Acting On Impulse

The word 'emotion' comes from the latin 'ex-movere' meaning to move out into.

The purpose of emotion is not just to feel, it's to feel in order to move our bodies to make contact with the world. To take advantage of opportunities, and t0 escape threats. To survive and to thrive.

When we write, we have to be able to connect our inner to our outer worlds in that way. 

We start with feelings that connect to thoughts, and channel them on to the page. That process is the definition of flow. Emotions that stay too long inside, without a gateway for expression, become blocks. With blocks come many associated problems, including ill health, unconscious projection, and acting-out. And that's aside from the disappointment and self-distain we experience as we repeatedly try to be the writer we know we can be, and fail.  

I find 'impulse' a very evocative word. 

And it's not just about a stranger suddenly giving you flowers... although that would brighten up anyone's day (Remember the 80's TV advert for 'Impulse' deodorant? Not to be missed. Watch it here)

An impulse is... an instinctual urge, an impelling action or force that induces motion or drives us onward.

When I experience an impulse to act, and that includes an impulse to write, I feel it as a physical jolt, sometimes shocking, and not unlike a pulse of electricity. In physiological terms it is a progressive wave of excitation (I like that!) over a nerve or muscle fibre, having either a stimulating or inhibitory effect.

I've had an idea for a poem hovering around the edges of my being for several weeks. 

I have been continually wrenched by the impulse to express, but somehow haven't been able to get it out. Exasperated by the reluctance of these wild words to show themselves, on Thursday morning last week at 8.30am precisely, I plonked myself on to my desk chair and determined not to move, until they were birthed. 

I knew that was the worst thing I could do, and it was.

They retreated further into the cave of my being. 

I was hit by a wave of indignation at the many, many impulses I feel I have to stifle in order to perform the necessary duties of life, to keep things ticking over, to be the person I want to be seen to be. Tax payer. Good Mother. Supportive Partner. Achieving Daughter. Responsible Member of Society.

I even made a list, thinking back over the previous day, of the impulses I'd stifled. There were 23, and that was just the ones that came to mind immediately!  The list began with waking up feeling tired and not allowing myself to roll over and go deeper under the warm covers. It ended with having to make a work phone call at 11pm when all I wanted to do was to go back to that same comforting bed. Seeing them in black and white horrified me. All those wild horses reigned in. What effort and energy it takes to halt them in their tracks!

Let me be clear. It's not that I believe in acting on every instinctual urge.

It often makes sense to delay immediate gratification in the name of longer-term goals, or until we understand our motivations clearly. Every time I've chosen not to act on impulse, that's been a choice that I take responsibility for. 

Having said that, we have to know how it feels to have that pulse of electricity start in our chest and move out down our arms and out through our fingers on to the page. 

We have to know how to open the channels when we make a choice to do so. 

The motion in the e-motion. That pulsing impulse.

Bringing the right kind of attention, -a clear, but lightly held focus-, to the physical process, will enable it.  

And as for my poem, when the indignation had been worked through, it felt safe enough to show its face. I'll publish it soon. 

The Monthly Writing Prompt

Write a short story, or a poem, fiction or non-fiction, about a time when you acted on impulse. Did give a stranger flowers? Did you follow a deeply held yearning, or physical desire?

To bring power to the writing, describe in detail the sensations in your body in that moment of feeling the urge to act, and following through on it. Allow the reader inside your physical experience.