“A dark side of being a creative and a performer, is to have access to certain emotional states that are the medium through which art is created.” – Psychotherapist Mihaela Ivan Holtz
How do actors and other artists make use of their inner emotional lives, including their shadow selves or dark sides, to be more alive and creative?
Actor Anthony Hopkins has talked about engaging with this side of ourselves:
I’m not a psychologist, but at the back of it I think there is a feeling that everything is uncertain, there is no guarantee of anything and that causes us great fascination and fear.
So we look into the dark side of ourselves and the world.
I think the healthy way to live is to make friends with the beast inside oneself, the dark side of one’s nature, and have fun with it.
What happens if you don’t address the darkness in you?
You become repressed, depressed and suicidal.
Anthony Hopkins: Hollywood Is ‘Full of Crazy People’ by Jeanne Wolf, Parade mag., Feb 11, 2010.
Carla Gugino has commented about one of the challenges of her profession – as well as for anyone who aspires to be authentic:
“As an actor, you’re naked emotionally; you’re revealing yourself emotionally.”
She has also commented about an experience which can apply to any of us and hold us back from more fully expressing ourselves: self-criticism.
“What I’ve realized is that we’re our own harshest critics. We give ourselves limitations.
“But I want to push through that wall, on a creative and personal level.”
Another interesting comment she made:
“You know, I used to be made fun of as a kid for being really articulate; it was sort of like a strange thing.”
[Quotes are from her imdb profile.]
Being bullied or made fun of can lead us to feel ashamed, and to disown or cover up some our most valuable qualities.
Gugino’s comment about being ‘really articulate’ can refer to the experience of many gifted children. See my related site, mostly for gifted kids who have grown up: High Ability.
What is our shadow self and how can it help us be more creative?
Psychotherapist David Richo points out, “Our scared and arrogant ego has an enormous capacity not to know itself.”
That can certainly apply to not knowing our shadow self more.
He goes on to quote Carl Jung:
“The shadow is the negative side of the personality, the sum of all those unpleasant qualities we like to hide, together with the insufficiently developed functions and the contents of the personal unconscious…
“[The shadow] also displays a number of good qualities such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc.”
[From his book: Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power & Creativity of Your Dark Side.]
Quotes are from my post Collaborating With Our Shadow Side.
Psychologist Cheryl Arutt also talks about the concept of the Shadow Self that psychologist Carl Jung addressed in his therapy and writings.
She notes that our emotional health and balance, perhaps especially for artists, may depend on having some understanding and acceptance of the darker or less comfortable sides of ourselves.
And doing this also gives us more power to make aware choices rather than just react to life unconsciously.
She thinks that actors and other artists who are willing, in their creative work, to delve into the really “messy” feelings of being human (shame, devastations, disappointments, betrayals, traumas and other experiences), probably have a relationship with those feelings.
A number of actors confirm that idea, saying they are drawn to a role because they feel a strong personal connection with the emotional aspects of that character and story.
Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond talks about some of the shadow emotions we may have learned to disown or stifle.
He says there is a “very strong correlation between anger, rage and creativity, one which most people are not aware of.
“Most of us tend to view anger or rage negatively, associating it almost exclusively with destructiveness and violence.
“Certainly this correlation exists. But anger can also motivate constructive and creative behavior.”
Psychologist Rollo May introduces and defines the classic Greek conception of the “daimonic” or darker side of our being, noting that “the daimonic (unlike the demonic, which is merely destructive) is as much concerned with creativity as with negative reactions.”
From The Psychology of Creativity: redeeming our inner demons – my interview with Stephen A. Diamond, PhD.
See more in my article
Owning Our Shadow Self
Mihaela Ivan Holtz , Psy.D., LMFT, helps creative people in TV/Film, performing and fine arts,
She also writes about the emotional and creative pleasures of their inner life – and its challenges – on her site Creative Minds Psychotherapy.
Here is an excerpt from one of her related articles:
While some creatives and performers are good at navigating their career and still be emotionally up to the challenge, others may struggle.
Some develop depression, anxiety, addictions, and relationship difficulties.
And sadly, some may struggle to keeping up with their art without hurting themselves.
A dark side of being a creative and a performer, is to have access to certain emotional states that are the medium through which art is created.
At the same time, these emotional states can become a risky affair.
As many of us have mourned the premature loss of artists we love.
Thus, a fine balance between navigating the emotional career demands and being in touch with one’s emotions may be hard to strike for some creatives and performers.
At the same this balance is at the core of creating, performing, and living with emotional freedom.
Read more in her article Living with emotional freedom or through “defensive mechanisms”….?
The photo is from another post of hers: Creativity is Courage!