Creative work can be deeply rewarding, but also physically and emotionally challenging.
The photo is Juliette Binoche in her movie “Words and Pictures” (2013). An article noted that her character “is an art instructor suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis, forcing her to adapt her artistic process to accommodate her deteriorating physical condition.”
There are, of course, a number of “real” people who face similar challenges, such as painters who must use their feet, or blind sculptors or photographers. Or being a deaf composer like Beethoven.
In addition to being an actor, Binoche is a dancer, poet and painter, and has commented about creative expression:
“I really don’t see art as being an expression of something outside of myself. Whether it’s writing, or painting, or dancing…the medium changes because of what it is you are trying to express.”
She also urges: “Wake up you creators, wake up. Do things, paint, express yourself and make life possible, whether it’s having children, whatever. Just wake up; it’s time for you to do things.”
Creativity coach, author and psychologist Eric Maisel, PhD, notes:
“Some people become doctors, lawyers, accountants, or marketing executives. Some people stay at home and raise a family.
“But millions of people make another sort of choice…they become artists.”
And, he adds, “they struggle.”
In one of the chapters (“The Stress Key”) of his book “Making Your Creative Mark,” he writes about how the creative life can be an ongoing source of stress – if we interpret or frame it as such.
He explains, “A stressor is anything, positive or negative, that makes a demand on us. Stress is our body’s physical and psychological reaction to those demands — on the physical level, it is a buildup of chemicals that keeps increasing as the stress persists.
“The stress buildup is the reaction, and the demand (or stressor) is the cause.”
But, he continues, “The demand can actually be positive. Imagine your editor calling you up and telling you that she wants a new book from you.
“That’s lovely — unless you can’t see how on earth you can fit writing it into your schedule. It is lovely to be wanted, but her call still creates a demand — and stress.”
From my article Dealing With Stress To Be More Creative.
The photo shows the cover of another book of his: Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative.
Emotional health for creative, gifted, highly sensitive people
Therapist Sharon M. Barnes comments in an article of hers about some of the qualities and challenges she sees in her practice of many years:
“Creativity and creative expression can be fun but can also be a great burden. Creative ideas show up whether we have time to pay attention to them, or do anything with them or not.
“They also often arrive in tandem or multiples, and the creative person has to choose which idea gets to see the light of day.
“Being aware of things that most people are not may lead to exciting AHA! moments.
“At the same time it can create questions of what’s real and what’s not when no one else sees what you’re seeing.
“It may also carve a canyon of separation between the acutely aware person and others who are less aware.”
Being highly sensitive can bring emotional challenges
“Likewise, sensitivity is a double edged sword. High sensitivity…often brings a capacity for depth of feeling and thought along with a high level of conscientiousness, compassion and empathy.
“On the other hand, when seemingly simple things like sounds, light and textures create a high level of distress, dealing with them can consume great time and energy, leaving less energy and time available for the rest of daily life.
“When any of these are combined with high intelligence, each of these other traits are magnified and complicated.
“The more of these characteristics that a person carries, the more complex the interaction among these traits can become.”
Being exceptional can make people feel like misfits
Barnes notes some of the outcomes of living with these exceptional qualities:
“The cumulative effect is that many creative, sensitive, intelligent and/or gifted youth and adults feel like misfits, or as many have expressed, like aliens from a different planet.
“Although they may have learned to camouflage or try to hide it, they may carry within themselves a deep sense of inferiority and inadequacy, and may have concluded that they are defective in an irreparable way.
“For many, having an awareness of being profoundly different than others and then drawing a conclusion that ‘I’m defective‘ can come as young as ages 2-5 or even younger ─ at the very time that the foundations of the Self are being constructed.
“All too often this can evolve into a secret sense of alienation, and is often accompanied by anxiety, depression, anger, rage and a plethora of additional distressing emotional states. This eventually can lead to despair and deep discouragement.”
Here is a brief video about this:
“Emotional characteristics of creative people”
Barnes has created a home-study Social & Emotional Empowerment Program to help children, teens and adults who are “Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense and/or Gifted develop high level social and emotional skills.”
Follow the link to her site to learn more about that program and other resources.