• Dan Workman

Therapy for Creatives, Part 2: The Risk and Reward of Creative Expression

Updated: 3 days ago




New ideas pop in my head frequently. This happens naturally, and I find it profoundly satisfying at a very personal level. However, my creative efforts are usually complete only after sharing. I want someone to hear my music. My partner loves to demonstrate her uncanny organizational skills. When I get a positive response to my work, I feel pleasure, completion, and a feeling of ‘being known and understood’ that is transcendent.

Sometimes, pursuing a creative intuition or vision can be disruptive. Galileo was branded a heretic by the church he loved when he published evidence that the earth was not the center of the universe. Vincent van Gogh never found an audience for his work while he was alive. Sometimes we come up with ideas that don't fit well—or at all—with consensual reality. Validation and understanding are not a given.

The creative person can be at risk when the product of inspiration is not met with understanding and appreciation. The pain of being misunderstood or ignored can easily be internalized. Being unable to trust our muse can be devastating, and in some cases, harmful to our mental health. Sometimes it's easy to 'go your own way' safe in the knowledge that your creation is useful even if not appreciated. But there are times when that superpower goes wrong, which can undermine self-image, self-esteem, serenity, and self-confidence. When this happens, the creative person is at risk for depression, anxiety, or other significant mental challenges.

Being aware of the benefits--and the potential costs--of being a creative is essential to enjoying good mental health and satisfying social relationships. When our inner world clashes with the consensual reality around us, we may be at higher risk than those who do not process the world creatively. Psychotherapy is one way to learn to identify when our creative talents may not serve us but instead put us at risk of amplifying mental health challenges. Therapy can help us learn useful and appropriate strategies to care for ourselves. Ultimately, we want to honor and protect our creativity so that we can thrive and enjoy life and keep creating.

Postscript

I enjoy being a therapist working with people who live with the extraordinary difference of being creative. Facilitating insights and adapting narratives to enhance quality of life and creative output. It has been a passion of mine for over 30 years. Applying those skills to the practice of psychotherapy is the cherry on top of a life well-lived (so far!)

Photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash