He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
— William Shakespeare
In this tenth chapter, we are Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection. Lo and behold – turns out that some of the most necessary self-protection we need is from ourselves!
So we are gently, but honestly examining the last stronghold of our most volatile, toxic-to-our-art habits. These are the ones that involve lots of denial, hiding, rationalizing, and defensiveness. Probing for these truths is not meant to create shame, but to heal it.
Many of these toxic behaviors are not, in and of themselves, wrong. We all have to eat (or shop, or fall in love, or work), right? Julia is certainly not condemning these behaviors. But you and I know there is a fuzzy line we sometimes cross and then they really are a problem.
Julia explains, “It is the abuse of them that makes them creativity issues. Knowing yourself as an artist means acknowledging which of these you abuse when you want to block yourself. If creativity is like a burst of the universe’s breath through the straw that is each of us, we pinch that straw whenever we pick up one of our blocks. We shut down our flow. And we do it on purpose.
“We begin to sense our real potential and the wide range of possibilities open to us. That scares us. So we all reach for blocks to slow our growth. If we are honest with ourselves, we all know which blocks are the toxic ones for us. Clue: This is the block we defend as our right.”
This is classic self-destructive behavior. I can tell you from personal experience there are few people more angry and frightened than an alcoholic who does not want to know the truth about their problem. Similarly, our own toxic behaviors about how we numb out and stupefy our inner artist can be just as volatile.
Which of these, if any, hits your buttons? Do any of these possibilities make you angry, or want to give up? Julia gently reminds us that if asked to name our poison, most of us can. Has food been your nemesis? Pills, booze or pot? Web browsing? Gaming? Workaholism? Have sex or love obsessions been known to derail your creative plans?
Bear in mind that many of us have a “mix and match” recipe as well. Our favorite downfall might be a hybrid combination. We use one, mix in a little more of another one, add another bit of blockage behavior, and soon we are worn out with disaster and drama.
Welcome to the club.
As Julia says, this is all about fear. Often it is in disguise, but it is always, always the force behind the mask that tempts us to slide backwards into our familiar pain. More tomorrow.