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The Secret World of Creativity: Evaluate Your Support Network

Even though artists may require isolation in order to immerse, it is the presence of certain types of relationships that gives them the courage and strength to take the dive. The mere presence of other people in the artist's life does not necessarily provide the kind of support he or she needs (one can feel alone in a crowd). The kind of support an artist feels contributes to his or her internal sense of being special, safe, and understandable. (In fact, this applies to everyone. For any person to be at his best emotionally, cognitively, behaviorally, and physically, these kinds of interpersonal experiences are fundamental):
Mirrors: Those who see us as special. The artist who feels special is likely to create. At the same time, artists create with the hope of being seen and recognized. These are healthy human strivings and are the basis for solid, resilient self-esteem. We need others to see our specialness and to reflect it back to us. "Mirrors" are those who validate our strengths, our talents, and our uniqueness.
Heroes: Those we look up to, admire, and aspire to please. When our heroes (in reality or fantasy) recognize us and take us under their wing, we feel solidly supported and energized. We want to be like them and to make them proud of us. Having a hero is a strong psychological motivator from the moment of birth until the time of death. Heroes inspire us and help us to feel safe.
Twins: Those people we feel as "like-kind". Here we find the experience of being with others who are in the same boat. Relationships with "twins" help us feel understood and understandable; our feelings and experiences make sense and we find comfort in the awareness that we are all alike. Our fantasies, fears, and dreams are acceptable. Our blocks, resistances, and failures do not mean we are inadequate to the task; we can go on in spite of our fears because we are not alone.

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So true! This has been my

So true! This has been my experience in my "second half of life" creative ventures in music and in writing. More so, in fact, than in my development as a clinical psychologist. Paradoxically, I got past a serious case of performance anxiety as a musician by recognizing that my fears grew out of a too-intense (and misplaced) need for mirroring.  Or, in self-psychology terms, I probably paid more attention to a "twinning" experience.  What did it was a funny story by another musician, an experienced performer,  that put what it means to be "on stage" in perspective. (Like: really, who who will notice if you screw up? They don't even notice if you are a "star"!). Deflating but liberating.

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That's great! hehehe

That's great! hehehe Twinning! I've also found it helpful to explore the inner assumptions we make about the audience--are we assuming it is a hostile-judgemental audience? a friendly audience? an appreciative audience? Many of these assumptions are formed in our development and do not relate to the "real world"--more often than not, people are not waiting for the performer to screw up but are there to immerse in the experience with the artist :) Thanks so much for commenting! Fellow self psychologist??

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Well, when I lived in

Well, when I lived in Chicago I was pretty steeped in it :-) Had some great training experiences, including some classes with a couple of Self Psychology folks at the Institute for Psychoanalysis. I was also in therapy with a training analyst there--much later I learned one of her big interests was creativity. She listened very patiently to my Cajun accordion obsessing, told me about the debates she and her analyst husband had about Sarah Vaughan vs Ella Fitzgerald. I actually wrote about that in my recent book (never naming her of course:-) but was half-tempted to send her a copy, as thanks. It's been years!

Your book looks fascinating. And I see you are a fellow Ohioan, at least now. I was born in Cleveland.



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Wow, you were in the hotbed

Wow, you were in the hotbed of self psychology in Chicago! I know the folks there--see them every year at the annual conference. I trained with Anna and Paul Ornstein here in Cincy. Are you in Cleveland now? I think it is so cool you've turned to the accordion! I think you should definately send your book to your analyst!! I'm going to order a copy of your book--look forward to reading it! Looks like we've travelled similar paths, from psychology to creativity. All my best,

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small world!

I know about the Ornsteins, of course. I never got as deeply involved as you did. But Self Psychology was so much in the air in Chicago, certainly where I was, and the shadow of Kohut still hung over everyone very heavily, it seemed. (I did my internship at Northwestern in the late 70s, later worked there). I was influenced very much, but never took the steps to become seriously immersed. (I was in weekly psychotherapy vs psychoanalysis, for instance.) And I ended up working for a number of years in addictions, where you aren't exactly doing analysis! (Though the self psychology model is very helpful.) But I did get exposed to people at the Institute like Ken Newman, Dick Marohn, Paula Fuqua, if those names mean anything to you. And I actually did go to the big Self Psychology conference a few years back,when it was held in San Francisco. I am going to order your book too :-)

Well, better go, day job calls!


PS My perspective was so skewed by the years in Chicago I was completely shocked to discover that there were still places, like New York, where people still practiced other kinds of analysis--you know, that old-fashioned classical stuff :-)

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Hi, just now getting back to

Hi, just now getting back to responding! I know Paula from the conferences--the other two names don't ring a bell, but...actually, I practice psychotherapy, not psychoanalysis, as well. And, yeah, we still have a group here in Cincinnati that practices the "classical" psychoanalytic approach!
Wish you all the best and maybe we'll have opportunity to meet each other one day!