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“I write compulsively and can’t stop.”

“I write compulsively and can’t stop.”
November 18, 2015 Ann Weiser Cornell

Focusing Tip #487


“I write compulsively and finally crash from exhaustion, and I’m incapacitated for days afterward.”


A Reader writes:
My question is how to work with something in me that at times writes compulsively to such a degree that I do not sleep for up to 36 hours straight, forget to eat or drink water, and only stop when I finally crash from exhaustion.

This seems very much like an addiction, both because of my perceived lack of control over it (as if I myself am not the one doing it, even though I know I am), and because of the consequences to my health, since it incapacitates me for days afterward. It is not that what I am writing is important, either, such as a major life or job project. The writing itself is something that could be done at my leisure or not at all, but at the time, it seems essential and urgent, and I also notice feeling desperation and anxiety.

Something else in me feels impotent and very frustrated about this behavior, and it worries desperately about the effects on my long-term health, and it is upset because this interferes with getting things done that matter to me. It wants to make the behavior stop, but of course, that is not effective. I identify mainly with this part. I have been able to control the behavior to some extent by avoiding writing, but this is very inconvenient, and eventually I start to write a little again, and it recurs.

Dear Reader:
I really appreciate your courage in writing to me about this issue, and your commitment to deeply understanding it and learning about what is underneath this challenging pattern of behavior.

Yes, this is what I would call an addiction: there is an out-of-control behavior that another part of you is extremely worried about, yet can’t stop.

The first step is to invite the part of you that does the compulsive writing to come into your awareness in a Focusing session. Let it know that you are not trying to change it, you just want to get to know it better.

When you start to feel it in your body, you can say Hello to it and describe what it feels like. Then you can start to sense its emotional state. You said in your letter that there is desperation and urgency. It would be so great to get curious about what gets it so desperate. You might also discover if there is something it is trying to protect you from, or avoid.

As you listen deeply to it, without an agenda, without trying to change it, you may start to feel it relaxing. This sound like something far-reaching that may not change in a single session, but as you begin to form a relationship with it, the steps of change begin.

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