Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Step One: Recovering a Sense of Safety (cont.)

Reason is powerless in the expression of Love.
— Rumi

If I had to pick one of the most consistent themes of the human experience that I see in my Tarot practice, it would be the suffering that people undergo when, for any number of reasons, they are unable to connect to or express their artistic natures.

Not only does this frustrated desire show up in unhappy career choices, but it plays out in toxic relationship decisions, as well as any number of self-sabotaging habits, addictions and psychological problems. I have also come to believe that it is often at the heart of violence and much that we call criminal behavior.

Some of the people in this dilemma become what Julia Cameron calls, “shadow artists.” The shadow artist is created when our sense of safety as we explore our creative yearnings is violated. This often starts when we are very young and vulnerable, with well-meaning parents who think they’re serving our best interests by warning us away from our artistic dreams.

Instead of encouraging us to at least give it a shot, our parents more often list all the terrible failures they’ve ever heard of, or imagined. These fears are often rooted in our parents’ own histories of artistic frustration, projected onto us from generations of dashed dreams.

Julia writes, “Timid young artists, adding parental fears to their own, often give up their sunny dreams of artistic careers, settling into the twilight world of could-have-beens and regrets. There, caught between the dream of action and the fear of failure, shadow artists are born…

“Artists themselves, but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing declared artists. Unable to recognize that they themselves may possess the creativity they so admire, they often date or marry people who actively pursue the art career they themselves secretly long for…

“Artists love other artists. Shadow artists are gravitating to their rightful tribe but cannot yet claim their birthright.”

So we find people in parallel careers that are “more practical,” like the secret longing of a fiction writer that turns instead to owning a book shop, or who goes into advertising or teaching. Or we become collectors, fans, and critics. We faithfully support the local opera company or symphony, forgetting that we once aspired to compose. We attend the dance festivals, having long ago stilled the longing in our feet and spirit to be on that stage.

Is this you? Is it me? “In order to move from the realm of shadows into the light of creativity, shadow artists must learn to take themselves seriously,” Julia writes. “With gentle, deliberate effort, they must nurture their artist child. Creativity is play, but for shadow artists, learning to allow themselves to play is hard work.”

Tomorrow we’ll look at some ways to begin to recover our sense of safety and playfulness.

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  • February 26, 2009, 12:26 pm Amy L. in Bellevue WA

    Hi Beth,
    This is a great topic. Thanks for sharing! I took an Artist’s Way class about 10 years ago and loved it. It gave me more wiggle room, but I wasn’t ready then to really let my creativity blossom. Thanks for reminding me that the opportunity is still there!
    Amy L.

  • February 26, 2009, 2:55 pm Beth Owl's Daughter

    Hi, Amy! So glad to have you here. I hope that your creativity will really take off in fabulous ways this time around!
    – Beth

  • February 26, 2009, 5:18 pm Shell

    Do I know shadow artists. If I had a dime for every person who said they wanted to be an actor. Then thought how cool it is that I am one. Then at the same breathe totally putting themselves down and how they could never do it.
    I always encourage people who want to be actors. You can act at any age. Sadly, most people just dismiss my claim.
    I keep trying. Hoping one day they reach out for their dreams.

  • February 27, 2009, 4:45 am Pam

    This is exciting Beth.Looks like I arrived here just in time!

  • February 28, 2009, 10:46 am Silverstar

    This is very timely for me, too. I had a practical career, and now that I am disabled, I have the time for the art I didn’t have earlier. After all, Grandma Moses didn’t begin painting until she was much older than I, and then only because she was too arthritic for embroidery.

  • March 1, 2009, 11:09 am Star

    This is describing “me”! How did you know, Beth Owl? You must be psychic or something!
    Thanks for this insight, it was an “ah-ha” for me and helps confirm my commitment to this artist path. I have been a music groupie since high school, a lover of art and admirer of artists my entire life, and now a famous local artist lives in my back yard! Is this a message or something? I am listening….

    Starflower*