Tag Archives: anxiety

9 keys to achieving your artistic goals? No! Way more!

Eric Maisel’s new book Making Your Creative Mark promises nine keys to achieving your artistic goals.

That’s a lie.

The book literally chimes and jingles with keys. The last eleven pages alone has 99 of them, for example these 10:

  1. One of the best ways to help yourself create every day is to craft a starting ritual that you begin to use regularly and routinely. When your ritual becomes habitual you will find yourself moving effortlessly from not creating to creating.
  2. Reframe discipline as devotion.
  3. Creativity is your teacher. Pick a creative project whose express purpose is to teach you something about your situation or your nature.
  4. If you regularly block, what do you think are the sources of your blockage? Do you block only on certain work? Do you block at certain points in the process? Do you block at certain times of the year? Become your own expert on blockage!
  5. Learn some anxiety management techniques. Anxiety makes us undisciplined. Learn a deep-breathing technique or a relaxation technique to help you stay put. Anxiety is part of the process – learn how to manage it!
  6. Don’t shrug away the fact that you’re not completing your creative work. Get to the last sentence of the last page of the last revision. Then launch your piece into the marketplace. If you are not completing projects, do not accept that from yourself!
  7. Do you have a plan to survive the countless rejections that will come your way? Create that plan!
  8. Create everywhere. Create in the rain. Create buy the side of the road. Create wherever you find yourself!
  9. Say, “I will astonish myself.” Then you’re bound to astonish others.
  10. There may be days when the work frustrates you horribly. Maybe you’ll downright hate it. Those are the days to love your work! Remember to love your work especially on the days you hate it.

And it goes on and on. The thing is that it goes on and on in that vein – the vast majority of his ideas are just really good, and not something you’ve already heard over and over again. Take what he says on anxiety. He devotes a whole chapter to stress and anxiety as it relates to the creative process. In it is a subchapter on The Stress of Marketing Art. Isn’t every creative person familiar with that? When I worked at the Alliance for Arts and Culture, advising artists on how to make money without going crazy, that was a topic we talked about a lot (kudos here to Judi Piggott, the patron saint of Vancouver artists, who invented and ran that program for twelve years). So what are the parts of that stress?

  • Thinking about selling your art
  • Not knowing what to say
  • Dealing with people who hold the power and the purse strings
  • Feeling pressured to “sell yourself”
  • Dealing with people who dismiss you
  • Not feeling up to asking

Does any of this feel familiar? Of course. And you may not even be an artist. And over and over he says, if this creates anxiety for you, go and find a way to deal with the anxiety. Don’t give in to it. That in itself is a pretty uplifting message. Maisel doesn’t give you tons of ways to deal with the anxiety; instead he points to one of his other books, such as Mastering Creative Anxiety. Oh yes, he knows how to sell his own stuff, so he knows what he’s talking about. And he has a lot of stuff – almost 40 books, seven of them fiction. And some meditation decks. And a home study course. And he’s a coach and a therapist with a PhD.

Honestly, I think every creative person should own at least one of his books. This man knows what he’s talking about.

personality tests

looking for a site with lots of personality tests? similar minds (link below) is not a bad resource for that. not only do you get the standard meyers briggs but also other ones. here is my cattell 16 PF result. the “16PF” refer to 16 personality traits. wikipedia will tell you lots more about it.

Cattell’s 16 Factor Test Results

Warmth ||||||||||||||||||||| 62%
Intellect |||||||||||||||||||||||| 74%
Emotional Stability |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Aggressiveness ||||||||||||||||||||| 62%
Liveliness ||||||||||||||| 42%
Dutifulness ||||||||| 30%
Social Assertiveness ||||||||||||||||||||| 66%
Sensitivity |||||||||||| 38%
Paranoia |||||||||||| 34%
Abstractness |||||||||||||||||||||||| 78%
Introversion |||||||||||| 38%
Anxiety ||||||||| 22%
Openmindedness |||||||||||||||||||||||| 78%
Independence |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 82%
Perfectionism ||||||||||||||| 42%
Tension |||||||||||| 34%

Take Cattell 16 Factor Test (similar to 16pf)
personality tests by similarminds.com

mental health advice: tell me what you think

the other day i received a phone call from william (not his real name), very distressed. he was in the psych ward, on his third week now. “i gotta get better, i gotta get better!” he kept saying. his hospitalization had been preceded by a good six weeks of progressively worsening mental health. anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder were only some of the diagnoses that had been with him for many years. when he is healthy, he is funny and quirky, a dedicated stay-at-home dad who enthusiastically shares his two daughters’ passion with field hockey. when he cycles into his illness, his thought patterns quickly become more and more one-dimensional until all that is left is a looming preoccupation with how bad of a father he is and a clinginess that becomes almost unbearable to his partner, especially since it tends to be laced with hurtful sarcasm.

my involvement with william is only at the margins. when things get bad, though, we often spend a lot of time on the phone. he finds our phone calls comforting; i think it’s because i treat him like a normal human being, because i, too, have personal experience with mental illness, and also because i keep pointing out my boundaries, gently but firmly.

when william called and kept saying, “i gotta get better, i gotta get better”, my instinct made me blurt out, “you gotta make a choice here. either force yourself to get better – the old pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps method – or accept that you’re sick right now, and that this could be a slow process. but if you keep going back and forth between the two, it’s going to drive you around the bend.”

in my observation, one of william’s major problem seems to be that he is stuck in a painful, very tight loop of thoughts and feelings, a cage of unrelenting self-talk of self-loathing, control and neediness (“i’m a failure!” “no-one wants to spend time with me!” “jean bought the wrong kind of potatoes again!”) my blurting and telling him what i think he needs to do – not exactly according to the textbook of counselling – was at least partially informed by this observation. perhaps i was trying to say, “get out of your cage!”

over to you, readers. what do you think? was my exclamation to make a choice clumsy, too directive? if you were william, how would you have reacted? would you feel connected because i simply followed my instinct and therefore related on a real level?

therese borchard: the pocket therapist

earlier this year, you heard me rave about therese borchard’s book beyond blue a few times. she has a new book out, the pocket therapist. i just received it and haven’t opened it yet. because i have so much trust in therese, i’ll do this: i’ll look at three random pages, tell you what i see there, and give you a few thoughts. ready?

page 50: imitate an eagle

that’s a great start. this being a pocket therapist (what is this? the sub title is: an emotional survival kit. maybe it’s a-tip-a-page?) maybe it’ll suggest to glide, let the winds take you, without resistance. maybe it’ll talk about being super protective of your little ones (little what? creative urges, perhaps?) ok, let’s see.

an eagle knows that a storm is approaching ling before the storm comes. he will hoist himself way up high and wait for the winds to come. then, when the storm arrives, he steers his wings so that the wind will raise him up and lift him above the storm. while the squall thunders below, the eagle is gliding above it. he hasn’t dodged the storm. he has simply used the fierce winds to lift him higher.

interesting! totally reminds me of norm amundson’s book on metaphors that i discussed a few days earlier.

how might this help someone with, say, bipolar disorder? we could say the storm resembles a manic episode. honing one’s sensitivities so that the “storm” can be anticipated is a very important skill to learn. how might one glide above it? that’s an interesting question. perhaps possible only for people with advanced meditation practice.

perhaps this is not what therese was referring to. how do you think this metaphor could help?

page 161: pin the anxiety on the unrealistic expectation

makes me think of pin the tail on the donkey. that involves tapping around in the dark (makes me think of the times we look around in the jungle of medication and techniques, hoping to stumble on one that might eventually work, at least for a while). it also involves trust – that there is someone who will make sure you don’t fall down the stairs or fall into the flower pots while you blindly stumble around. here’s therese:

i jot down irrational goals like “penning a new york times bestseller in my half hour of free time in the evening” … [or] “training for a triathlon with a busted hip.”

then my therapist and i arrive at some realistic options, like “writing an adequate blog” [or] “swimming … a few times a week but saving the triathlon for after retirement.” these goals don’t sound as sexy on paper as the overachievers’ but they are friends with sanity, and that’s all i care about.

aah! i get it. she separates the realistic from the unrealistic, and as she does that, the anxiety stays behind with what’s unrealistic.  can you see yourself using this techniqe?

page 71: bawl your eyes out

not much interpretation needed here, is there?

in a recent new york times piece, writer benedict carey refers to tears as “emotional perspiration.” …

for one, they remove toxins from our body. emotional tears (those formed in distress or grief) contain more toxic by-products than tears of irritation, like when you peel an onion, indicating that weeping is surely nature’s way of cleansing the heart and mind.

second, tears elevate mood. crying lowers a person’s manganese level, and the lwoer the better because overexposure to manganese can cause anxiety, nervousness, irritation … and the rest of what happens in your brain when you or your spouse are in a foul mood.

finally, crying is cathartic.

you’ve felt the same release that i have after a good sob, right?

it’s as if your body has been accumulating hurts and resentments and fears … until your limbic system runs out of room and then, like a volcano, the toxic gunk spews forth everywhere.

what’s crying like for you?  does it offer you release?

once again, therese borchard didn’t disappoint me. in fact, i already have someone in mind to whom i will give a copy of the book.

morita therapy, the psychology of action

once in a while i tell people that the name of my company is moritherapy and they say, “oh yes, i know moritherapy!” what they usually mean is morita therapy.

it’s about time i explore what that is. the information here comes from the ToDo institute.

morita therapy is sometimes referred to as the psychology of action.

morita psychotherapy was developed by japanese psychiatrist shoma morita in the early part of the twentieth century. he was influenced by the psychological principles of zen buddhism. his method was initially developed as a treatment for a type of anxiety called shinkeishitsu but in the latter part of this century the applications of morita therapy have broadened.

if we find out we have won the lottery, we may be excited. if we hear about the death of a friend, we may feel sadness. such feelings are natural responses and we need not try to change or “work through” them. this is acceptance of reality as it is (arugamama).

thus, if we feel depressed, we accept our feelings of depression; if we feel anxious, we accept our feelings of anxiety. we can then direct our efforts toward living our life well, coexisting with unpleasant feelings from time to time. it is not necessary to change our feelings in order to take action.

“trying to control the emotional self willfully by manipulative attempts is like trying to choose a number on a thrown die or to push back the water of the kamo river upstream. certainly, they end up aggravating their agony and feeling unbearable pain because of their failure in manipulating the emotions.”
shoma morita, m.d.

often, taking action leads to a change in feelings. for example, it is common to develop confidence after one has repeatedly done something with some success.

in western psychotherapy there are a great many labels which purport to diagnose and describe a person’s psychological functioning – depressed, obsessive, compulsive, codependent. many of us begin to label ourselves this way, rather than investigate our own experience. if we observe our experience, we find that we have a flow of awareness which changes from moment to moment. when we become overly preoccupied with ourselves, our attention no longer flows freely, but becomes trapped by an unhealthy self-focus. the more we pay attention to our symptoms (our anxiety, for example) the more we fall into this trap.

when we are absorbed by what we are doing, we are not anxious because our attention is engaged by activity. but when we try to “understand” or “fix” or “work through” feelings and issues, our self-focus is heightened and exercised. this often leads to more suffering rather than relief. how can we be released from such self-focused attention?

“the answer lies in practicing and mastering an attitude of being in touch with the outside world. this is called a reality-oriented attitude, which means, in short, liberation from self-centeredness.”
takahisa kora, m.d.

the successful student of morita therapy learns to accept the fluctuations of thoughts and feelings and ground her or his behavior in reality and the purpose of the moment. cure is not defined by the alleviation of discomfort or the attainment of an ideal feeling state but by taking constructive action, which helps with living a full and meaningful existence and not being ruled by emotions.

what do you think?  would this sort of therapy work for you?