Distress Tolerance and Emotional Avoidance
This week’s post is again inspired by clinical themes I have been seeing this month.
At this point I have published enough yummy articles on my blog that they gorgeously cross reference and complement each other- in this way this topic is related to many others- so when it speaks to you and emotionally connects with you, I encourage you to pull the thread and browse some of the other topics and past blog articles.
Today we are going to talk about the psychological concept of distress tolerance. In simple terms, this is our ability to stand still in a certain intensity of stress. I don’t mean change it, avoid it, or do anything with it- simply tolerate it. This underused but powerful skill allows our emotions to communicate their vital messages and naturally dissipate- freeing us to stand empowered in our lives to make better choices for our own happiness. It takes the power from variability and the unexpected and allows us large scale emotional peace and freedom.
(I will give you the caveat that if you are in crisis, severe stress or worse, then tolerance is not your course of action. If you are unsure how this topic applies to your levels of stress, give me a call and let’s talk).
In several past articles, I have referenced the biological function of emotions to communicate chemical signals and messages between the brain and body. In an ideal biological and natural sense, whenever we have an emotion we would fully express it and allow our brain and body to absorb its lesson (interested in the topic of the biological functioning of various emotions? Browse those past blog posts!) What happens instead is we feel emotions with an intensity we don’t like and avoid or bottle up, we absorb sociological lessons about which emotions we are allowed to express or not (different for males and females traditionally), we lose touch with what are emotions are, what they are telling us or how to feel or express them. This diversion has the unintended consequence of weakening our distress tolerance.
What I am saying to you is our sociological adaptation to avoid emotions has weakened our ability to handle stress. This is unfortunately not to our advantage. Think about exercise as a parallel here. What we are doing is avoiding exercise because we don’t like it, which has the unintended consequence of making it harder for us to take the stairs when the elevator is out. Just like we build our muscles by slowly increasing our physical activity, we can regain our ability to tolerate stress by acknowledging and feeling emotions when they happen in smaller ways, and doing nothing else with them.
Ultimately what our emotions “want” from us is to be felt without resistance. This allows them to fulfill their function. Emotions, as the communication signals they are, naturally crest and fall. If we don’t feed them, fight them etc, they communicate their signal in whatever intensity, then fall away. If we simply acknowledge and feel them they naturally dissipate.
To begin repairing and strengthening your distress tolerance try a version of this exercise: pick precipitating events of small emotional weights and allow the accompanying feelings to crest and fall while you simply experience them and survive.
As your distress tolerance builds in strength you begin to experience stronger and stronger stressors without becoming overwhelmed or destabilized. You are free to make choices about action or inaction and how you can better shape the variables in your life. The end consequence we are going for here is (as always) empowerment to create a life that is happy and fulfilling.
How strong is your distress tolerance? What are your personal patterns of emotional avoidance? Want to regain control and build towards more peace and happiness in your life? I can help!
(C) 2021 Creatively, LLC
Hello, Beautiful, Strong, Creative Minds! We are entering into (depending how you are counting) week four or so of this health crisis in Maryland. Many of us are feeling patience wearing thin, cabin fever growing strong, hairs on our head growing unruly, and overall uncertainty and impatience waxing. I have been meeting with many of you virtually from my home office, and the emotional toll from many sources has been mostly universal- we are so in this together! In that spirit, this month on the Creatively blog, I want to share 3 main recommendations I have been sharing to survive this crisis and support your creative mind in the best possible way.
Some fine print: my goal is always to support you in your own effort to manage this crisis with your existing support network in place (need a support network? Scrap this article and start there. Not sure where to start? Feel yourself approaching crisis? For a mental health emergency you can STILL CALL 911. Urgent, not emergent? A list of operating mental health urgent resources can be found at the bottom of the page here.)
Step 1: Integrate Strong Emotions
Remember, a creative mind is a passionate mind. It is natural for you to have strong emotions. That means you are likely to be having strong emotional reactions to strong emotional events. That is ok! Mindfulness says the most emotional pain we experience is out of the resistance of an emotional experience rather than the emotional experience itself. In other words, give yourself permission to experience your powerful emotions. Build support around yourself and talk through and express how you are feeling. Those that are emotionally doing the best in this crisis are those that are not resisting the experience. That is not to say they like or are in agreement with things, but it is to say they understand their current variables and have adapted and are integrated to working within them. It is the frequently used sailing analogy within mindfulness- know what forces you cannot change, and by accepting them as such, you now have the freedom to utilize them to get where you want to go and operate within them. This crisis is happening. Integrate. Feel. Support your feelings. Now what are your choices?
Step 2: Make Meaning with Daily Creative Practice
Your creative brain craves meaning making. In fact, one of the most important ways you will feel grounded and stay emotionally well in your life is through finding meaning in your experiences. The reverse is also true- creative people commonly fall into emotional difficulty when they struggle to find meaning in experiences. By knowing this, you can harness its power into creating positive forces in your life. For this reason, the world often looks to artists for meaning in experiences throughout history. What is happening in the world right now is historical. How will you satisfy your creative need to make meaning? Spend energy here and watch yourself transform your own experience. Oh- and by the way- if you know me or have read or followed enough of what I have said on Creatively, you know by now my other rule about your creative practice- do it EVERY day! Commit to your daily creative practice every day as your search and investment in making meaning from these experiences.
Step 3: Expect Much Less While Doing Much More
I can’t tell you how many sessions in the past few weeks have started something like this, “I feel like I should be [creatively] doing so much more...” Let me try to put your mind at ease: We are in a global health crisis. Coping with living through this is doing plenty. Your brain is doing lots of things that just doesn’t produce as much right now. You have to allow for this. This is the rule of crisis. Allow yourself to expect less of yourself. Understand that though it may not always feel like it (though it certainly may!) you are doing so much more, it just is likely to produce much less. That is ok. It is expected. It is not forever. You are basically running uphill. More effort and energy is required than on a flat surface and it feels way less productive and way harder. But- a downhill follows- and your body gains strength from the uphill battle. So- keep pushing- and tell yourself you are doing well! I see you over there- hanging in there, struggling, not giving up, day after day.
So these are the 3 steps, Creative! Follow, rinse, repeat. Keep your wheels on the ground. Get through one day, go to bed, then get through the next one. I was recently re-inspired by a Caroline Casey quote, “You must hunger and be fully outside of something to truly know it.” Our return to former normal will be so wonderful and we will know it like we never did before. I look forward the most, to that.
Creatives, if you are struggling, I understand, and I am here for you. I am offering a variety of services to try to support as many needs as one creativity counselor can- so don’t hesitate to reach out and we can talk. Strength to each of you ✨✨
(C) 2020 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
Today I want to tap into what I affectionately call in session “the lizard brain” or petting the cat: the natural, organismic, animal part of you. This is the part of you where instinct and body knowledge live, untampered with by your mighty prefrontal cortex. It is a set of natural drives and signals that most living things live by, and in many ways we have evolved away from. For better and worse, we bring in the “intellectual committee” when making decisions, sometimes overriding our organismic needs. There are certainly times for that. There are also certainly times when it is less useful. Ideally, I want you to be able to identify both your natural instincts and your “committee” decisions, and make a choice as to which you need to follow. Since I think human beings are evolved and accomplished at doing the latter (“the committee”) I want to dedicate this blog post to the former (“the lizard brain”). So- let’s take some time and space to check in with yourself: how are you at listening to your instincts?
You may connect with this notion of instincts by one of its many names in today’s society- body knowledge, Mommy instincts, protective instincts, gut feelings, initial reactions, first impressions, etc. It is a visceral screaming of “yes” or “no” inside you. If you have to “decide” about something, then that is probably not your instinct about it.
I was listening to a book (still listening to Caroline Casey) who quoted a zen master on this very topic- she said this zen master described the concept of zen to her as “when I am hungry, I eat, when I am tired I sleep.” What a basic and beautiful example of meeting simple organismic needs. Yet- how often do we neglect to do this? We eat when we aren’t hungry, we don’t sleep when we are tired- yes, I know there are many reasons why- but we can’t deny that the overall effect is neglecting our animal self.
When we neglect our animal self, or “basic needs” in hierarchy of needs psychology, there is a fall-out. One of these is that we lose sight of and connection with that part of ourselves. If we aren’t giving our body what it wants, eventually we stop listening to what it is asking us for, until we finally block it out altogether and aren’t even sure what our instincts are. Another cost of this behavior is- we are in a contestant state of alarm or stress. If, again, you think about an animal without regular reliable food, water, shelter, safety, routine, structure, exercise etc, what you get is a stressed out, unhappy, neurotic animal. For human beings it is the same. When we neglect our basic needs we are constantly plagued by an undercurrent of anxiety and stress.
I want to take a minute and address the difference between instincts and hedonism. In other words, needs vs wants. All livings things also have a survival instinct that drives us to excess (hedonism). It says- “this is good- more!” and is not the same as meeting basic needs. This is something for you to keep in mind as you tease apart what your natural self is asking you for- for now, remember that these two things are not the same.
I said earlier that one of the modern-day society names for these instincts is “body knowledge” and in fact this is a concept touted in psychology (especially related to trauma). Essentially what it means is- your body stores experiences and knows what you need on a visceral level. This means you can trust that your instincts. If you are listening to them correctly, they are giving you an accurate picture of your needs. Instincts know when you are suffering, when you are well, and what you need to stabilize. Your body stores your own individualized instruction manual for the recipe to your peace and happiness. Sounds a little too good to be true, doesn’t it?
To strengthen this natural force within you, you need to tap into it and listen to it often. If you haven’t done this much, or even at all, I want you to start by “petting the cat.” Consider your most basic organismic needs (do a simple inventory) and make sure that they are met. Drink enough water. Eat enough good foods. Be physically active. Be social. Get enough sleep. Adhere to a routine. Eliminate toxicity and poisons. Do this diligently for at least two weeks and record your anxiety and stress level as you go. I promise you will feel more grounded, safe and calm. By “petting the cat” you are getting back in touch with your instinctual natural self by giving it what it needs.
A second step: once you are meeting your basic needs, begin to notice when your “lizard brain” is asking you for something. You will begin to notice fatigue when you deviate from a routine, miss a meal, etc. Begin to make the connection with these natural and basic patterns of cause and effect in your body. Strengthen the connections by noticing them and meeting the needs they are asking you for. As you continue in this work, you might add a meditative practice to quiet your thoughts (eg consciously telling the committee to stop talking to you) and access your instincts. Begin to notice the answers to questions like, what “feels right”?
Over time, my goal for you is not to lose you intellectual capacity, but to supplement it with your strong instinctual knowledge. When making decisions I want you to have access to both an intellectual and visceral information source, and when these differ an ability to choose between them.
Did you know this skill enhances not only your overall sense of wellbeing, but also your artistic practice? Give me a call and let’s talk more about how.
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
You’ve Done Enough Coping
This is the antithetical post where your therapist tells you to stop coping with things. Today I want to reflect upon a clinical observation I have made in practice over the years, as well as in the world around me. I want to debunk some of the most popular psychological advice and offer my own based on my own clinical readings, learning and experience. I do, of course, caveat this with- if it doesn’t feel right or healthy for you, don’t follow it- and- consult your therapist about it before making any radical changes to your behavior. That said:
I want you to stop coping. I will say it again: Stop. Coping. Stop distracting yourself from your problems, numbing yourself to your pain, filling up emptiness with things. Creatives, these things are not meant to be permanent solutions to your problems! They are, at best, temporary survival mechanisms that do not (I repeat NOT) serve you well in the long term. If you want to heal, and you are truly ready and able to do the work, it is time to feel the feelings you are protecting yourself from. There is no other way to move forward.
I want to acknowledge that it is not always the right time to do this, and coping mechanisms are survival skills when life comes at us too hard, too fast and too harsh to deal with. They are good for that for awhile. Sometimes you can cordon off some of your pain to coping skills and take out smaller things to feel and deal with- and this is an important accompanying skill (read: emotional boundaries!) and so we see evolutionarily coping skills and protective mechanisms have an important function- but they by definition are preventing you from dealing with your emotional baggage, which, by definition is weighing you down. So: stop. With. The. Coping.
The reality is this will mean pain for you. The reality is, this will mean struggling. But that is life! Life is struggle and survival and emotional ups and downs. They give us perspective, meaning and allow us to grow. As long as we continue to protect ourselves from it, we are staying stagnant and not allowing ourselves to come into living our fullest, best lives.
And that’s it for today, Creative! Another parsimonious nugget to let roll around in your brain. Assuming you accept this idea with me, the logical next step is: “how do I do the work?” Luckily for you, you know a therapist! Let’s talk about some strategies for you in session.
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
This week’s post centers on mindfulness, and in that spirit, is parsimonious:
“Sailing through”- an expression depicting something someone has done easily, without resistance.
This week’s practice: Put things down. Do less. Say no. Immerse yourself in simply being. If you don’t know how, try a guided meditation.
Enjoy moments of intentional peace, silence and mindful absorption.
If your life is too full to allow for this, identify some things you can put down for awhile. You may be missing life’s beautiful moments by going too fast and trying too hard.
While sailing, you use the powerful forces of wind and water as they exist naturally. You harness them to go where you want to go. You are not fighting the elements. You are taking them as they are and using them to arrive at your destination.
“Sailing through:” Mindfully embracing the forces of your life fully to direct yourself to a peaceful and fulfilling future.
Harness your power, for you are mighty.
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
Adults need to Limit Screen Time, Too
Creatives: most of us have heard by now that pediatricians recommend limiting screen time in our little ones to help mold their growing minds. What you may or may not know or do is limit screen time for yourself, as well. I don’t have to tell you how prevalent glowing screens are in our daily lives- they are computers, tablets, phones, TVs and more- and we spend up to 75% of our waking hours looking at them. There are studies showing physiological effects of these activities such as posture and neck/back problems, eye strain, and more- I am here to tell you there is also a psychological impact!
Here are some of the problems with “screen time,” that you may or may not know about:
Screen time isn’t “real life.” You aren’t interacting physically with others (a psychological and sociological need) you aren’t physically accomplishing something (a self esteem need and creative need) you may or may not be being creative (a psychological need).
Screen time isn’t “natural.” You are likely inside, seated. You are probably not outside, breathing fresh air, using your body, experiencing natural body rhythms of the day, touching, smelling, or tasting. The medical community recommends disengaging from screens at least 2 hours prior to going to bed as it interferes with the body’s natural ability to fall asleep.
Screen time isn’t “mindful.” You aren’t grounded, experiencing or aware of time passing. You aren’t “living” as a human biological organism is meant to “live.” You are not participating in the present moment or engaging with your surroundings.
Screen time isn’t “nurturing.” You are taking time away from self care, you are taking time away from other productive activities and goals like cooking, fitness, housework, and spending time with loved ones. Too often screen time is comparing out on social media, spying and pretending and watching other lives in entertainment- it is outward not inwardly focused, it is fleeting and not long lasting- you are not investing in yourself.
Need more convincing? Try this exercise (on paper!): Spend five minutes on a screen- whether you are browsing the web, flicking through social media pages, watching TV or gaming- then stop and reflect on your experience. How did you feel during? How do you feel after? How FULFILLED and ENGAGED in your life do you feel? Give that last one a numerical value. Repeat the exercise doing something without a screen- take a walk, talk to a friend, cook something, meditate. How did you feel during? How do you feel after? How FULFILLED and ENGAGED in your life do you feel? Assign a numerical value. Compare your notes. What did you find out?
Want to make reducing screen time a goal for 2018? Have fears, concerns or obstacles related to the amount of screen time in your life? Let’s talk about it.
(C) 2017 Creatively, LLC
The Holiday Season is quickly coming upon us and with its arrival we need to revamp our mindfulness. In this spirit, next week I will vacation from my blog, newsletter and website- so feel free to take the time to reread some past posts or take your own mindful break!
By now you have had some introduction to what mindfulness is and some ways to use it in your life. Mindfulness is beautifully simple and uncomplicated. When we are mindful, we are quieting the mind and focusing on our present experiences. Even those of us that feel seasoned and successful in mindfulness practices can get diverted from this state of being during the Holiday Season.
Part of the problem with the Holidays is we want them to “be” something. Therefore, we have expectations for them. We compare out and feel pressure to deliver certain things to those around us. Usually these are with the intention of giving the perfect Holiday Season to others. This year, I give you permission to be a little more selfish. Ask yourself what makes the Holidays memorable and special for you? Of the list of things you “have to do” for your Holiday Season- why do items make that list? Let’s make mindful choices this year for how and why we celebrate. Try this simple exercise (as always I advise not to do these exercises without the guidance of therapy sessions- so let’s schedule one of those, too!):
Make a list, drawing or representation of your choosing of what you plan to do for this Holiday Season. If that is already too overwhelming (hmm) then choose one holiday for the exercise. When you are finished, go through each thing you plan to do and “mini-meditate” on it. Consider it. Scan your emotions, scan your body. As you consider this thing, how does your body react? With tension? With warmth? What are your emotions associated with this thing? Stress, joy, something else? Ask yourself, why do you do this thing during the Holidays? For yourself, for others? Allow your mind to consider and hold this information as you think about this first thing. Your goal this year is a peaceful, mindful, happy Holiday Season. Does this thing fit into that picture? Continue the exercise as you go through all your plans. Amend them to take away or add what brings you closer to a more peaceful and enjoyable Holiday Season. Allow yourself to feel the anxiety of eliminating things you might be accustomed to doing from your list. Give yourself permission to do something different.
So often when there are big calendar events like during the Holiday Season, we become so focused on outcomes and making them “perfect,” we miss enjoying them for what they really can be: peace, happiness, family, love, fulfillment and more. This year your new Holiday Tradition is yourself: create a more mindful Holiday Season.
Talk to you again in two weeks (unless I see you in my therapy chair- go ahead- schedule something!)
Happy Mindful Days!
(c) 2017 Creatively LLC
Therapy Skill: Make the Rules for your Life
Don’t bristle at the thought of rules too soon, Dear Creatives- these rules are made by you. Here is a logical concept laid out in print you probably know but may not have taken time to consider or apply, so read it twice: you can set the rules to your own life. One more time: you can set the rules to your life. In psychology-speak, we call these rules boundaries, and they are all yours.
This is a concept worth discussing because every (and I mean every) person who has sat in my therapy chair, has needed to review and address their boundaries. They may have set some rules in their lives, but either they can be added to, revamped, or both. Part of the reason we are bad at this is because it involves change and as such, resistance from others in our lives. Another reason is we may not see that a new rule needs to be set because we are too close to it. Lucky for you, I am not too close to it. I describe it sometimes like this: have you ever stood outside at the base of a tall building and looked up? You can’t see the whole thing. You are too close. I, am across the street. I see you.
Let’s assume that you have identified the need to set some new rules in your life despite some of the obstacles. What does that even mean or look like? We can break it down into categories. You have the right to write the rules for your relationships (romantic, friendship, familial, professional etc), you have the right to write rules for your physical space. You have the right to say when something is emotionally too much or not something you want to handle. In almost every area of your life there is a place for you to design a rule or a limit. Why do we do this? To protect ourselves. If we make the rule that within arm’s length is too close for a stranger to stand to us, we have a way to judge what is safe and can enforce that rule for ourselves. If we have a rule that if we are treated a certain way by a partner then that means we will leave a relationship, we have some groundwork in which to know if we are safe. If I know talking about a certain topic will make me cry and I don’t want to do that, I can decline to participate in a conversation and emotionally protect myself. And on and on.
Like everything else, our personal history including how we are raised and what we have experienced, influence the type of rules we have in our lives. Some of us may have built protective walls that are too strong and become isolating. Others of us may have too few protective barriers and need to build more or reinforce what we have. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Taking time to assess and identify what rules you have for yourself in your life, and how they are functional or dysfunctional (including their absence) for you, is an important goal in therapy that I do in some way shape or form, with everyone.
To help solidify the introduction to this concept, here is a brief art therapy exercise I have asked patients to do in groups and individually. You can repeat the exercise with a variety of boundary types (physical, interpersonal, etc etc). For the sake of this exercise, let’s think about romantic relationships. As always, I don’t recommend doing activities without the guidance of a therapist just in case you open up emotions you weren’t expecting- so give it a try and let’s talk more in session. The exercise:
Draw an object that represents yourself. It can be as simple or complex as you would like. I often draw a butterfly for myself. On the side of your paper, while thinking about your romantic relationships, list some qualities they may have: tumultuous, peaceful, short, long, committed, open, emotional, loving, etc etc. When you feel done, begin to draw around the symbol of yourself a representation of how you protect or open yourself up to romantic relationships. Did you choose to draw an enclosure? Are you using just shapes or colors? Is there a height, thickness or texture? However you create, try to express and explore the feeling you have of exposure or closure and protection in relationships. When you feel finished, look at what you have made. What do you see? Any new or surprising information? On the other side of your paper, list some qualities of an ideal relationship for you. Would you like to be more open or giving? Would you like to be more protective of yourself or your partner? When you feel finished, go back to your drawing and add what you feel you need to create this environment of rules for yourself. Did you patch a wall? Did you lower one? Did you add a door or a lock? Did you add or subtract layers, colors or shapes? When you are done, consider what you have made. The beauty of art is, often we can visually express what is verbally difficult to say. Sometimes the visual serves as a bridge between our feelings and experiences, and active thoughts. Let this project communicate to you and help you understand your relationship rules and boundaries.
Now you have had a quick and messy introduction to boundaries and making your own rules. Maybe you have even bought into that this would be a useful thing to examine and discuss. Believe me- it is important! Come to my chair and learn about yourself. Let’s start creating your happiest life.
(C) 2017 Creatively, LLC
A regular struggle for creative people is the creative block. Writers have writer’s blocks, painters have artistic blocks- we all have things that interfere with the flow of our creative energies. There are many reasons for creative blocks and they all impact us in different ways. In a previous blog post, we looked at using mindfulness to address a lack of inspiration. For the purpose of this exercise let’s examine some of the physical things that get in your way. In other words, what about the atmosphere of your daily life interferes with your ability to create?
What is your ideal creative time? What are you doing? Where are you working? What are you using? What do you hear, see, smell? Take a moment and envision the space. Envision the project. Are you making creative time part of your regular life? Most of us aren’t. We already know that creative people need to create like we need to eat and sleep. Why aren’t we prioritizing being creative? What are some of your barriers to creating?
For many of us it is about time. We have full time jobs, we have families to care for, households to run, other priorities. For many of us it is about money. We have recurring expenses in our lives and can’t carve out extra for supplies. Sometimes it is about space. We live in a home where every room is already spoken for. Where are we supposed to create? On the kitchen table? Maybe! Often, a barrier is motivation and/or creative energy. The problem with a lack of creative energy and motivation is it is its own feedback loop: the less creative we are, the less creative energy we have, and vice versa. Where is a creative person to start to address all of these obstacles?
An important part of therapy is basic problem solving. I say basic to emphasize fundamental more than simple- it is a first step but not an easy one. Go back to your vision of your perfectly spent creative time. Describe it. You can write about it, talk about it, draw about it, make a list- but do something to qualify it. Next, think about if you were to do something creative RIGHT NOW. What do you need? What is preventing you? Again, do something to document this. Put the “ideal” and the “real” creative time side by side. What are you lacking? Great! You have taken your first step to addressing your creative barriers. Now, let’s problem solve.
If you have a list of differences from this exercise, prioritize them based on need. How critical are they to your creative time? Once they are prioritized, you will know what you need to accomplish first for regular creating to become a reality in your life. Don’t put this off! Accept that it is a basic need and something you will work towards in some way each day. If your first item from your list feels too monumental- break it down further. This is goal setting 101: you want to set yourself up to succeed, so set goals that are bite-sized and reachable.
Of course, another vital part of this process is to get support. With my help you can get support in the form of therapy. Bring other healthy people in your life onboard as part of your process. Let’s work on this together and bring more creativity into your daily life!
© 2017 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.