If you are an artistic professional or someone who relies on your creativity for your livelihood, you know what it takes to face a big unknown and uncertainty – you have forged a career–or hope to–that is as much about competition and rejection as it is about skill and performance.
And, over this last year or more, life has proved itself to be more challenging than many of us have ever thought possible.
There are certain skills that artists, creatives, and performers have had to have that go beyond a talent with words, with movement, or with a paint brush. But now, more than ever, you really need to have the emotional skills and resilience to navigate these unprecedented, challenging times.
To be productive as a creative, 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 current experiences, and yet you also have to be careful not to lose yourself in complicated realities.
How do you stay open, receptive, and vulnerable while facing the ongoing challenges of uncharted realities?
You’ll find your way, stay in grounded confidence, and achieve greater ability to show up in your creativity when you work on your emotional boundaries, heal old emotional wounds, and build emotional resilience.
Create Healthy Emotional Boundaries
Creating and maintaining emotional boundaries with your art, is an art in itself. Firm 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 self doubts and fears. They provide a safe emotional space for you to show up and connect with your audience, regardless of their response. Emotional boundaries allow you to trust your art and feel 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.
Weak boundaries can reveal themselves in different ways.
When you’re overly 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. You lose connection with your art’s purpose and meaning.
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.
And, with the world continuing to shift and be unpredictable, particularly right now, unhealthy emotional boundaries can really take you out of your ability to show up in your art.
Strong yet flexible emotional boundaries can help you continue to enjoy the ride of your creative life, even during tough times. 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 rollercoaster. They help you create, perform, bring your art to the world, assert your artistic value, or advocate for your audience through your art.
Heal Emotional Trauma
There is an intimate relationship between healthy boundaries and the ability to maintain an 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 and into your daily routine.
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 may find it is particularly difficult to deal with the postponements, cancellations, and changing regulations that come with the changing world situation when you are still struggling with old emotional trauma.
Sometimes, the emotional challenges you’re struggling with today can cause old hurts to resurface, and then your art, as well as your daily experience of life, 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. You need that, too. You need to make peace with your past to stop perpetuating trauma for you and the collective unconscious.
Practice and Build Emotional Resilience
When emotional boundaries, emotional freedom, and emotional resilience come together, you can lead with vulnerability and strength – the place to be as an artist, particularly in 2021 and beyond.
When so much has changed and so much seems “up in the air” in our society and in your artistic career, you feel like you’re being tested all the time. Sometimes, you may feel like giving up. Your emotional resources just feel like they’re at their breaking point.
But, it’s in these trying moments that you build your resilience. This may be a moment to pause and reflect on all that you have endured, all that you have figured out, all the ways you have remained on the artistic path, despite a hugely difficult year and more.
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 to yourself, your art, and your audience. When you have clear boundaries, access to a sense of emotional freedom, and a sense of emotional resilience, you can continue to show up as an artist and an individual in a challenging world.
After everything you, your relationships, your career, your community, and our world has gone through since March of 2020, you may find it impossible to manage boundaries, find freedom, and rely on your internal sense of resilience.
You don’t have to do it alone.
A good psychotherapist can help you navigate the difficulties of the day while also healing the wounds of the past. I have specific expertise in helping artists, creatives, and performers with their mental health, reconnect to their creativity, and develop as professionals.
Contact me to set up a free 15-20 minute consultation to see if psychotherapy can help you further your career and your personal life.
I am Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology. I help creatives face and shift emotional trauma, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creative blocks, and addictions – to be and live their own best version. You can read more about Therapy for Creatives and Performers here.