Welcome to week three, part one of The Artist’s Way Challenge! This week we are encouraged to recognize the signs occurring in our lives. As presented, these signs are also known as synchronicity. Cameron calls week three, “Recovering a Sense of Power.” She writes,
“you are coming into your power as the illusory hold of your previously accepted limits is shaken.”
Some people view synchronicity as a form of magical thinking. There’s often a disconnect between science and such esoteric philosophies, but what if the concepts we regard as mystical just haven’t been proven? I like to remain open to such possibilities.
There are six sections in this chapter, plus a variety of activities to work through at the end.
Have you tried monitoring your anger instead of denying it or allowing it to overcome you? According to Cameron, anger is like a life map, and it’s perfectly healthy when we utilize it properly. It tells us when we feel disrespected. It shows us when someone has crossed a boundary.
“Anger is the firestorm that signals the death of our old life. Anger is the fuel that propels us into our new one.”
Our anger demands our attention and teaches us what we truly want out of life. Utilized in a healthy manner, it will move us through change.
I used to be an angry person, but lately, I’ve been more inclined toward indifference. Maybe I need to let myself get angry again.
Psychologist Carl Jung defined synchronicity in the 1920s. Here’s an intriguing article from the New York Times about the mysterious “Red Book.”
Jung explained synchronicity similarly to separate instances that seem to hold meaning but have no causal relationship. Humans love assigning meaning to life’s events, so why is it that we often writeoff synchronicity as coincidence due to this lack of connection?
In this section, Cameron discusses some examples of synchronicity, including the one about the woman who was considering going back to school and received a letter from that very school requesting her application. She also states her belief that not believing in an all-knowing God gives many of us comfort. It means we’re “off the hook.” If there’s no one to answer to, why worry? Why try?
While I disagree with this viewpoint, I do agree with her notion that
“possibility is far more frightening than impossibility.”
This outlook explains why so many of us have trouble making decisions. When faced with multiple possibilities, it’s much tougher to commit to one, especially if we are risk-averse. Think for a moment how many types and brands of cheese there are, and compound that a hundred times when the decision might change our lives. I second guess myself all the time.
Cameron’s ultimate point is when we commit to our dreams, we often begin to notice signs of synchronicity emerging in our lives. Gregg Levoy discusses these signs in a 2017 Psychology Today article, synchronicity phenomenon.
Some may also call synchronicity frequency illusion, also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, which is an example of a cognitive bias.
Whether science or magic, we can’t deny that some weird things happen when we finally commit to our deepest desires. That’s why I try to keep my mind open to all possibilities.
I have a personal relationship with shame. Usually, this amounts to my not feeling good enough about myself or my work. One of the best books I’ve read about shame is, I thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), by Brene Brown. It helped bring some of my deep-seated feelings to light. She also did a great Ted Talk: The Power of Vulnerability.
Cameron explains shame is a controlling device, and it holds people in a pattern of fear. Facing our art on the page or canvas can be charged with internal shame and fear. When we work on our art, the recognition or praise we craved but never received comes back to haunt us. We may even hear the whispers from the people who ridiculed us all those years ago.
Our relationship with shame can be complicated, but we can overcome it, at least artistically, when we learn how to seek the right kind of criticism.
Dealing With Criticism
Since art is so subjective, criticism can seem unfair. We’ll never be able to avoid it altogether, though. Like anything else in life, you take a risk when you put yourself out there.
Passing judgment is in the definition of a professional critic’s work. Non-professionals may have a variety of reasons for offering negative criticism. Maybe they’re jealous. Perhaps they’re just assholes and enjoy causing chaos in the lives of others.
A good and reasonable person will admit that art is subjective, and at least give you criticism you can use.
That’s why we need to concentrate on creating a safe environment for our art. Per Cameron,
“The antidote for shame is self-love and self-praise.”
First and foremost, it’s essential that you are happy with what you create. A good support system can go a long way too. Constructive criticism usually comes from a trusted source. There is a sense of sensitivity and safety involved in its presentation. Any critic who attempts to ridicule or condemn is not offering constructive criticism. We must learn to tell the difference.
Per Cameron, constructive criticism
“often gives the artist an inner sense of relief: Ah, hah! So that’s what was wrong with it.”
It can point our work on the right path. Negative criticism feels more like a personal attack, and usually isn’t offered with any thoughtfulness. It’s likely to be vague.
Cameron offered nine rules of the road for dealing with any form of criticism. I found the following especially helpful:
- #1 Receive the criticism all the way through and get it over with.
- #3 Jot down notes on what concepts or phrases seem useful.
- #8 Get back on the horse. Make an immediate commitment to do something creative. – Probably the most important. We have to keep moving forward.
Detective Work, an Exercise
In this section, Cameron suggests an activity for blocked creative types to rediscover the self. She offers twenty fill in the blank type phrases. These were a couple of my favorites:
- I don’t do it much, but I enjoy…
- If I could lighten up a little, I’d let myself…
- If I had had a perfect childhood, I’d have grown up to be…
- What makes me feel weird about this recovery is… Imagining myself as an unblocked creative (that’s mine)
In the final section, Cameron reminds us that growth is not always linear. Sometimes we take two steps forward and then a step back, and we must be mindful of this. Be kind to yourself during these times.
This line also spoke to me this week, “very often a week of insights will be followed by a week of sluggishness.” I’m not sure if anyone noticed my absence last week, but I did miss both blog posts for what should have been week three. I was dealing with some personal matters, and I just needed some time to work through them. I won’t let this become a habit, but it happened.
There’s still time for you to grab the book and follow along! Finds previous posts here: