Einstellung or mental block: what is that and how to overcome it?


Everything started last Saturday, during a friend’s baby shower. “Write an advice for the mom to be”, I was told. I stared at the white card, outlining a sentence with the pen. Scattered thoughts popped into my head, all definitely too trivial to be even considered. The minutes went away and soon an hour has elapsed, while I am still there, stuck into my thoughts. I eventually wrote a couple of rows, with poor faith and a pinch of disappointment. “Better than nothing”, I said to myself.

Monday, I opened the agenda to check which topic I planned for Tuesday’s post. With much surprise, I found the page blank. Damn it! How comes I didn’t schedule any topic? OK, it won’t be hard to find an interesting subject, I thought. I started to squeeze my mind, scanning all the current scientific trends. I browsed my molecular gastronomy books and checked the last papers on Scopus, but nothing, I mean, nothing seemed good enough. Anxiety started to rise, while frustration was at the top of the roof. What the heck I was going to write? I can’t believe it, but it happened to me as well: writing block. I thought it was a sort of urban legend invented by lazy students, who weren’t able to draft a text because not well-prepared.  Instead, a mental block can occur to anyone, even to well-prepared persons.

What’s a mental block?

In the book “A mind for numbers”, Dr. Oakley (I have a scientific blog, eventually! :)) describes the mental blocks related to scientific disciplines. However, that concept can be expanded and attributed with a universal value. Do you remember when you had to solve a math problem and, despite all your efforts, you can’t work it out? The harder you try, the more your mind get stuck, focusing on what looks as the only solution to your problem (and, unfortunately, not the right one). You have a mental block. Frustrated and angry, you close books and notes and get to sleep. The morning after, you get wake up and, by reading the problem once more, the solutions appears vividly, in front of your eyes. Sounds familiar? ;)

How to overcome a mental block?

By relaxing the mind. When the mind relaxes, it is able to develop wider connections and to glue all the pieces of information we put in. The mind is now capable of finding solutions that were just there, under our nose, but our focus mode made us unable to see.

Relaxing the mind might be hard for people with a lot of self-control (like me). Here a few activities, suggested to get a break:

  • Taking a stroll
  • Doing sport
  • Reading an easy book
  • Listening to music
  • Chatting with a friend
  • Sleeping

What has this to do with Edible Molecules?

All this story is strictly related to my blog. Given that I have a mental block, I decided to relax my mind and do different things in search for inspiration. I went through a very stressful period, which left me out of both physical and intellectual energies. What do we do when our mobile is out of battery? We recharge it, right? Well, I have to do the same thing for myself. Furthermore, I believe that my readers deserve more than a couple of trivial rows, drafted just to write something down. And so this week, there is no scientific post on molecular gastronomy.  I will spend this time gathering ideas and finding some new topic for the next posts. However, I don’t want to leave you with empty hands. Therefore, I will post the usual recipe on Friday to happily end the week.

See you in a couple of days, I going to recharge the batteries! :)


B. Oakley, A mind for numbers, Tarcher Perigee, 2014