Female writer on laptop focused on her creative work

As a creative, you want to show up in the world and to share your creativity. You’re driven to connect and make meaning through your craft, art, or performance.

But, you may find yourself avoiding your work and feel unable to “show up” fully. You daydream and get lost in distraction instead of investing yourself in creating your goals or dreams.

You get trapped in repetitive thoughts and worries. No one will like my ideas. Everyone will laugh at me. No one cares. What if I offend people? My family will hate it. I’m not good enough. The work isn’t good enough. I’m too young, too old, just an amateur.

The doubts and fears spin out of control. You want so badly to show up, but at the same time, doing so makes you feel too vulnerable and exposed. 

As a result, you ignore or silence that part of you that really wants to step more fully into being part of the world. This goes against everything you wish to be and do as a creative.

So, what is going on? 

Unresolved emotional conflicts or trauma can emerge unexpectedly and interfere with your ability to show up for yourself and your creative work.

As a child, you might have been ignored, dismissed, judged, controlled, or shamed. Your true self wasn’t seen, validated, valued, or allowed to bloom.

Nervous woman peeking between curtains before performance on stage in theater

Now, you’re left with a deep longing to show up, but also you’re so scared to step more fully in the world.  

When you find yourself in front of an audience or a casting director, you’re not in control of how they respond to you, your craft, art, or performance. You’re in a completely vulnerable and raw emotional space. They might love you, embrace you, or be moved by you. Or, there’s a chance they will reject, dismiss, or try to shame you.

No one can control what others think of them. But, you can stay in control of your own actions and responses. When you have access to your own sense of emotional freedom, you can navigate any challenge, particularly when it comes to showing up and sharing your art.

What keeps you from “showing up” for yourself, your creativity, and the demands of your creative career?

As  a child, you’re completely dependent on others to be seen, to mirror you, to validate you. If you didn’t grow up in an emotionally attuned environment because your emotional needs were neglected or you suffered abuse, the emotional implications can be long-lasting. Now, as an adult, you still feel dependent on outside sources for emotional validation.

You cannot control how people respond to you, and that stirs up your past of unmet needs. 

In order to heal and fully embrace yourself and your full creative potential, it’s necessary to address your “emotional invalidation wounds.” You can release unhealthy dependency on others and, instead, live with healthy inter-dependence and a spirit of co-creation. Rather than depending on others to determine  your self-worth, you can build authentic connections and rely on an internal source of self-esteem and trust.

Man writer sitting on a red cushion writing his laptop. There are mountains and the sea in the background.

Unhealed emotional invalidation keeps you trapped in emotional conflict

You want to be seen, but at the same time, you’re afraid to be seen. This conflict operates, most likely, into your unconscious mind.

You may not be aware how you’re living from a place of emotional reactivity or defensiveness. You may not remember all of the events or repeating patterns from your childhood that have left their emotional scars on you.

Unfortunately, living your life in a reactive or defensive way just perpetuates the old trauma. It keeps you stuck in an old self-fulfilling prophecy, you basically re-enact the past in the present. You expect to feel invalidated, powerless, and out of control because that is what you experienced in the past.

You can live with what I call  “emotional freedom.“ You can feel grounded in your true self and in your own power to create yourself and your path. Emotional freedom enables you to discover your gifts, share them with the world, and have fulfilling creative experiences. 

What can you do to heal your past and live more emotional freedom?

man from behind while playing his acoustic guitar during a show in stage lights

You can take conscious steps to shift out of this emotional conflict and stop re-enacting the past. You can make decisions that heal, shift, and transform your fear of showing up.

  1. Create emotional boundaries between you and your art or performance. What is your art’s purpose and meaning? Instead of putting yourself at the center of your creative focus, put your art and its purpose first.
  2. Practice, practice, practice emotional regulation. You need healthy coping strategies to deal with challenging feelings. Emotional regulation skills enable you to meet complex emotions and make intentional decisions that can help your growth.
  3. Take responsibility to hone your skills and talents to show up in your best self. Don’t strive for perfection. Instead, strive for good, solid work for each and every moment you show up. You further develop your skills every time you show up in the best way you can.
  4. Just trust that, whatever comes your way, you learn, expand, and develop into something more. Allow yourself to fail. Failure is part of the game. In between failures you’ll find your success.
  5. Just take action! Step out of overthinking and just do it! Face your fears and see what happens. Enlist a mentor, a coach, and friends you trust to help you face yourself.

If none of these are working, because you get too triggered or you find you can’t really take any of these steps, it’s time to access outside help. Find a therapist who knows how to support the specific needs of creative people.

Psychotherapy for emotional trauma is very effective in healing invalidation wounds and can help you navigate your creative endeavors in a way that is a growth process not a re-traumatic experience.

Classical ballet performed by a couple of ballet dancers on the stage of the opera house.

In my Los Angeles-based practice, I help creatives overcome invalidation wounds and the fear of showing up by working simultaneously with both the past and the present. The healing occurs in weaving multilayers of emotional work:

  • We co-create a emotionally-attuned environment that allows you to reconnect with your core self, to heal dismissed and minimized part of who you are, and to embrace a path of discovery and growth
  • We do some in-depth work to get at the root of the fear, just enough to see what is triggered and re-enacted in your current struggles.
  • We identified unhealthy reactive and defensive coping strategies that keep you looped in reenacting the past and help you access healthy strategies.
  • We use an effective psychotherapy approach called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to help you heal from emotional invalidation. EMDR reconnects you with your core self and who you really are as layers and layers of trauma are released.
  • We explore healthier, more empowering ways to navigate your  complex creative career (which can itself be abusive and traumatizing)

When you do the emotional work to heal a past of emotional invalidation, you can find the courage and the strength to show up for your creativity, your career, and your life.

My California-based psychotherapy practice specializes in the unique needs of artists and creatives. To learn more about how psychotherapy can help heal emotional trauma or conflict and help you access the full depth of your human affective experiences to enrich and expand your creativity, please contact me to set up a free initial consultation.

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.


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