Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Creative hopelessness

For some, change comes easily. For others, change comes kicking and screaming. And, for others, change comes only after the accepted notion of "hitting bottom." I recently encountered the idea of "creative hopelessness" and find that a compelling term, one that sits better with me than thinking I've been sitting in a pile of my own poop, and with nowhere further to fall, had to climb out of it.

After I read "Living Beyond Your Pain" (which may indeed have been the catalyst for my "conversion experience"), I wanted to know more about ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy), so I'm reading it's primer right now. It's an exciting book. It was written for therapists, but it is certainly readable for the layperson. The emphasis is on applying ACT to clients, and not just explaining its rationale. I find it interesting (to say the least) how the book addresses many common "scripts" that clients engage in, and how to interact with these barriers to growth.

One of these common scripts is the phrase "I'll just put up with it." There is much about the concept of "settling." Why do we settle? Fear. Hopelessness. Helplessness. ACT challenges the client to engage in thinking about change. Understanding why one has gotten to where they are is the past, beside the point (though not dishonored), and creatively indulging in fantasies of what one's life can be is encouraged.

What's interesting to me is the fact that many a person, when confronted with the question "If you had no obstacles, what would you do?" will choke. First, they might say "That's a ridiculous question. I do have obstacles!" The dialogue ends right there.

I had certainly engaged in that abrupt ending of all creative visualizations of what I'd like for my life (with brief interludes). I had come to believe that thinking about possibilities was actually bad for me. This, I now learn, is common.

Some folks don't like finding out that their neuroses are so average as to be scriptable. I find it comforting, or, at the very least, useful. To see that my non-useful (as opposed to negative) self-talk and behavior as a package, one created by set of experiences that has commonality with others, diminishes it. I can then choose to toss that package overboard. I really don't want to carry around that package any longer.

I make it sound like an easy choice. It is not. I am not young, and it's taken me many years to get to the point where I feel ready to let go of my scripts and baggage. As I'm engaging in some group therapy these days, I see how tightly the young women hold on to the very behaviors that are causing them to suffer. It's also plain to me that inviting them to let go would be futile. Those defense mechanism are there for a reason and it takes years for them to either wear away or become so calcified that they can not be. And, as I've written before, I think that it may be a matter of luck which way it goes - freedom or not.

I suppose when I say that I'm not giving myself enough credit. I've spent a good deal of my life pursuing freedom from my demons. All that meditation should have amounted to something, no? The person who first sat on a meditation cushion nearly twenty years ago is not the same person who is typing these words.

I have always been jealous of those people who pursue one thing in their lives and do it well, the types who know what they want from an early age, who seem to move through life like a bullet or an arrow. But not all of us are like that, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. It makes for a rockier ride, but if not for those of us who get dashed on the rocks from time to time, where would the insights come from? Sorry, but I really do not believe that great creativity can come from a life without some trouble.

So, when I read about "creative helplessness", I smile. Those of us who are stuck in ruts, dashed upon rocky shores, pinned down like insects (or any other cliche you'd like to insert here) have a great opportunity to figure our ways out of things. What we come up with is the stuff of great novels, great adventures, and great possibility.

Painting note: Pietro Perugino This is not my favorite painting of St. Sebastian. But, the question is, "What did he do?" I realize I have no idea.


TMC said...

I like it when you find a positive perspective. :)

Julie H. Rose said...

Me too! :o/

Dick Fischbeck said...

It's a fine line between a rut and a groove!

jmcleod76 said...

" But not all of us are like that, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it."

Thank goodness for that! ;o)

Julie H. Rose said...

I want to amend my position for anyone who happens to be reading this (5/11/11):
I had a mistaken idea about meditation, one that I intuited a long time ago, but became evident, and I should state: Namely, that I was using it as a tool to dissociate from my pain. It's a better tool than chemicals, but still, this is not the aim of meditation, and I want to be clear about that. In Zen, at least, the "aim" of meditation is no-aim, but ultimately, it is about discovering one's true nature, not the destruction of it.
It's interesting to me to see that talking about meditation, and "letting go" of inner demons should sit so nicely alongside both admission of jealousy of those with linear lives and stating that I'm glad to have not had one. I show my ambivalence. I now realize that having the same job for an entire lifetime is not a sign of healthiness, as I believed because I had internalized the messages of my extended family, to whom the creative individual who could not "settle down" was not mature, or at least, flawed. I've judged myself as a failure by these measures, ones that I now disown.