How Trauma Affects Creativity

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.

Mihaela Ivan Holtz

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. 

Female with long hair, looking down, her face covered by a hat that she is holding with one hand

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?

Continue reading

Emotions and Their Role in Your Creativity

Every once in awhile I run across an article that really speaks to me about my creativeness and my own psychological workings. This particular article by Dr. Mihaela Ivan Holtz speaks to that. I’ve highlighted her work in some of my previous blog posts. You may very well already enjoy a good relationship with a psychotherapist who understands your background and troubles. If not, seek one out. And refer to the link at the end of this post for more insightful information.

Now, Dr. Holtz, the floor, er, uh, post is yours . . .

As a creative, you use your emotions to tell compelling stories. When your art is born from a genuine emotional expression, you offer your audience a glimpse of the unique you – your interpretation and manifestation of human experiences. 

There’s something about living in the full depth of human experience that is conducive to creativity. The extent to which one can step into the full breadth of their emotions is what makes them a true artist. The ability to be with and use complex and mixed layers of emotions is important for creativity.

It’s through the moments of deep insight and states of intimate connection to your inner world that your craft comes alive.

When you are intimately connected to your emotions’ texture, nuance, and depth, it comes through your art. Your audience can feel the depth of your feeling, and your work truly speaks to their hearts. 

Thanks to the  expression of pure emotion, others can find a piece of themselves in your art. When art comes from an intimate connection to your internal world, the people who witness it  can feel seen, heard, or validated. They are transformed when you share your own experience of transformation.

Uninspired man holding a guitar

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find and maintain this connection with your emotions and convey them in your art.  Unhealed emotional trauma, unconscious conflicts, and unhealthy defensive strategies that you may have developed to cope with life’s challenges can all interfere with your creativity.

When you hit a creative block or a prolonged dry spell, you may find yourself wondering: “Why do my emotions mess up my creativity?”

Many times, unprocessed trauma causes your emotions to feel too intense, overwhelming, or  painful. You can’t stay present with such feelings and you disconnect from your own inner emotional world.  You may feel like you can only tiptoe around the edges of your experience, but can never go too deep. You keep a safe distance from your own emotional experiences. It doesn’t seem possible to  tap into the depth and beauty of your emotions and use them to further your creativity. 

This inability to engage your emotions and go deep are all signs that you may need to do some emotional work to help you process trauma, conflicts, or defenses that are locking you out of your emotional creative space. 

If you’re someone who feels comfortable in your inner creative world some of the time but then loses touch with that place at other times, you may find yourself confused and looking for answers. You may be grieving the loss of your creativity since it has been so long since you were able to access your creative emotional space.

To reconnect to your creativity, you need to do your own inner healing work. Your current struggles are a sign that emotional trauma from your past needs to be examined, processed, and integrated. 

How can doing your “emotional work” help you regain your creativity? 

When you do your emotional work to heal old conflicts and trauma, you can access the full spectrum of your emotions and use them to enhance your art. You can remove the barriers to creativity and  find that you can organically enter your artistic flow.

Thanks to the healing process, the “emotional work” you can do with a trained psychotherapist, you can connect with all that you are. Your emotions, talents, and skills can come together and you can express yourself and you trust your creativity. 

The creative brain is unique, and that is why therapy for creative people needs to be sensitive to your specific needs. 

Creative people have greater connections between two areas of the brain that are typically at odds with one another.  The brain regions associated with focus and the brain network of regions associated with imagination, spontaneity, and emotions are in conversation in the creative brain.

Unfortunately, these connections usually tend to be impaired by unhealed trauma. Psychotherapy can help you reconnect these parts of your brain so you can regain your creativity and discover new creative energy. 

Focused and passionate female dancer practicing in a studio

When creative people commit to doing their emotional work, they develop their ability to stay in complex and even seemingly incompatible states of being. In other words, they can access the messiness of their minds and human experience with more comfort, ease, and focus. They can really dive into their old and present emotional experiences and internal world to create.

What kind of psychotherapy would help you? 

There is no cookie-cutter treatment plan for creatives with emotional trauma. The treatment is a creative journey in itself. Together, we enter a meaningful process  uniquely crafted to help you get in touch with your life experiences and reconnect you with your own artistic voice and expression. 

When you process the emotional trauma and conflicts you will feel: “My creativity is the core of who I am. My past struggles do not define me.  My past can inform what I create, but is not the core of who I am.”

That shift will help you stay intimately connected with your emotional world to make your authentic art that will touch audiences and, in some way either great or small, transform our world. 

I am Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology. I help creatives face and shift emotional trauma, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creative blocks, and addictions – to be and live their own best version. 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.

Live long and prosper, Ukraine.