Last week my post dealt with emotions and their interplay with creativity. This week I found a “sequel” if you will regarding creativity and how trauma affects it. The input that follows is by the same therapist as last week, Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology. It’s an interesting read and one in which I hope you’ll get as much out of as I did.
During my creative endeavors, I have experienced most if not all of what Mihaela talks about. When I’m in a slump, it’s not fun. When I experience a setback, it’s definitely not fun. In fact, it’s quite stressful. That’s why I have a weekly talk with my therapist to go over what’s bothering me.
Take it away, Mihaela . . .
Creativity is a vital life force energy. We connect with that energy within us and use it to express art that comes from the deepest parts of the self.
Creativity feeds off of other vital energies that exist inside of us, including imagination, courage, authenticity, and vulnerability. Creativity requires our passion, love, and playfulness. It requires our curiosity and our spirit of exploration. It requires us to show up and do the work of creating in order to keep it alive.
Creativity asks us to trust in our abilities and our vision. It asks us to call on our talents, skills, and unique gifts and use them to make that inspiration into reality. It asks for our determination and devotion. It asks us to invest in ourselves and to commit to our own sense of agency.
Our creativity is there at all times. It’s a flicker ready to be ignited by our life experiences and turned into a great flame. It wants to guide us along the quest to create a life inspired by our dreams and goals.
All these – our imagination and passion, vulnerability and courage, curiosity and playfulness, trust and determination, talents and skills, exploration and commitment, and our sense of agency – come together to make up our creative emotional space.
The creative emotional space is a beautiful, powerful space that every artist and creative hopes to be in just about all the time. Unfortunately, it can be diminished or destroyed by our unhealed backstories. Unresolved emotional trauma can hold us back and take us off track.
Creatives and Artists Respond to Trauma in Different Ways
Some remarkably productive creative people can actively transform their pain into creative endeavors. Their creativity becomes a vehicle for healing. Their internal healing and growth continues to inspire and motivate them to be more creative.
Their creativity and emotional healing work together in a synergistic relationship. They are healed and transformed by their creative work, and become more and more creative as they face their pain.
Some people can be very creative despite trauma, but they are not engaged in a healing process. They can access their emotional creative space and make music, movies, novels, books, paintings, fashion, or build businesses, and consistently turn their ideas into reality.
But, when they move outside that creative space, they live with unmetabolized emotional pain. This often shows up as with anxiety, depression, and/or addictions.
Then there are those who can access their emotional creative space but the exposure to their inner world causes them to be re-traumatized, over and over again. Their stories or creative endeavors trigger unhealed trauma and they get trapped in old, painful patterns. Sometimes, very successful creatives get stuck in this unproductive emotional creative space when they least expect it.
Despite years of success, depression, anxiety, or addictions can emerge from those unresolved emotional wounds and trap an individual in a loop of creative decline.
There are some who can’t access their emotional creative space, and that in itself feeds their emotional pain, depression, anxiety, and addictions. They can’t realize their creative potential and feel unable to access and use their true resources. This sense of being cut off from their creative self is traumatic in itself.
They feel they’re living a small life in which they don’t belong. They know they could accomplish more and experience a more fulfilling life, but they are trapped in longing.
Perhaps you see yourself in one of these profiles? Whatever experience most closely matches yours, there is support.
What else do creatives need to know about the role of trauma can play in work and life?
Trauma interferes with creativity by disconnecting you from your authenticity, vulnerability, trust, passion, and playfulness. The legacy of trauma steals your sense of agency, curiosity, exploration, and commitment to invest yourself into your pursuits. Trauma invades and disrupts your emotional creative space.
Trauma comes in many shapes, shades, and forms and it impacts people in different ways. Some people find it hard to trust their own creative process. Others find that it’s hard to play or access their imagination. Still others will struggle to access a sense of agency and creative independence. It’s possible to encounter a combination of these trauma responses.
The most important thing is to get to the root of your traumatic experiences and understand their impact on you. What part of your emotional creative space has been hurt by trauma? When you can see your pain more clearly, you can begin to heal it.
How do you know emotional trauma is affecting your creativity?
Emotional trauma requires healing. And, when your creativity is impacted by trauma, this healing requires a psychotherapist with an expertise in trauma and creativity can help you.
- Your need for external validation supersedes your quest for inner validation
- You get stuck in rejection instead of using that to fuel your determination to try again
- You get stuck in your emotional experiences instead of being able to use them to create
- You can’t apply yourself to the development of the talents and skills that you need to express your creativity
- You can’t access or use your talents and skills
- You’re endlessly confused about your talents and skills or how you want to express your creativity
- You can’t tolerate fears, doubts, insecurities and these feelings control you
- You feel to numb or anxious and you can’t access or apply your creative energy
- You’re afraid to succeed
- You can’t use failure to inform your journey and you get stuck in feelings of “not good enough”
- You‘re a perfectionist and can’t tolerate mistakes
- Criticism, judgments, or feedback are too painful for you to hear and move beyond
- You can’t get yourself to do the work because you’re so busy thinking about how people in your life would react
- You feel a deep longing to create something, but it all stays in the realm of imagination
- You feel you’re wasting your life, unable to live up to your potential or pursue your goals or dreams
- You feel something is holding you back from pursuing your goals or dreams, but you don’t understand what is in your way
Many highly creative people don’t seek emotional healing because they are afraid that they will lose access to their creativity. They fear that the healing will radically transform certain feelings or emotional experiences that are necessary to the creative process.
This fear of losing something so vital through the therapy process is real for artists. Creativity is the core of who they are and their existence. In truth, psychotherapy doesn’t dull your creative edge or diminish your access to inspiration. Healing enhances creativity.
In Mihaela’s clinical experience working with artists, healing the underlying trauma, not only results in relief from the emotional pain, but enriches all aspects of their lives: personal growth and fulfillment, more intimate and authentic relationships, greater ability to navigate the artistic career.
Good psychotherapy expands and enriches creativity. It helps you access your life experiences with emotional freedom.
You can feel and be connected to your feelings in a very authentic way. You can tap into your inner world and use it to create not only your art, but also your life.
When you heal trauma, your old, difficult stories become the gateway into creating your new authentic stories.
You can create a life that mirrors your true creative self and potential. You can live a life story that matters and you can leave behind a legacy of healing, transformation, and creativity. By healing your old wounds and stepping fully into your emotional creative space, you can inspire others to heal and be creative, too.
If you can relate to anything in this post, you’d be wise to connect and strike a relationship with a therapist in your area or virtually. They can help. May your trauma be less disturbing and your life, more rewarding once you know how better to deal with trauma. You can read more about Therapy for Creatives and Performers here.
Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!
Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.