The Artist’s journey from anxiety and gloom to aliveness and possibilities
As an artist, there are the moments when you feel at home with yourself, connected, deeply involved. Nothing else matters. You are in your comfort zone. Those are the moments when you immerse yourself in what you create or perform with passion, completely focused and lost in your work. There are no fears, no doubts, and no rumination about past or future. It’s just you and your art deeply connected, flowing together in harmony.
When you’re in this anxious mind state, even when things get messy and you struggle to find your artistic expression, you still feel at home with your art. It’s like a game you play, full of the raw curiosity and joy of a child. You’re on a quest to discover your greatest creative ideas.
And then, there are the moments when you are not involved with your art. This is when you don’t feel at home anymore. You fall into agitation or some kind of emotional void. Slipping into “a funk” relieves some of the anxiety, but you’re left feeling empty and disconnected. You wonder what is happening to you when you are not expressing your art. You’re trapped between standing on the edge and being lost in a dark cloud…
Cut off from your creative expression, you find yourself angry and frustrated that you can’t escape the anxiety or the depression. You are moving in between nervousness and gloom.
And then you start to wonder, “Am I doomed to feel this way forever?” You might assume that creative madness is just a part of the artist’s life. Are you bound to this madness? What can you do to escape it? Should you escape? What if you lose your creativity?
You can embrace that madness and work with that madness instead of getting lost in it. But first, what’s really beneath your “creative madness”?
In your moments of emotional clarity, you can see how your madness may be connected to something way deep inside of you, not just some inevitable part of the artist’s journey. You know the roots of your challenge comes from within, but somehow you don’t want to go back there. The memories that you don’t want to remember, the experiences that you’d hate to relive, the moments that hurt you when you were most vulnerable… They are the ghosts down under, controlling your mind.
You try to escape these ghosts, but they keep showing up. Coming in your dreams at night, they take you by surprise. Invading in your daydreams, they won’t let you really enjoy that sweetness of your imagination.
Despite all the ways you try to avoid them, the memories get a hold of you in unexpected ways. Moving you from agitation and anxiety to the emotional emptiness and “the funk,” these memories are trying to find their way to you, not to bring you pain but so you can face them and find relief.
When such memories surface, you’re being invited to answer questions you’ve always found hard to ask… What stories have never been told? What fears have never been faced? What tears have not had the chance to roll down your cheeks? What disappointments with people who were supposed to be there for you still haunt you?
You begin to think, maybe it’s time to face these ghosts, these memories that won’t let go. But then, in the next second, you are afraid that shining a light on the darkness will actually take away the thing that makes you feel truly happy, fulfilled, and at home: your creativity.
Your creative career and all that relies on your success in the arts won’t help you to stop and see what lingers deep down inside of you. In fact, your creativity is keeping you busy and giving you the gifts you always dreamed of: feeling validated, important, seen, valued, and appreciated. It seems crazy to stop now…
So, how do you reconcile this dilemma? Do you really have to choose between you art and your sanity?
While I can’t tell you how to face the ghosts that hide beneath the surface of your creative life, I can speak to the journeys I have witnessed in my clients. Every single artist who I’ve I helped find relief from anxiety and depression was unique. They brought their own collection of stories, talents, and strengths. Their psychotherapy journey was unique, as well. But, they all had one thing in common: somewhere throughout their therapy they had a small taste of how it feels to be freed from anxiety and depression.
As they struggled with their ghosts and looked into the agitation and the emptiness, they got more tastes of that freedom. Eventually they tasted that freedom well enough to know the difference between being trapped in the madness or embracing it in a way that could be empowering.
They came to know what emotional freedom really was and they discovered how to stay connected to their own internal knowing. As they developed the emotional resilience and fluidity to walk confidently between darkness and light, they knew what they wanted. They wanted emotional freedom. And, they knew how to get there.
Again, I don’t know what your unique journey to creative freedom will be, but what I know with confidence is that you do need a safe, healing, and emotionally transforming place for your never told stories, never faced fears, and never felt disappointments to unfold. The right emotional environment will allow you emerge from anxiety and gloom into aliveness and emotional richness.
When the fog of anxiety and depression lifts away you can see and feel with clarity the core of who you are. From that clear core of you, you can be in touch with your old and new experiences, whether they’re challenging or beautiful, in a different way: enlivened by your own emotional richness, no longer trapped in those patterns of creative madness, you move into each day supported by a sense of creative freedom.
I am Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology working with creatives and performers. I help creatives and performers with their life struggles, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creativity, relationships and love, PTSD, and addictions. And, to become their own best version.
160 South Lasky Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212