When I released the Fight the Monsters contest, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people participated and how good some of the entries were. I was even more surprised when Mira Reisberg wrote me with this guest blog post. Mira has a Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis on the healing power of art! She is an expert on #ArtMonsters! Here she gives a more clinical analysis of the psychology behind the Monsters that stop us from creating our art.
My art or writing sucks, I’m not good enough, I can’t draw or write my way out of a paper bag.
I’m not smart enough, as successful as, not as popular as, didn’t marry as well as, I’m not creative enough, not talented enough, I don’t know enough. No one likes me, I’m hopeless, I’ll never be any good, I’m a fraud, and people will find out my successful projects were lucky flukes. Everybody else is better than me. I hate this, why even bother trying?
Does any of this sound at all familiar?
This is your “Critical Inner Voice Monster.” Someone, somewhere along your journey, said these words or words like them when you were young and tender and vulnerable, and they lied. The Critical Inner Voice lives to hurt, undermine, and paralyze its poor victims – and that’s everyone – including me and you.
This critical inner voice is very different than the Gently Critiquing Voice – who prompts you to look a little deeper, push a little harder, be a smidgen more objective in analyzing your work, so that you can be the best artist or writer you can be.
Some of the words of the Critical Inner Voice came from your parents, some from your teachers, some from your friends and more from your not-friends, all of whom have internalized them, and passed them on after receiving them themselves from a long line of damaged people. These words serve no purpose other than to dis-empower.
So How Do You Tell the Difference Between the Critical Inner Voice (CIV) and the Gently Critiquing Voice?
Strategies for Addressing the CIV.
Listen to the intent behind the voice, not the sound, but where that voice is coming from. Pay attention to how it makes you feel. Is it helpful or hurtful? Does it make you feel bad? If so, you’ve found the Critical Inner Voice Monster.
Fighting, Befriending, or Distracting Monsters and Dragons
In ancient times, knights in armor and other heroes (ancient times were predominantly patriarchal) went in search of monsters to slay. This was part of their “Hero’s Journey” proving their valor and saving “the damsel”, “the village”, “the virgin,” or whatever.
Each of us has our own dragons and monsters to slay, befriend, or distract. Here are some strategies for dealing with the C. I. V. Monster.
1. Slay the Monster! – This involves developing a ton of self-esteem to the point that the artist or writer has no room in their brain or psyche for the C.I.V. Coming from an emotionally healthy, affirming family, a totally positive school, and experiencing a minimum of trauma is very helpful for this. If this isn’t your story, years of therapy and positive affirmations can be very helpful. While many will not be able to completely get rid of the C.I.V., the following strategies may help.
2. Banish that C.I.V. – Here’s where the power of creative ritual comes in handy. Get the drama out of your life and into your art – whatever form it takes. Paint about it, draw about it, make critical inner voice dolls and destroy them, ridicule it, have creative fun with it and minimize its
3. Become Buddies! – If exorcising doesn’t work, you may need to befriend the Critical Inner Voice Monster. This involves gently talking back to the C.I.V. Gentleness is key as the C.I.V. formed originally from a lack of kindness. Tell the C.I.V. you understand its concerns but they’re really not rooted in the present. Reassure your monster that you’re an adult now, and you won’t tolerate abusive thoughts. Say a whole bunch of positive affirmations to reprogram your brain. In the long run, this can be a very helpful strategy.
4. Monsters Are Distractable – This is easier for artists than it is for writers, because different parts of the brain are used. Artists tend to work from intuitive unconscious places where the verbal language thinking part of the brain is less critical. So, it’s pretty easy to distract the C.I.V. with books on CD, thoughtful radio like NPR that engages that part of the brain, or mindless movie watching that doesn’t require much looking up. In my Hero’s Art Journey course, awesome artist Hugh D’Andrade shares some of his insights into his process of dealing with the Critical Inner Voice. Hugh’s advice is particularly appropriate because his delightfully devilish artwork often includes dragons and monsters.
For my upcoming online e-course “Hero’s Art Journey”, painting monsters or dragons is one of the projects, tied to techniques on dealing with the C.I.V Monster. I share my unholy trinity monster painting of “Fear, Doubt, and Insecurity” and my process in creating it. Now I’ve come to love it so much that it hangs in my living room. Go figure!
Peace & Love,
Mira Reisberg has a PhD in Education with focii on the healing power of art, cultural studies, and children’s picture books. She left academia 3 years ago and has not looked back, except with relief. Now she teaches meaningful online courses such as the Hero’s Art Journey starting March 5th 2012. Mira is also a children’s book author and illustrator with over 600,000 copies of her books sold and has mentored many now successful students whose books have sold well over a million copies. Look for the Picture Book Academy coming soon, where she will be teaching her first online picture book courses.