Hello, Creatives. This week, I bring you another theme from the couch. I want to introduce it to you clinically as an important and fundamental goal for personal growth, while giving it “creative people” flavor. The topic: self esteem.
You may be familiar with this concept under different names- and it can be presented in different nuances and aspects including: self esteem, self worth, sense of self and more. Who says what you are worth? How do we internalize what our value is? One of my favorite theories to conceptualize this is Person Centered Theory.
Person Centered Theory will tell us that most of us build a sense of who we are based upon how others value us. From a young age, we internalize rules from others about qualities that make us good or bad, smart or dumb, pretty or ugly, worthwhile or not. In the creative world it is much the same. We learn if we are talented or not, if our art/writing/dancing/music is good or bad. We will likely learn these based on how closely our creative tendencies mimic those that others around us value (e.g. was a parent classically trained? They will likely value this more in you). Overall, these learned rules and internalized value systems that dictate our worth are called “conditions of worth,” and they are not helpful to us.
The problem with conditions of worth (COWs in Person Centered Therapy) is they are based upon external forces. In other words, if we subscribe to them, we essentially allow our worth and sense of self to be dictated to us by others. There are a myriad of reasons why this is not ideal for us and I will leave room here for you to peek back into your own life and generate some examples- but basically it boils down to inconsistency and external locus of control. It’s ok- we all have COWs. COWs develop functionally because as children we learn about the world through mimicry and adoption of others’ value systems as a starting point to develop our own. The problem becomes a sort of self-esteem failure to launch, where, again, for many reasons, we get stuck in the former and don’t move into the latter. If you have now or have had in the past struggles creatively and/or personally with self worth, and examine your young adult years, you will likely begin to guess at some of the contributing factors.
According to Person Centered Therapy, a fully realized, happy person with good self esteem is “self actualized” and has become congruent with their “organismic valuing process” or OVP. Essentially each of us intrinsically “knows” what makes us happy and peaceful, and making choices accordingly gives us happy and peaceful lives. Unsurprisingly, this in turn fills us with self worth because we are living authentically.
If you haven’t guessed it, self esteem work can get emotionally sticky and for that reason I always recommend therapy as a starting point to build insight into your story. What are your levels of self worth? How authentically are you living? What points in your life can you identify as contributing to any stuck-ness in your process of self-actualization? If you haven’t read it- the “Referential Self” blog post is a good accompanying read to this topic.
What I can give you in this post is a belief to launch you perhaps into consideration of a new mindset- a starting point for your own self esteem project. This is often step one when I am working with a client. The belief is based upon a concept of radical self acceptance- accepting yourself in this moment just as you are:
“What I need, care about and feel matters.”
What a simple concept. But- search yourself- do you really accept and believe this fully? Building self esteem through radical self acceptance does not mean avoiding the setting of personal goals for ourselves and working towards change, but it also doesn’t mean perfection. It starts with a place of love and acceptance for ourselves and our life experiences: a place of compassion, respect and understanding for who we are and who our lives have made us.
Ready to build up your self worth? I have a safe place for you to do the work!
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
Hello, Creatives. In addition to working with Creative People one of my clinical specialties has been working with anxiety disorders- and for many reasons it is not uncommon for creative people to be anxious. So, in this week’s Creatively Blog, I bring you a self-coined term I have identified from working with anxiety to help you understand some ways you may be compensating.
Let’s start with some basic information about anxiety. Anxiety indicates a physiological aroused state where your body- to varying degrees- is perceiving and preparing for a threat. Anxiety is an emotion that activates your limbic system- some of your more basic brain functions live here- something I talk about in session as “lizard brain.” More or less, anxiety acts as a switch, either activated or inactivated. The prevailing psychological model for reducing anxiety is exposure response prevention, or, gradually reducing sensitivity to physiological arousal to perceived threats. Anxiety can be summarized as how sensitive our body is to activating emergency response mechanisms when a threat is perceived- and this sensitivity is largely inherited but also can be impacted and changed by life events (eg trauma). A frequently used set of terms in anxiety treatment are “triggers” (what makes you anxious) and “coping skills” (how you manage that anxiety). Some of these are fairly universal and some are more individualized. A coping skill that I see a lot, and that is frequently subconsciously used, is increasing the level of control (type A, much?) to offset the feeling of anxiety. An exacerbation of this relationship can be seen in classic OCD presentations. Anxiety is not always bad and in fact evolutionarily the emotion functions to keep us prepared and safe. Unlike many other emotions, it is not an emotion that you can “stop” from doing- in fact trying to “stop” anxiety may worsen it. Ultimately the best anxiety strategy is to not over-attend or feed into the cycle; allowing it to run its course, and reducing its overall severity and disruption is key. For more about anxiety, reference the “Pet your Inner Cat” blog post about self soothing and self care- a place I usually start treatment with most of the anxiety diagnosed clients that I treat. For more about anxiety and creative people, reference the “Creative People, Anxiety and Intuition” blog post.
Now that you have some basic information, let’s move on to the phenomena I started to observe. Like many things in clinical work, I noticed it together with a patient during a breakthrough in session, which allowed me to see it again with another patient, and then another, and so on. Before I knew it, there was a behavior or series of behaviors I was watching my anxious clients engage in as a way to cope with their anxiety, which ultimately once labeled could serve them to identify the worsening or a change in their anxiety symptoms. What I noticed I began to call the “Control Perceived Imbalance Correction” or “CPIC” (pronounce see-pick). In my overview to anxiety I said that subconsciously many anxious people balance or offset their anxiety with control- they believe- usually erroneously- that by increasing control over something they can also increase control over a different thing. Often we feel excess anxiety about things we cannot control, and to offset this it feels good to take control of something else. For example- a person may be feeling anxiety about increased tension in their marriage- a perceived loss of control- and so to correct this imbalance they binge eat- an over use of a coping skill psychologically used to restore control or correct the imbalance. Sometimes there is a sense of self-fulfilling prophecy or self-sabotage- someone may be feeling a loss of control of personal finances, and to correct the perceived imbalance of control go on a shopping spree. On a psychological level they are taking control by doing what they want with money, but in a literal way of course worsening the stressor. CPIC is one, driven by the emotion of anxiety and not by logic, and two, is usually subconscious, and this combination can be problematic. Once I see this relationship with a client, I can help them identify the imbalance correction (eg overspending, overeating etc) and this can be used by the client to pinpoint the source of stress in the future and change course sooner. This is one reason why in therapy I will usually ask you about your week- anything unusual? How have you been sleeping, eating, etc? I am looking for evidence of changes in your life.
CPIC is a bit more of a cerebral concept, but, I have found it very useful to my clients once applied. It is certainly something easier to unravel individually by example and through deduction and fact rather than hypothetically and conceptually in writing- and so I invite you to come sit on my couch and learn about yourself, Creative! Come start creating your best life.
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.