocker
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
In 2020, a recurring theme for me (and many people in my orbit) was a sense of being continually blocked. No matter what we tried, it seemed, something would get in the way. Plans falling through, delays, cancellations, sudden changes in direction, opportunities presenting themselves and disappearing (or turning out to be not-so-shiny) .... all of these experiences characterised the year from about March onwards. While we all understood that COVID-19 had changed things, it seemed deeper than that. It was as if all our practices and approaches that had worked so well in the past had suddenly been rendered useless. The 'magic button' was broken. We were left wondering: Who changed the recipe for success in work/relationships/creative projects/health, and why didn't they let us know? For me, a lot of 2020 felt like being in a car that was bogged. In some areas of my life, it was as if I had my foot on the accelerator (which used up a lot of my energy and stressed me out) and all that had shifted was tons of mud as it flew up from my spinning wheels. A whole lot of work for very little return.
In these kinds of stuck situations, the common responses are to look inward and find ourselves wanting ('it must be something wrong with me', 'maybe I'm not as good/desirable/competent as I thought I was', 'I just need to work harder') and/or get angry and frustrated with the world, or shut down. All of these responses are understandable and very, very human. At one time or another in 2020, I experienced all of them (and many others). This resulted in me riding waves of exhaustion, sadness, anger, rage, fear, hopelessness and despair. As difficult as this experience was, I have no regrets or shame about it. In fact, I realised that a lot of what was happening inside me related to very old, unacknowledged emotions that needed to be properly felt for the first time (not just intellectualised and suppressed) and released. With each intense bout of feeling and release came new insights into myself. And then, recently, after I cleared enough space in my inner world, I tried a new response: Curiosity...
What would it be like, I wondered, to get to know this 'blocker' better? In a Process Work session, I had the opportunity to deeply feel in to the experience of what it was like to be stuck, constricted, blocked. I envisioned myself in a car that was deeply bogged. I felt the tension and effort in my body as I jammed my foot on the accelerator. I smelled the mud as it flew all around me and slid down the windows (reminding me of the 'scattergun' approach I had been taking lately -- throwing everything at the wall and hoping something would stick). I was completely immersed in the intense frustration of not being able to move an inch forward.
And then, my process suddenly changed direction. I looked ahead and saw a figure standing on a bridge in front of me. He was dressed like a knight and said to me: 'You shall not pass'. Behind this knight was a thick veil of mist that I could not see beyond. He reminded me of the Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace -- his solid and tree-like stillness, focus, single-minded determination and complete inability to be distracted from his task. There was no way I was going to get past this guy. 'What a pain he is', I thought. 'He's the one keeping me stuck here.'
Then the person facilitating my process asked me to shapeshift and become the knight. When I did, what I noticed immediately was how sharp his eyesight was and where his gaze was directed. He was scanning the veil of mist, watching for little portals that were opening up. Through the portals, I could see flickering little lights of opportunity. They closed up again almost as soon as I noticed them. I stepped back into my own persona and asked the knight for some advice. He said 'Don't get bogged down and use up all your energy just doing, doing, doing. Stop looking down at your own feet! Keep looking ahead. Be still and calm. Wait, and focus on what is happening in front of you. When you see an opportunity, be ready to strike.' He then placed a bow and arrow in my hands and showed me how to use it. The moment a portal of light opened, I fired an arrow through the portal and made a direct hit.
I got the message. I need to relax and let go a little, stop pushing so much, focus on what is important and be a little more targeted in my approach .... use my energy more effectively and not spread myself so thin ....... scan the horizon so I can spot opportunities when they arise and jump on them ...... be less hard on myself. For me, the trickiest part about that way of being is trusting myself and the process. However, sometimes, just for a moment or two I catch myself being the knight. This usually happens when I am out in nature or doing an activity that is immersive and fun. And it is in those moments that I realise the 'magic button' has been pressed too many times, and with too much force. This button isn't broken, exactly; it has just been superseded by a bow and arrow.
An exercise you might like to try (with thanks to the amazing Elsa Henderson, who created and shared a version of this in a recent workshop):
Think of a situation in your life that feels blocked or stuck. What is this experience like for you?
The object of this exercise is to get beyond the situation and the story to the essential quality of 'blockedness' or 'stuckness' itself.....What does this energy feel like? Where do you feel its impact on or in your body? Which direction is it trying to move you in (e.g. backwards or downwards)? Is it pushing you or pulling you or pressing you, or something else? Make a gesture with your hand that represents this energy. Is it solid or soft, cold or warm? Does it have a colour or a shape or a sound? Get to know everything there is to know about this energy. Keep feeling into it until it is detached from the story. You will know this has happened when you get that sense that (even if it's uncomfortable or unfamiliar) it's neither good nor bad -- it's just an energy. Now, become this energy; try it on for size for a couple of minutes. Move like it moves. See what it sees.
Then, and only then, see if a figure emerges to embody this energy and become it. This figure could be anything or anyone -- a person, an animal, a rock, a creature, a tree. Just let it emerge and don't question what pops up in your mind's eye .... Then, move like it moves. Sit or stand like it would sit or stand. Notice how your posture has changed. If it has a voice, speak using the tone it would use. Notice which direction it is looking in (up, down, sideways), where its attention is focused, and how far into the distance it is looking. As you embody this figure, notice what it is like to see through its eyes and experience the world from its perspective. What does it want? What message does it have for you that can help you with your situation?