Mental Blocks, Whirlpools and Keyboards


When resetting means “Ctrl-Alt-Del”

As an educator by training, I can’t help but try to break down and find ways to present concepts in the most interesting and easily understood manner for my audience. This brings me to my next topic of interest  – about mental blocks.

I’m sure we’ve all had experiences of mental blocks in one way or another. Whether it’s during a presentation in front of an audience, during school exams, writing a thesis or assignment, at a job interview or when trying to explain something to someone. So here goes, my take on tackling mental blocks in a “same same but different” way, which really means, the same outcomes but with different approaches.

I bring in the computer keyboard to help me explain this. Whenever we need to reset the computer, 3 important buttons come into mind – Ctrl-Alt-Del, and so with this analogy, I will attempt to explain how one can reset and overcome mental blocks.

Control – Try ways to gain control back in a whirlpool situation by finding something that will calm your nerves, settle the butterflies in your stomach, and regain focus again. This could be a simple thing like removing yourself from the situation, listening to your favourite inspirational music, closing your eyes and taking a deep breath, or going for a short walk outside. By doing so, you’re really breaking away from the continuous stress and cacophony of noise that’s causing your mind to mess up. Once you’ve settled down and the brain registers being away from the stress (some cross-references from neuroscience, here 😊), somehow the body will automatically calm down and regain a steady-state again.

Alternate –  Then, explore what other alternatives there are. As we commonly say, “what got you here won’t get you there”. Look at things from a helicopter point-of-view, displace yourself from the situation, be the “older, wiser self” to come out with advice/ideas/suggestions that will help you see things differently, and then select the most creative and simplest choice to get your re-set going.

Delete – Finally, take notes on and purge anything that didn’t work out for you in the beginning. Delete anything that may have triggered the whirlpool situation, understand what were the root causes that had started you to experience a “brain freeze”, and then avoid repeating the same from happening again.

If I may just add, a drowning person is almost impossible to render any form of life-saving as long as one keeps struggling, waving hands frantically and kicking deeper into the water. However, when the drowning individual actually allows the life guard to take complete control over the situation, that’s when life-saving starts. Of course, for the drowning victim, to allow the life guard to take control of the situation (including possibility of losing one’s life), trust and credibility come into the picture. Is the life guard competent enough to save lives? How can the victim trust him/her? Are there other factors surrounding the scene that may affect the life-saving act?

Here, the life guard is really someone who is able to support and help you get out of your mental block situation. Find someone whom you trust, someone who’s credible and able to do so, perhaps someone who’s more experienced (like a mentor), or someone who’s never let you down before (like a best friend, parent or boss), and very soon you’ll see a way of “Ctrl-Alt-Del” your situation.

Alternatively, coaches are often great “life guards” in one’s life.  Someone who’s credible, able to build trust and safety in the coach-coachee relationship, and subsequently, help you overcome mental blocks in your personal and professional lives. The benefits of coaching are something that words cannot describe but are best experienced. Why not call on one today? It’ll be one of the best life-saving decisions you’d ever make!


Josephine PL Ong


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