As a creative or performer, you use your life experiences to make your art. You call upon the most magical and painful moments in your life in order to speak and connect to your audience. Through your art, you celebrate life’s greatest moments, bringing awareness to the entire spectrum of our complex human condition. In this process, you can also heal personal and collective wounds.
But, unhealed wounds of the past can interfere with how you show up in your art and with your audience, and with your creative career as a whole. With or without awareness, your art is infused with all who you are, including the trauma that you might still be holding on to.
Unresolved trauma usually finds its way into your art. Those unhealed parts of yourself long to be seen, validated, and released. And, although there is healing through art, there are many artists who live and struggle with unhealed trauma.
Without healing, instead of being a way to become more whole and integrated, the creation of art perpetuates the trauma for the individual or for the collective.
Many successful, prolific artists still live in emotional turmoil due to unhealed trauma. Their artistic success is actually built on layers of past trauma. And though they may have built important careers, they still pay a price.
Addiction, anxiety, depression amongst other problems are the constant companions of successful artists who are still tangled in unresolved trauma.
Wherever you are in your creative career, it is important to check in with yourself about the role that old wounds from the past may play in your present.
Ask yourself these 6 questions…
Where is your desire to create coming from?
As a child, you may have discovered your passion for playing a musical instrument, singing, painting, acting, writing, animation, or any number of other creative pursuits. You found yourself in a state of joy and curiosity, and were easily lost within your art. That feeling was so special, you were just drawn to keep creating or performing.
Many creatives don’t have such positive early associations with creativity. You may have been a child who felt isolated, bullied, abandoned, or rejected and used art as a way to cope. Perhaps, you felt misunderstood, unheard, unseen, and undervalued. You discovered that your art could help you know yourself. It was a place to explore your interests, your ideas, and your own sense of worth.
What is your story of becoming an artist? Is that story rooted in your passion, aptitudes, and talent? Is it rooted in some emotional frustrations, deprivations, or struggles? Is it both? Where is your art coming from now and how does it speak to others?
The answer can reveal how your unhealed past may be still entangled in your creative work.
Which childhood relationships are you re-enacting in your creative life now?
A creative career doesn’t have a “normal” path. It doesn’t follow the rules like other more straightforward careers might. Rejection, abandonment, neglect…Abuse (in all its forms) can be a big part of the creative career.
You have to show up and invest yourself in your art without a promise of immediate results. There’s a possibility that your efforts won’t be seen and your work won’t follow the rewards you want or feel you’d deserve.
An artistic career can mirror many of the same struggles you may have had in relationships as a child.
Artists can get wrapped up in thinking: “that is just the nature of the artistic world.” But, once they do their emotional work they have more clarity about how they have been repeating some old relationships in their artistic endeavors, something remarkable happens.
Take some time to pause and look at how your current art seems like echoes of the past. As a child did you feel that you were not important enough to be seen, valued, or invested in? Were you left alone in an anxious place to figure it out all on your own? Was your emotional space invaded or controlled so you felt you were not allowed to have your feelings?
These are not easy questions to ask and answer, and this work is often best done with a trained therapist.
Do you feel like you can never “arrive”?
You are very talented and you work very hard, but you’re not getting where you want. It’s true that the creative profession is tough, and there are so many talented artists out there. But, it’s also possible that an old story of “never arriving” may operate at some level in your unconscious or subconscious.
Do you feel as if you always need to keep pushing, never able to find satisfaction in your achievements or always feeling as if you need to do more to prove yourself?
Are you sabotaging your success?
Maybe you’re taking some steps forward, creating some great art, honing your skills, building some momentum, opportunities, relationships but then you do something to sabotage what you’ve been developing.
Maybe, out of nowhere, you feel bored and unmotivated to make your art. Or, you can’t seem to finish what you started. You miss meetings or possibilities. You start doubting yourself, your art, your skills. Maybe you begin wondering if you should just put your creative endeavors behind. You may work hard and then stop showing up just before you really have a chance to
Put forth your real talent.
So maybe ask yourself: though you love being an artist, are you also disconnecting from your creative energy? Why are you hesitant about showing up in your art or creative opportunities? Do you need time away to replenish your mind, reconnect with your heart, creative spirit or is it something else?
Are you hiding from being seen through your art?
Ambivalence about showing is common for creatives. A part of you wants to show up and be seen, valued, appreciated. A part of you wants to hide and not be seen. Many unprocessed shame, insecurities, or personal conflicts can hold you back, with or without your awareness, with or without your permission.
Do you find yourself yearning to be noticed and yet also praying that you won’t have to deal with the exposure that comes with the spotlight?
Are you still in a crisis mode no matter how successful you are?
Sometimes artists live in a perpetual crisis mode even after they build their career.
Though it’s a real problem now, the “crisis mode” way of feeling may have started much earlier. Check in with yourself: do you feel forced to make decisions amidst a constant feeling of overwhelm? Do you allow yourself to slow down and feel the benefits of your success?
Can you allow yourself to start look into some of the questions above? It can be hard to sit with the ways you’re limiting your own creative development.
But, there is some good news here. This awareness can take you nearer to healing. And there is a powerful, efficient form of psychotherapy called EMDR that’s quite helpful for creatives.
When you have repressed and unintegrated traumatic experiences you:
- see current situation through the lens of trauma
- you don’t have the right emotional tools to navigate current situations from emotional freedom, grounded in your core self
- you continue to reenact old patterns because you’re stuck in repeating the same limited, unconscious, or self-sabotaging stories
In EMDR therapy, a trained therapist can help you safely activate, replay and process the traumatic memories. Through this process, EMDR invites traumatic memories to become “unstuck.” You can release the unconscious connection to the old stories that hold you back.
Thanks to this form of deep, lasting healing, you can truly access, discover, and express your true essence. Your life stories will continue to inform and expand your art, but you’ll be working from a place of knowledge and awareness. Not only will you have a more conscious relationship with your art, you’ll also be freed to create your artistic life and career with a grounded, renewed perspective.
I offer psychodynamic therapy, EMDR therapy (EMDR certified), psychoanalytic therapy (certified), combined with CBT, and grounded in the neuroscience of psychotherapy and relationships in order to help people discover how to live fully in the present and create more fulfilling, successful lives.
In particular I have an expertise working with creatives, performers, and artists of all kinds including writers, screenwriters, actors, fine artists, musicians, producers, directors, fashion designers, and creative entrepreneurs. My office is in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. I provide in-person and online psychotherapy to people across California.
If you are interested in EMDR therapy, please contact me for your free 15 minute consultation to see if this therapy is appropriate for you.