The thing with talking to monsters or having conversations with blocks is that it can be pretty freaking terrifying.


I mean, monsters! And stucknesses! Not the most fun company in the world. They say the meanest things. They know exactly where it hurts.

Oh, and they pretty much own guilt, shame, and the ability to make you feel crappy and incompetent.

So … a lot of people have been wondering how I do it without falling apart.

You know, aside from years of practice and having access to especially fabulous wackiness (like the emergency calming techniques, among other things).

At some point I’m going to have to write several posts about this, but for now I want to cover the art of mediation (no, not meditation, though that’s good stuff too), because that seems like the best place to start.

Mediating the experience.

If your life were an action-packed drama/thriller, you’d have someone brave and exceptionally competent whose job it is to negotiate with whoever is behind the hostage situation or the stand-off or whatever.

When it’s just you and your fears though, it can get pretty intimidating pretty fast.

Which is where mediation comes in.

Sometimes you bring in someone from the outside.

For example, with my clients I’m the one who gets to be the mediator.

That’s because one of my superpowers is that other people’s stucknesses talk to me. And they tell me the stuff they’d never tell you.

The book you’re not working on will tell me why it won’t let itself be written. Your fear will tell me why it’s trying to sabotage you and what it plans to do next. Your guilt will tell me what it needs to go away.

And since my other superpower is wacky intuitive stuckness-zapping, I know how to help the stuck dissolve and disappear once I’ve listened to it.

And sometimes you bring someone in from the inside.

You don’t have to use me. Or anyone from the outside, for that matter. Because you can learn to be a mediator too.

And if you can’t, you can try calling on one.

I do this too when I work on my own stuff.

You’ve probably read the posts where I negotiate with my fears and talk to my walls. That’s a pretty advanced form of internal mediation.

But sometimes there’s something that is so scary and so hard and so stuck that I don’t feel strong enough to encounter it by myself.

And when that happens, I take myself out of the picture and I ask for someone to do the mediation for me. Someone else gets to have the conversation in my place.

Who is this someone who gets to mediate for me?

The Negotiator. The Angel of Mediation. My duck. Whoever I want.

This mediator is (unlike me in that moment) calm and self-possessed. Not invested in one side or another … but still determined to keep me feeling safe and supported.

This mediator knows what to say when I don’t because I’m too busy cowering in terror.

And then, instead of having the conversation, I write it down. Which is an extra layer of mediation.

Let’s have an example, shall we? But first, a bunch of disclaimer-ey stuff.

Disclaimer-ey stuff:

This is not easy. I don’t want to imply that it is. And I always use the emergency calming techniques first. And yes, it helps that I have years of practice with this. And your mileage may vary.

And I’m not suggesting that this will solve all your stuck. Just sharing some of the things that have helped me. Okay. Let’s go.

A mediated conversation with Havi’s monster.

The cast of characters.

The monster: enormous, formless, everywhere, threatening, comes in the form of the belief that all money needs to be *earned* and that if Havi doesn’t work a gazillion hours a day to support herself, she’s an awful, useless, hateful person.

The negotiator: strong, steady, calm, patience, interested. The negotiator is not there to judge the monster or to vanquish it. The negotiator is there to listen to it and find out what’s going on between them.

The scribe: She tries to write down what she hears without thinking about it or interacting with it. Just taking dictation. Nothing to do with her. Also, she has a duck to keep her company.

And we’re off …

The negotiator: Hey there, Havi’s monster. I was hoping I could talk with you.
Monster: growls
The negotiator: Tell me a bit about this rule that all money needs to be “earned” through very, very hard work.
Monster: There is nothing to talk about.
The negotiator: Okay. Let me ask you a question then. Let’s pretend that the universe wants Havi to be provided for and taken care of. I’m just wondering … are there ways this could happen other than her working all the time?
Monster: That’s bullshit. It doesn’t work like that.
The negotiator: Interesting. Alright. I can tell you feel pretty strongly about this. I’m sure there’s a good reason for it. And I’m also kind of curious… whose rule is this?
Monster: That’s not your business. You don’t need to know that.
The scribe: Uh oh.

Checking in with both sides.

The negotiator: Let me ask you this. What would Havi’s life be like if she could access financial support in other ways than the kind that comes as a result of working impossibly long hard days?
Monster: I don’t know. I don’t know and I don’t care.
The negotiator: Well, let’s ask her. Hey, scribe? Can you get Havi?


The scribe: Havi says she could rest more easily. She could take her time. There would be less pressure. She could actually get more done.
The negotiator: And are there downsides to this for her? Does she have a good reason for not wanting this to happen?
The scribe: Guilt. Lots and lots of guilt.
Monster: Good! Ha!

Asking questions.

The negotiator: So tell me, monster. Because I’m curious. Why does Havi need to feel guilty? What does that accomplish?
Monster: Because the money is a reward for her work. If she works and works and works, then she can receive support in exchange for that.
The negotiator: Do rewards always need to take one form?
Monster: I don’t know.
The negotiator: I’m just wondering … there are other people who are provided for without having to work themselves to the bone … is there reason why Havi can’t be provided for too?
Monster: Those are lazy and undeserving people. We don’t want Havi to be like that.
The negotiator: Interesting. What about say, Havi’s mother? She didn’t have a career and she was provided for.
Monster: Havi didn’t do her duty of having a family so she has to work hard for a living forever.
The negotiator: Ah. And (sidestepping that for now) why can’t she be provided for in a variety of ways that don’t all involve getting completely exhausted and worn out?
Monster: She needs to be taught a lesson.

Learning about the lesson. And the love.

The negotiator: And what will this lesson teach her?
Monster: How to be independent and take care of herself.
The negotiator: Oh. Oh. So you’re worried that she won’t be safe.
Monster: Of course! Why should I be all trusting just because she is? Trust is stupid! Trust is not enough!
The negotiator: Wow. You really care about her safety. I can tell. You just want to know that she’s going to be okay. That she’s going to be taken care of.
Monster: Well, obviously. I love her and I need her to be safe.
The negotiator: Clearly. Wow.

What got you here won’t get you there.

The negotiator: So tell me … what if part of Havi’s purpose is learning to receive?
Monster: I don’t know anything about that. I just want her to be safe.
The negotiator: Okay. Would it help if I promise you that she will be? She definitely has the skills to earn whatever she needs whenever she needs it, and that’s amazing.
Monster: I know!
The negotiator: And you’ve been a huge part of helping her learn how to do that. Which is really impressive. Right now though, she needs to rest and she needs to receive. Which means that this rule is blocking her and (kind of ironically) keeping her from the independence that you want her to have.

My work here is done.

Monster: Goodbye.
The negotiator: What? Is something wrong? Oh. Hey, scribe? Tell Havi she can come back now. The monster is gone. It doesn’t need to be here anymore.
The scribe: Wow, that was fast.
The negotiator: My work here is done. I’m going to get a snack.
The scribe: See ya.

A note about comments:
These posts about my talking-to-stucknesses are a way for me to let you to hang out in my process-thing. They are not an invitation for people to tell me what they think I should be doing to work through my stuff. They are a way for me to model one possible version of how someone might interact with the stuck.

You’re more than welcome to leave comments about your reactions and about your own stuff and about whatever else comes to mind. Keep in mind though that this is a highly personal experience that I’m sharing, and that I’m not looking for advice or how-to-ishness. Thanks.

The Fluent Self