The Frustrated Artist – © 2007 Bill Shain
He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.
— Abraham Lincoln
We’ve been exploring the wounds of shaming that may have shut down or hampered our inner artist for many years. This is hard to look at sometimes, and if anger, grief, and fear flicker up in you, please know that this is a healthy reaction. It shows your inner artist is still alive, and longing to be set free.
But this first airing of our dark sorrows can be painful, so I applaud the work you’ve been doing. It takes courage to move through this step. But by finding that courage, you are finding the key to your power, which is precisely what this work is all about.
However, intellectually understanding the people and incidents that have been toxic to our fledgling creative explorations does not automatically resolve our dilemma. Julia notes, “For the artist who endured childhood shaming – over any form of neediness, any type of exploration, any expectation – shame may kick in even without the aid of a shame-provoking review. If a child has ever been made to feel foolish for believing himself or herself talented, the act of actually finishing a piece of art will be fraught with internal shaming.”
This is one of the most perilous steps on the journey for me personally; one that I am still trying to heal and move beyond. As Julia describes it, “Many artists begin a piece of work, get well along in it, and then find, as they near completion, that the work seems mysteriously drained of merit. It’s no longer worth the trouble. To therapists, this surge of sudden disinterest (‘it doesn’t matter’) is a routine coping device employed to deny pain and ward off vulnerability.
“Adults who grew up in dysfunctional homes learn to use this coping device very well. They call it detachment, but it is actually a numbing out.”
Isn’t it fascinating how for two weeks, our Tarot card was The Fool – the joyful abandonment of criticism and doubt; the leap of faith; the pure-hearted act of following our bliss. But now, this week, the King of Swords appears, offering his detachment and the cold eye of criticism.
The two working together can be an empowering dynamic –combining pure creative inspiration with the intelligent eye of skill and craft. But for the wounded child artist within us, we must be careful that the gift of detachment is not a form of secret, pre-emptive despair.