Creative, sensitive and intense people experience a wide range and depth of emotions, and use that wealth of feeling to create art. How can we work with such strong feelings and stay balanced?
“The thing I love most about acting is that while I am doing a scene, I am allotted all of the freedom to feel.
“Sometimes, actually I find that most times in life, one is not able to fully express what one feels.
“And I am the kind of person that feels so much that if I didn’t have acting (and music), I would burst from all of the emotion inside!”
The idea of regulating emotions is not necessarily about suppressing or stifling, but about staying aware and in control of our feelings, to live with a higher level of well-being, in order to be more creative.
As Psychologist Cheryl Arutt puts it so well:
“Learning self-regulation allows creative people to visit those emotional extremes without getting stuck there.”
Quotes are from my article Working With Our Emotions To Be More Creative.
Psychologist Sharon Barnes works with creative, sensitive, intense, and often gifted children and adults.
In an article, she writes about dealing with emotions. Here is an excerpt:
Pandora’s Box of Emotions
As you may recall, the myth of Pandora’s Box involved a Forbidden Box which was not supposed to be opened, but of course WAS opened, and then unleashed Evil . . . . and finally, Hope.
We each have similar boxes; ours are often boxes of emotions.
I remember standing with my father in his home office when I was a young adult. We were talking about life, and coping with emotions. I told him that getting in touch with my emotions had not helped me feel better at all!
Instead, getting in touch with my emotions was making me miserable and made my life more difficult than it already was.
He commiserated with me and went on to say that his experience had been similar, and yet in the end, he had found it worth all the trouble it was to learn how to truly feel his emotions and to deal with them directly.
Indeed it had. All during my growing up years, my father had outbursts of anger.
Most of the time, he was even-keeled, but every now and then, when you least expected it, he would explode verbally with anger in response to something someone said or did.
It never made sense.
The last time whatever-it-was had happened, he hadn’t reacted like this.
So we were left always wondering how to stay on his good side, and how to not trigger his verbal volcanic eruption.
These eruptions eventually stopped sometime after I was in college.
He was in a training program to advance his certification as a hospital chaplain, and reached a point where he could go no further.
According to the training committee, he could not advance more until he got therapy and “dealt with his anger”.
So he started therapy…For two years or more, he delved into. . . . whatever it was that they talked about.
I was away at college most of this time, coming home for short breaks. But even in that amount of time, I could tell a difference in him.
The angry outbursts gradually disappeared. He became calmer. He started talking about his emotions (instead of acting them out), including his anger, but not in an explosive way. …
What’s different about dealing with emotions for highly creative, acutely aware, highly sensitive, intense or gifted people?
Your emotions often come faster and harder, are more pervasive and more intense than others.
They can be overwhelming and all-encompassing. You have a more perceptive and a more reactive central nervous system which spawns this intensity.
This intensity makes it both more imperative to balance your emotions, and more difficult.
My clients often ask me, “Why is it so hard for me to get in touch with my emotions and to talk about them?
Among other things, doing this asks us to violate two Taboos: “Don’t Feel” and “Don’t Talk about how you feel”
Most of us humans in current postmodern culture all around the globe have been carefully taught to not feel our emotions.
For example, have you ever been told, “Don’t feel sad!” “Don’t’ feel mad!” Don’t feel guilty about that!” or some such thing?
It’s rare to find someone who has not been told these things.
We also say them, almost without thinking of it. I find myself saying these kinds of things, in spite of my beliefs to the contrary.
It’s pervasive in the culture. That doesn’t mean that it’s useful or helpful to any of us.
John Gray is famous for his work, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”
What is not commonly known is that his first, and foundational, book was “What You Can Feel, You Can Heal.”
He says that the main premise of the book is that your repressed emotions block the flow of love into your life.
Carl Jung taught that the “best foot” that we like to put forward is our Persona, and those things that we would rather not, or don’t have permission to, have or experience, we put behind us, into what he called the Shadow.
A significant task of psychological growth is then to become conscious of what is in the Persona vs. what is in the Shadow.
This sets the stage for coming to terms with what is in the Shadow, so we can develop an authentic personal life in which we can choose what part of ourselves to bring forward in any given moment.
For most of us, emotions are some of what gets relegated to our Shadows.
How can we allow, and even facilitate ─ for ourselves and our children ─ to feel our emotions and express them (constructively)?
This question is one of the main reasons many adults come in to therapy and one reason why many parents also bring their children in.
Answering it often involves this discussion we’ve been having here, and includes discovering that almost all of us have been taught to be afraid of, fend off or squelch our emotions.
With this background in place, let’s look at emotions from a different angle.
Emotions are much like ocean waves. Waves in the ocean come from energy that’s transferred from the wind and moves through the water.
Emotions are energy that moves through our bodies.
Neither ocean waves or emotions ask our permission; they just show up, whether we like it or not.
And if you’ve ever tried to fight an ocean wave, you know that it doesn’t usually work very well. We get knocked off our feet, or in some other way, off balance even more than we were before.
Similarly, when we try to fight our emotions, it doesn’t work well…When we squelch or fight our emotions, we are squelching or fighting our own energy.
> Continued in article “Pandora’s Box of Emotions” by Sharon Barnes, July 20, 2017.
You can find it in the Blog section of her site.
Follow this link to a page on her site about one of her resources for emotional health:
This home-study program can help teens and adults “learn to ride the intense waves of emotion in your CASIGY life, instead of being pulled under by them. You’ll learn that emotions are a natural phenomenon, just like ocean waves. You’ll learn tools to balance your emotions and your life.”
(CASIGY refers to highly creative, acutely aware, super- sensitive, intense and/or gifted youth and adults.)