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Do fear and creativity go together??

08/16/2016 3:18 PM | Anonymous

By Mirel Goldstein

The connection between creativity and fear is not a new discussion, but it is always an interesting one.


Recently a client talked about his fears of failure if he actualizes his long-time dream of being a professional podcaster. We came to understand that he wasn't only afraid  of having his work unappreciated or unsuccessful, but was equally concerned about relinquishing a long-held fantasy of one day "wowing" everyone with a bigger and better production than they could ever expect from him, without having to go through the grind of working his way up step by step towards success. It was a wish to show his parents and the world, once and for all, that he could do it, whatever "it" was.  


Another client found herself deeply depressed when the financial dream she had scripted her life around had finally come to fruition; it was an anti-climactic disappointment that left her feeling empty and dead.


Others struggle with grand ideas that they never seem to be able to turn into something real. One client explains it like this: "I'm afraid of the disconnect between the way I imagine things in my head and how it will turn out in real life". Trying to actualize our ideas means accepting the gap between what we can imagine in our minds and how much of this can actually be conveyed externally. It's a hard loss to stomach, for some.


I enjoyed this talk by Psychoanalyst and Editor Dana Birksted-Breen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1Y3C6EBXbQ&feature=youtu.be

 about unconscious anxieties that get evoked by the creative process.


In particular, she touches on anxieties like: 

  •  Fear of stealing ideas from someone else
  • Fear of being envied or punished
  •  Fear of not having "enough" in oneself
  • Terror that things will never come together
  • Worry that once something is published, nothing else will ever be produced
  • Concerns about how good and big one's production is
  • Worries about needing to placate others who may be envious or angry, showing them we aren't displacing them by quoting them or including them somehow.


In my experience, fear of being revealed as a fraud or impostor seems to be a way that many writers/creatives describe some of what is at the heart of their anxieties about creating. Many other psychologists, researchers, and writers who are not psychoanalysts have also touched on these very same kinds of anxieties, often in different words and different ways. One of my favorite conversations is this one, in which Brene Brown interviews Liz Gilbert, author of Big Magic: Creative Magic Beyond Fear:





Liz Gilbert names some of the fears that get in the way of her creativity (as well as her tricks for working past these fears):


Fear of criticism, fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear that I am washed up, fear that I am and have always been a fraud, fear that I will get a nasty review in The New York Times…


Sound familiar?


We each have our own idiosyncratic fears, secrets, vulnerabilities, and places of shame, and sometimes the fear and shame gets the best of us, while at other times creativity trumps. And sometimes, when we're lucky, we can manage to pull them together and use the creative process in the service of mastery of our fears and vulnerabilities. But the only way to get there is to try, and if not now, when?

To read more insights about creativity, see my post Frontier States and the Creative Process

More insights about relationships issues, anxiety, and the therapy process are available at http://goldsteintherapy.com/blog-html/

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