This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Do you remember how much you felt and thought as a child? Probably a lot, especially if you were gifted and creative. As an adult, we may have learned to cover up or set aside much of our inner life, in order to get along with others and do our jobs. But if we want to be more fully alive and creative, it can really help to understand and stay in charge of our thinking and feelings. "I am the kind of person that feels so much that if I didn’t have acting (and music), I would burst from all of the emotion inside!” - Gloria Reuben [See more quotes below.] “I don’t like emotions… For some reason I’m more comfortable in imaginary circumstances.” – Actor William H. Macy [From post: I don’t like emotions] “I’m not crazy, I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years.” Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine), in Steel Magnolias (1989). [From post: Feelings and Developing Creativity] "The ability to self-regulate provides an all-access pass for traveling the internal world, allowing the artist to mine for the gems that can be found there . . . without losing touch with the light of day." Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D. Image above is from the book A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children by James T. Webb et. al.
Don’t Hold Yourself Back From Being Creative Over Feelings and Thoughts
“Now I don’t have any particular wisdom to impart to you people, except to say this, these four words – don’t have unrealistic expectations. “If you want to make money, better drop out right now, go to banking school, or website school – anywhere but art school. "And remember, only 1 out of 100 of you will ever make a living as an artist.” Professor Sandiford [John Malkovich, in Art School Conﬁdential (2006)]
How do you respond to feelings and thinking about your creative talents and success, after hearing ideas from others such as pronouncements of supposed authorities like the ﬁctional Professor Sandiford above? Or even your own inner voice? Creativity coach and author Eric Maisel is “a meticulous guide who knows the psychological landscape that artists inhabit,” as The Writer magazine exclaims in a review of his new book Making Your Creative Mark. I have just started reading the book, and it promises to address many challenges faced by creative people, especially those who are making a creative career for themselves. Here are some excerpts from the book, from one of the sections: “Feelings and Thoughts“: Sometimes we can think a useful thought only after a painful feeling has subsided. The feeling may be too powerful for us to think clearly in the split second of feeling it. That is the way nature built us, to have powerful feelings that can trump thought.
However, when that feeling has subsided, then it is our job to decide what we want to think. Here are two examples of what I mean. Mary sent her slides off to a gallery where she had high hopes for representation. What she got back was a terse email: “Your work isn’t up to our standards.” Mary stopped painting for the next three years. Such dramatically unfortunate events happen all too often in the lives of artists. One sharp criticism can derail an artist not only for far too long but sometimes altogether, making him completely doubt that he has the right or the wherewithal to be a professional artist — or any kind of artist at all. Maybe some very advanced human being can avoid feeling these things; maybe some very detached human being can avoid feeling these things. But the rest of us feel them. It will feel as if something tremendously large and bad has happened — and yet all that has really happened is that we are having a feeling. Once we have that feeling, the ball is in our court. What are we going to do next? What you do next may affect how you spend the next year or even the rest of your life.
[Image from book: Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Life by Joseph Ciarrochi.]
If you take this pain in without doing anything to defuse it, you may lose a great deal of time or, if you manage to continue creating, work much less strongly than you otherwise might.
Much better is the following. When a whole-body explosion of bad feeling erupts in you, use the following three-step technique to calm yourself down and to get a grip on the situation. First, acknowledge that something happened. We are amazingly adept at being defensive creatures who can deny almost anything. From book: Making Your Creative Mark: Nine Keys to Achieving Your Artistic Goals, by Eric Maisel, PhD.
Read more in post: Don’t Hold Yourself Back From Being Creative Over Feelings and Thoughts. Shame “What I don’t understand, Stevie,” [my high school teacher] said, “is why you’d write junk like this… You’re talented. Why do you want to waste your abilities?”… I was ashamed.” Stephen King goes on to admit [in his book "On Writing"]: “I have spent a good many years since — too many, I think — being ashamed about what I write. "I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of ﬁction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused of wasting his or her God-given talent.” In her counseling work with gifted and talented adults for more than twenty four years, Mary Rocamora has found that shame can have a "crippling effect on the development of the gifted and talented. It is the belief that we are fundamentally ﬂawed or bad, and any attempt to draw attention to ourselves could result in being exposed and shamed. It can prevent us from making any creative effort at all or at the least make us pay by keeping us in emotional pain. "Shame can be a contributing factor to the 'impostor syndrome.' The fear of being exposed as a fraud feeds a chronic internal tension about
showing creative products to others. Freedom to risk is thereby impaired. There is a pervasive feeling that even if something we've done is well received, it was a ﬂuke, and that the other shoe is sure to fall next time." Continued in my article: Shame. Related articles: Toxic Criticism and Developing Creativity Healthy criticism can help reﬁne our creative talents and projects, enabling our pursuit of excellence. But when criticism is based on excessive perfectionism or an unrealistic self concept, it can be destructive and self-limiting, eroding our creative assurance and vitality. In one of his podcast series, creativity coach and psychologist Eric Maisel declares, “Criticism is a real crippler. I’m sure that you know that. But you may not be aware just how powerful a negative force criticism can be, how much damage it can do to your self-conﬁdence, or how seriously it can deﬂect you from your path.” Creative But Insecure Over the years of reading biographies and interviews with many highly talented and creative people, it has often struck me how many of them talk about being self-critical and having poor self-esteem. At least some of that may come from what Eric Maisel is writing about above. How To Change “Human Nature” By Morty Lefkoe ‘Are you bothered by a psychological problem that you aren’t even trying to get rid of because you think it’s “human nature” and can’t be eliminated? 'If so, you aren’t alone. For example, Seth Godin recently published his 13th book, “Poke the Box,” that explains most people’s failure to take action by claiming that people have to overcome their natural resistance in order to take action.'
"Impulsiveness and ﬂightiness have traditionally been confused with a subtrait of gifted intensity: excitability. It is often laced with judgement
and misinterpreted as being restless, high-strung, or emotionally combustible. "But for the Everyday Genius who manages it, excitability is an invaluable source of enthusiasm, motivation, and empathy that is key to humanistic accomplishment. "The importance of excitability cannot be overstated for two fundamental reasons: (1) it is directly and inexorably tied to creative productivity in a cause-and -effect relationship, and (2) it is both a trait and a need. "It is because Everyday Geniuses are relentlessly curious, easily aroused, and perennially open to new experience that they are equipped to passionately pursue a wide range of interests. And it is because they feed their need for stimulation that they constantly revitalize their indomitable spirits." From book: The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius, by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PsyD. ~~~ "Gifted children and adults are often misunderstood. Their excitement is viewed as excessive, their high energy as hyperactivity, their persistence as nagging, their imagination as not paying attention, their passion as being disruptive, their strong emotions and sensitivity as immaturity, their creativity and self-directedness as oppositional." From book: Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults, Susan Daniels, Michael M. Piechowski (Editors). Related post: Excitabilities and Gifted People – an intro by Susan Daniels. ~~~
Regulating Our Emotions To Be More Creative “I would burst from all of the emotion inside.” How do you work with your strong emotions? Creative people experience a wide range and depth of intense emotions, and use that wealth of feeling to create artwork and performances. The idea of overseeing or regulating emotions is not necessarily about suppressing or stiﬂing, but about staying aware and in control of our feelings, to live with a higher level of well-being, and be more creative. The quote above is from Gloria Reuben, who said: “The thing I love most about acting is that while I am doing a scene, I am allotted all of the freedom to feel. Sometimes, actually I ﬁnd that most times in life, one is not able to fully express what one feels. “And I am the kind of person that feels so much that if I didn’t have acting (and music), I would burst from all of the emotion inside!” [From officialgloriareuben.com; photo from "Lincoln"] Many creative people are highly sensitive (referred to as HSP, for highly sensitive person or people) – and psychologist Elaine Aron declares that at least one research study shows that HSPs are “more emotional” than others. She explains, “Humans have to evaluate every situation for whether it is good, interesting, desirable, dangerous, sad, and so forth. If a situation has even a touch of these, it is processed further. This processing can lead to more emotion still. Hence emotion leads to processing and processing often leads to more emotion. “Since HSPs process everything further, they have to be more emotional– emotion is initiating their processing and is often a consequence of their doing so much processing.
"By the way, being more emotional does not cause poor decision making. Most of the time emotions improve decisions–we can better appreciate the importance of something and are more likely to act.” [From her Comfort Zone newsletter post: "Reﬂections on Research: HSPs Have Stronger Emotional Reactions." But some kinds of emotion do interfere with our decision-making and other cognitive abilities. Being emotionally out of control happens to everyone to some degree, at times. Emotional self-regulation, managing our feelings in "good" ways, can positively impact how well we can use emotions and ideas in creative expression. [Photo: "paint by numbers!" - By originallittlehellraiser - also used in my post Some Ideas on How To Develop Creativity.] >>Continued: Regulating Our Emotions To Be More Creative Part 2. ~~~ Affect Regulation and the Creative Artist By Psychologist Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D. Creating art has always been a way to channel emotional intensity. In a world where destructive acting out is all too frequent (and meticulously documented and sensationalized on the news and TMZ), sublimating painful feelings by expressing them in the form of artistic expression allows the artist to choose to “act out” in a way that is constructive. Many creative people carry the belief that their pain is the locus of their creativity, and worry that they will lose their creativity if they work through their inner conﬂicts or let go of suffering.
These artists hold onto their pain as if it were a lifeline, even ﬁnding ways to enhance it, leading to some patterns of behavior that won’t “turn off” even when they want them to. The “source” becomes the obstacle. [Photo: Christian Bale gained the nickname “Tandy” because he was always throwing tantrums. – From post: Anger and creativity.] Recent discoveries and research using brain-imaging equipment have led to an explosion of knowledge about how our brains actually work. Some of the signals our brains receive are chemically identical, but are interpreted based on the meaning we make. For example, excitement just before a performance and stage fright may both express themselves with an adrenaline rush and a pumping heart. If the performer thinks, “I am so excited to get out there and do what I love,” then those signals will be processed as consistent with excitement, but if the performer thinks “Oh God! I don’t think I can do this!” those same chemical signals will escalate the body’s danger response. The feelings themselves may even be interpreted as proof that danger exists, leading to more adrenaline, more fear, and so the cycle grows. When we are in danger, a very primitive ﬁght-or-ﬂight response takes over, making us reactive and energized, but at a price: the higher order functions that allow us to generate multiple approaches or solutions, to plan and contemplate consequences – those abilities go completely offline. Many of the capacities we have when we are at our best become unavailable to us because our thinking takes shortcuts in the service of survival.
Finding ways to maintain that optimal zone where we are neither underor over-stimulated allows us to use our minds to respond rather than to react. If you are an artist, you are your instrument. The greater access you maintain to yourself, the richer and broader your array of creative tools. Learning how to regulate stress and danger, especially how to recognize when we are safe allows us to maintain access to those higher order functions and ﬂexibility of thinking. If we’re lucky, these abilities may have been learned in childhood, but they can also be developed later on with the proper training. Rather than shutting down more intense experiences, these emotional “muscles” and strategies provide the breadcrumb trail to ﬁnd our way back from intense states, allowing us to visit certain states of mind for creative purposes (or to learn about ourselves), without ﬁnding ourselves trapped there. I have always believed that the best way to protect the art is to protect the artist. These skills need not be feared as antithetical to art. Continued in article: Affect Regulation and the Creative Artist by Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D., a frequent psychological expert on CNN, HLN, truTV and Fox News, and a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in creative artist issues, trauma recovery, and fertility.