As an artist, you live in a very unique world. You get to express the fullness of who you are. You have the opportunity to leave something meaningful behind that will impact generations. It’s a privilege to bring value to the world simply by expressing and living your passion.
At the same time, you take on unique challenges. Your artistic life is filled with pressure, rejection, competition, and unknowns. You have to have courage, show up, and take risks... You also have to know when to say “no” or “yes” and know how to protect yourself from mistreatment or abuse. Whether you’re still developing your career or you’re an established artist, it’s a lot to take on...
You live in a big, complicated, unpredictable world, and that places great demands on you as an artist. It can feel like a constant balancing act. You have to be emotionally open and vulnerable, yet also brave, strong, and daring in the face of fear and doubt. You need to be emotionally in touch with your creative reservoir and your unconscious mind, yet you also need to be grounded and present enough so that the deep feelings don’t take over. You need to be emotionally connected and inspired by relationships, and yet you also have to be careful not to lose yourself.
So, how do you walk that fine line of being emotionally in touch with all you need as an artist while taking on the challenges that come with the artistic world?
The answer is in establishing your emotional boundaries, healing old emotional pain, and building emotional resilience.
There is an art to creating and maintaining emotional boundaries when you’re an artist. Strong yet flexible boundaries allow you to be intimately connected to your creative energy, but also enable you to keep your emotional “cool” when things get rough. Good emotional boundaries help you keep going even when you feel rejected or criticized. They help you show up and connect with your audience, regardless of their response. Emotional boundaries allow you to feel confident and protected, even in the face of the unexpected - especially when you’re auditioning or pitching an idea.
What happens when you don’t have strong emotional boundaries? Sometimes, people’s reactions about your art can feel deeply personal. You can become emotionally reactive or defensive and fall into the “not good enough” trap when your art is seen and reviewed. Unconscious conflicts can take over. You run the risk of becoming either enmeshed in or detached from your art.
When you’re enmeshed with your art you tend to obsess about finding your creative spark, flow, or inspiration. When you’re too detached from your art, you find it hard to care and often feel out of touch with your creations and endeavors. You postpone or avoid creating or performing. In both extremes you’re not authentically connected to your creativity. You tend to get trapped in fears, insecurities, shame, and judgments. You can’t see the value and uniqueness of your art. Instead of creating or performing, you get trapped in internal conflicts. Frozen with anxiety, it’s not about your art anymore. Your creative life becomes more about being overwhelmed by or avoiding the unhealed emotional conflicts we’ll talk about below.
Strong yet flexible emotional boundaries can help you enjoy the ride of your creative life. You can feel both powerful and fluid at the same time. You’re connected with your ideas, creativity, inspiration, or performing energy. You are eager and curious to discover it, to bring it to life, despite the challenges that might arise.
Remember, boundaries are not barriers or walls. Instead, they are guides that help you search out your opportunities and find where you belong and where you can bloom. Boundaries are like reliable, solid tracks that support you when you find yourself on an emotional roller coaster. They help you create, perform, bring your art in the world, assert your artistic value, or advocate for your audience through your art.
There is an intimate relationship between healthy boundaries and emotional freedom from unhealed conflicts. When you heal old emotional wounds, you’re able to create healthy emotional boundaries. And, practicing healthy emotional boundaries can help you heal old emotional wounds. It’s a remarkable synergic relationship.
Old emotional injuries or unhealed conflicts operate in your unconscious, controlling your emotional creative space. This is the space you most need to keep clear and open as an artist.
When old unhealed pain spills into your present, you begin to project your past struggles into your art. If you have some unhealed shame, you may feel unreasonably shameful about your art. If you feel not good enough, you may feel your art is not good enough. When such feelings operate in your unconscious, they can trap you in old emotional pain, instead of being emotionally free.
You’ll repeat your old battles until you find a way to face, heal, and master them. While your unconscious mind is your creative reservoir, you may not be able to access that treasure if it’s locked up in past emotional conflicts. Sometimes, the emotional challenges you’re struggling with today can cause old hurts to resurface, and then your art may begin to reflect your unhealed emotional trauma. Instead of re-writing your old story, you’re just reliving the same traumatic narrative. Your audience likely wants your stories of redemption, victory, healing, and growth. They want stories full of new meaning crafted out of the lessons you’ve learned. You need to make peace with your past to give them that.
When emotional boundaries, emotional freedom, and emotional resilience come together, you can lead with vulnerability and strength - the place to be as an artist.
The creative world can really challenge your emotional resilience. Sometimes you may feel like giving up. Your emotional resources just feel like they’re at their breaking point. Or perhaps you’re just tired after taking on so many challenges.
But it’s in these trying moments that you build your resilience. Victory in the face of adversity builds your emotional endurance and allows you to get in touch with your emotions in deeper and deeper ways. Successfully facing challenges expands your emotional creative space, which you need to create or perform. Every time you choose the right step, the right move, or simply to keep going despite the odds, you become more resilient and more in touch with your artistic resources.
Together, emotional boundaries, emotional freedom, and emotional resilience help you create or perform from a place of true connection and power. When you’re creating from your “sweet spot” you can be in touch with your best self as an artist and to take your career forward.
You don’t need to be perfectly and all the time in that “sweet spot.” No one is. You are human. But, if you want to build a creative life rooted in both your vulnerability and your strengths, there is a lot you can do. Sometimes just small changes can start shifting you in the right direction.
Start with fully embracing who you are and dedicate yourself to growth. Join a support group, read self-help books, practice mindfulness or meditation. Exercise, take walks, or do yoga. Say connected with your true friends. Have a mentor. Learn from those you admire and trust. These are just a few options. Pick one or two and use them consistently. And, there is always psychotherapy. Although it may seem like a serious investment both in terms of time and money, it can give you the opportunity to live a full life and create at the highest level.
Mihaela Ivan Holtz is a psychotherapist working with creatives and performers in Los Angeles and says:
Many years ago I found myself in the therapy room with my first creative client. I was full of curiosity and excitement. Creatives have a special place in my heart. I can’t imagine a world without art. My client, an extremely skilled creative, was very passionate and devoted to his art. But, he felt abused, unseen, not valued or rewarded for his work. His fears, anxiety, and self-doubts had taken over. My work is confidential, so I can’t say much...
Fast-forward years later, my client was nominated for a big award. Really amazing! But, the nomination is not the big deal about this story. The fact that he was living with emotional integrity, pride, and working with people that he loved to work with is the big deal. Being seen, valued, and rewarded as an artist is the big deal. That client inspired me to continue working with creatives. And I continued seeing amazing breakthroughs in my creative clients.
Feeling moved by my clients’ journeys, I started to write blogs. I wanted to help and inspire other creatives. After all, I’ve been a part of creatives’ journeys of facing fears, insecurities, challenges, rejections, healing pain, and gaining emotional resilience. I’ve been there through setbacks and victories. Why wouldn’t I share what I’ve learned?
So, I’m here at Stage 32 to share my knowledge with other creatives and performers.
Psychology and art are my two big passions. To me, Psychotherapy is an art and a science, at the same time. Just like an artist, I continually hone my skills. But, I also know when to let go of my skills so I can help my clients create their lives. Creating beautiful lives is an art. While continuing to write my blogs, I feel I’m becoming a writer myself. I have a few stories brewing in my mind... My creatives are inspiring me to express my creativity through writing. We’re all here on a life journey to help, inspire, and become more through each other.
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