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Found this on a thread at DOA. Its an excerpt from a book written by Bandhu Scott Dunham (www.salusaglassworks.com)... good stuff.
Subconscious Sabotage by Bandhu Scott Dunham
We come to creative work with a mixed bag of psychological tendencies, some of which support us and some of which disrupt our artistic flow.Part of our work as artists is to nurture the supportive tendencies while identifying and dealing with the disruptive ones. "dealing with" disruptive tendencies effectively can take the form of outgrowing them, confronting them directly, undermining their grip on our activity, and/or replacing them with more useful habiots of mind. Often a combination of all these approaches is needed. In any event, denial, suppression and sublimation are not the most useful techniques even though we often resort to them first.
An unfortunate percentage of what we do as artists amounts to outright sabotage of ourselves. The subconscious mind is an incredibly powerful instrument that we can use either for or against our stated purposes. Left to its own devices, it will generate scenarios in our life that play out our subconscious image of reality, whether we like it or not.
The subconscious mind filters the overwhelming barrage of sensory input our organism receives every moment. We can process only so much, and the function of the subconscious mind is to sort through the flood of perception and pass along only what is relevant to our decision making processes. It is the subconscious that creates our "blind spots" by filtering out the otherwise obvious cues that a prospective mate is an abuser, for example. Or it may render us oblivious to the obvious (to everyone else) fact that our business partner is a crook.
In the event that our subconscious is in the habit of creating fulfilling, enjoyable scenarios in our experience, we may not want to tamper with it. But for most people, artists especially, there are usually conflicting impulses at work in the subconscious, which lead to problems we would like to address.
The first effective step in addressing our disruptive or anti-art tendencies is to recognize and identify them. Certainly there are events we cannot control, and the point is not to lay blame on ourselves for things that befall us through no fault of our own. But we are responsible for more than we generally recognize. The notion that we create our experience may or may not be literally true in every situation. Nonetheless, the acceptance of this possibility will begin to reveal how we do in fact set up many of our circumstances. It is a key to unraveling what is truly going on in the subconscious mind.
Sometimes we simply outgrow disruptive patterns in the subconscious mind. Life itself can chew up and digest our internal obstacles, even without our awareness of the process. False assumptions and prejudices get eroded over time through experience, if we allow. "Missing pieces" in our psychological landscape can be effectively filled in through relationships we develop or compensating activities that come our way in the natural course of life. For example, having a child of one's own can if one is willing and diligent raise and resolve buried issues from one's own childhood through the "simple" process of loving and properly caring for a new being. This is how the process of individuation, or maturation, ideally works.
When dealing with the subconscious, direct confrontation is not really possible. The subconscious mind operates symbolically, and we communicate with it through symbols. What we might call a "direct" confrontation of disruptive tendencies is really a symbolic process of telling the subconscious mind who is boss. Once we have identified patterns of behaviour that undermine our conscious intentions, we can begin to break those patterns. While brute force is sometimes effective, we will generally have more success coming in at an angle.
Some addictions do respond to the cold turkey cure, particularly when a person has hit bottom and is truly ready to leave them behind. But ingrained psychological habits will not usually go away unless the motivation of the pattern is addressed. One might quit smoking, only to find that another habit has taken its place. One might leave one abusive relationship only to discover himself in a similar situation rather quickly whether that relationship is with a lover or a gallery. The limitations we encounter in one artistic medium may haunt us in other media as well, unless we cross the internal threshold that is holding us back. We need to recognize this limitation when confronting counterproductive patterns in our behaviour.
As far as the subconscious is concerned, external manifestations our habits and circumstances exist only to express the meanings or themes of an internal drama. Therefore, when we set out to change an outer situation, our intention should be to address the subconscious need to play out the inner script.
Some patterns are simply habits we picked up along the way, which don't really have much subconscious weight behind them(except for the comfort their familiarity provides). Sometimes we are in a creative rut simply because we habitually hesitate to try a new approach. Or a habit might be left over from a time when it did mean something internally, but now we have outgrown it. Habits like these can be effectivley snuffed out by a direct confrontation.
In this respect, the subconscious mind is like a flea in a jar. If fleas are placed in a jar they have the ability to jump out, being prodigious athletes. If a lid is placed on the jar, they will still try to jump out. After hitting the lid a few times, they will continue to jump, but less high, adjusting their efforts to avoid the pain of confrontation with the lid's authority. After some time, this pattern is established, and the lid can be removed. The fleas will continue to jump to the lower, adjusted height, even though the lid is now gone.
Some of us are challenged by an apparent inability to be consistently productive. While there are any number of effective work patterns an artist can follow (prodigious spurts followed by a period of quiet renewal is certainly valid, for example), we can also get caught in a completely unproductive pattern, unable to break writer's block or uninspired (even frightened) to face the blank canvas. Confronted with this situation, many will respond with a vow to become suddenly, decisively more productive. The mood of such vows is usually a mixture of frustration, shame and an authoritarian disposition to do what is difficult "for your own good". Like New Year's resolutions, such vows meet with mixed success.
Instead of attempting a dramatic change, another approach can be more effective. It is helpful first of all to realize that we are dealing with a pattern of behaviour that is under the control of the subconscious. It is the subconscious mind that comes up with the distractions that seem to make it impossible to work (that is, it is the subconscious that so arranges our life that the distractions intrude as problems the way they do). It is the subconscious that clamps down on the flow of inspiration.
Therefore, since we are dealing with subconscious patterns, we should proceed symbolically, starting with small steps. Rather than completing a mural-sized composition in a flurry of guilt, it might be more realistic to say, "I can produce a small sketch a day, every day." This more manageable commitment represents a foot in the door of inspiration, and it is not unusual to find that having made the day's small sketch, the creative juices are starting to flow again, and a more expansive productivity is possible.
If we are honest, we will have to admit that there is something suspicious about our impulse to make a big, decisive gesture to eradicate our addiction. It is useful to recognize that addictive behaviour is cyclical in nature. Binging is followed by guilt, which leads to a vow to break the habit, followed by a period of abstinence during which tension mounts. When the tension level reaches its satisfactorily dramatic peak, the vow is broken with another binge and the cycle repeats.
The addictive cycle also applies to self-destructive habits in our practice of art. Do we have a pattern of scattering our creative energy, and then feeling frustrated by our lack of focus? Do we long for a sanctuary of time or space in which to do our creative work, but sometimes undermine it when the opportunity arises? Do we project rejection onto our environment, maintaining a self-fulfilling prophecy thast we are under-appreciated or just not good enough? Do we have other ways of suppressing or disconnecting ourselves from the flow of creativity because we find it somehow threatening or just too life-changing? With careful inspection, we may find that these behaviours follow the same addictive cycle.
Addressing an addictive pattern takes place outside the cycle of the pattern itself. Self-hatred, judgement, guilt and rejection of the behaviour are actually part of the pattern. In fact, any effective method for overcoming the habit must begin with acceptance. One must accept the behaviour itself as it is. We may not like it, but we need first of all to reduce the charge it carries in the physics of our psyche. Instead of a highly energized, planet-sized focus of our attention, the habit has the possibility of becoming a small, neutral particle part of who we are right now, but not the whole of who we are, and certainly not the most meaningful part.
Practicing a simple acceptance of the behaviour as part of our inner landscape begins to "unburden" the pattern. We do not need to indulge it, but we need to accept it as a fact, with as little judgement as possible. Consciously softening our impulsive rejection of our own behaviour begins to break the cycle of addiction more effectively than wishful thinking ever could. In this way, boldly facing a disruptive subconscious pattern takes the form of complete nonconfrontation, an ironic twist that any artist should be able to appreciate.
Willful efforts that include a fundamental acceptance of ourselves are easier to swallow than those that carry a charge of self-hatred. We need a certain amount of mechanical force to build a new habit that nurtures our creativity. We need not be concerned at the lack of warmth this force seems to possess. This is how discipline supports the free-ranging power of the creative spirit. Discipline is NOT in opposition to creativity; embraced in the right context, it is the greatest friend we can have in creative life.
Typically, we will need to build discipline gradually. Because change meets resistance from the subconscious, we will have more success if we take small steps. The small steps build momentum, or condition the "muscle" of discipline so that it can tackle bigger and bigger challenges. In building positive habits for ourselves, we should start small and prgoress definitively, incrementally forward.
One of the biggest forms of self-sabotage practiced by artists in our time is the presumption that artistic merit is supposed to arise spontaneously, like luck, with no training or effort required. For some people this seems to be the case, but there are also forces at work behind the scenes. training can happen in unexpected ways, inspiration often seems to come from a place outside the self, and fores outside us render much of the help we need, but work that has merit is never an accident. There are many forces that come together to create a work of art, and the artist has a degree of control over most of them. By that I mean that one can thwart them.
Whatever our inherent level of talent, we have more potential than we might relize, locked up in our patterns of behaviour. If we are willing to overcome some of the barriers to seeing ourselves clearly, recognizing destructive patterns, and building positive ones, we can fulfill more of our potential and have more fun doing it.
wow... great read.... thanks for that!
Hahaha! I was reading this paragraph, and was looking at each question like, "Yeah ...... yups .... yes .... YES, ALRIGHT! DAMMIT, YES! .."
"The addictive cycle also applies to self-destructive habits in our practice of art. Do we have a pattern of scattering our creative energy, and then feeling frustrated by our lack of focus? Do we long for a sanctuary of time or space in which to do our creative work, but sometimes undermine it when the opportunity arises? Do we project rejection onto our environment, maintaining a self-fulfilling prophecy thast we are under-appreciated or just not good enough? Do we have other ways of suppressing or disconnecting ourselves from the flow of creativity because we find it somehow threatening or just too life-changing? With careful inspection, we may find that these behaviours follow the same addictive cycle."
So, yeah, I guess I'm in the addictive cycle, too
Thats ok. The first step is to admit you have a problemOriginally Posted by magicgooHahaha! I was reading this paragraph, and was looking at each question like, "Yeah ...... yups .... yes .... YES, ALRIGHT! DAMMIT, YES! .."
So, yeah, I guess I'm in the addictive cycle, too
"The addictive cycle also applies to self-destructive habits in our practice of art."
This so very true. I started to write something very long on my self but I think I will just shorted this to say I know that in my self I tend to get into moods that keeps me from doing my art.
Not having the right supplies or no money to get the right items. I just hate getting distracted by things that are out of my control.
Also being so super critical on my work keeps me from posting or showing when I need to get out there even for peer review.
Even witing this post I found it hard to choose the right words and all to state how I feel on this.
I'll just back up what everyone has said. Great read. I'm kind of stuck in a bit of an unproductive rut at the moment and that kind of helped me to make sense of it. Thanks for sharing.
Ars Longa, Vita Brevis