Do you ever find yourself waylaid or compromised in your creative work on account of disrupting trains of thought and anxieties?
It happens to most of us.
Author and journalist Daniel Smith notes in an interview about his new book “Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety” that he has been writing professionally for more than a decade but has “always found the process to be singularly painful.”
He added, “Writing this book had its crappy moments, too (there are always crappy moments with writing), but overall I had a great deal of fun.”
[From Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Jeff Glor, CBS News.]
In his interview for NPR, Smith makes an interesting distinction that fear “is an appraisal of danger, whereas anxiety is a feeling state that’s evoked when fear is stimulated.
“This suggests that fear and anxiety are both linked, that they both have to do with thought, which I think is very true, that both fear and anxiety occur because you’ve thought, ‘Oh, there’s something that’s causing me risk, that I’m at risk, causing me to be at risk.’
“And yet anxiety is so expansive, it affects the entire system. It affects you physiologically, it affects you cognitively, it affects you emotionally. It’s a real holistic — not to put too nice and calm a word on it — emotion.”
In an excerpt from the book, also on the NPR site, he gives a nice example of how overblown our anxious thinking can get:
“Anxiety compels a person to think, but it is the type of thinking that gives thinking a bad name: solipsistic, self- eviscerating, unremitting, vicious. My walks to therapy, for example, were spent outlining with great logical precision the manner in which my state of mind would lead me to complete existential ruin.”
He describes a “typical line of thought” that spirals out of control: “I am anxious. The anxiety makes it impossible to concentrate. Because it is impossible to concentrate, I will make an unforgivable mistake at work. Because I will make an unforgivable mistake at work, I will be fired. Because I will be fired, I will not be able to pay my rent.
“Because I will not be able to pay my rent, I will be forced to have sex for money in an alley behind Fenway Park. Because I will be forced to have sex for money in an alley behind Fenway Park, I will contract HIV. Because I will contract HIV, I will develop full-blown AIDS. Because I will develop full-blown AIDS, I will die disgraced and alone.”
in her Creating in Flow blog post Mind Your Monkey Mind, Susan K. Perry, Ph.D. praises Smith’s “superb writing, and its marvelous humor.”
She notes, “The therapeutic approach he resonates to, and why I so liked this book, is cognitive therapy. That’s where you enlist the more sane part of yourself to argue the anxious part out of its wrongheaded analysis of the situation. You ask yourself, in the moment of discomfort, what your thoughts are that are making you so miserable. For word people, that’s a useful action. Sometimes it even works.”
Based on the work of many psychologists, and my own experience working as a grad student intern in a cognitive therapy depression treatment center, I agree. Changing our patterns and qualities of distorted thinking can have a strong impact on moods and mood disorders.
Part of the value of our teeming brains as creative people is the facility for generating so many associations and ideas. But we can also generate anxious thoughts all too easily.
As a Buddhist term, Monkey Mind means “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.” [Wikipedia]
Gaining more awareness and control of that quality of our mind can help us work and create more freely, more sanely.
Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity by Susan K. Perry, PhD.
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith.
His earlier book: Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Hearing Voices and the Borders of Sanity by Daniel B. Smith.
Mastering Creative Anxiety by Eric Maisel, PhD.
Also see my site Anxiety Relief Solutions.
Bathing Snow Monkey by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic.
Continued in The Monkey Mind Disruption – Part 2