Oh no, it’s reading deprivation week! We’re moving into the fourth week of The Artist’s Way challenge, and the lesson this week is “Recovering a Sense of Integrity.” The key topic is understanding our true feelings. Sometimes we hide our feelings, even from ourselves, because we’re afraid of disrupting our relationships. Creative recovery means developing a true Self, but to do this, we must understand our true feelings and be honest.
“the essays, tasks, and exercises are designed to catapult you into productive introspection and integration of new self-awareness.”
There are three sections in this chapter, plus a variety of exercises to work through at the end.
Are you honest with the significant people in your life? In relationships, it’s not uncommon to pretend everything’s okay to keep the peace. When asked how we’re feeling, we frequently respond with “I’m okay or “it’s okay with me.” What if we’re not okay, though?
Then this type of response would be a disservice to everyone involved (including ourselves).
Cameron describes such responses as our “official” feelings. Official feelings are the ones we express publicly to avoid dealing with unpleasant truths. We often keep our true feelings a secret so that we can preserve the status quo.
Part of our creative recovery is figuring out what we want out of life. More importantly, it’s about learning to be honest. It won’t always be easy to accept our true feelings, let alone share them. But consider that creative self-expression is impossible without having developed a true Self. Learn to embrace your individuality. It’s often the characteristics that set us apart that give us an edge or attract our people.
If you’re interested, Neuroscientist, Lisa Feldman Barrett wrote a great book called “How Emotions Are Made.” In the book, she explains that we develop our emotions as a result of our experiences. Here’s an NPR article from 2017 discussing Barrett’s view of emotions, which illustrates how her perspective is different from the classical view of emotions.
Morning pages are a great way to accomplish pure self-expression because we can do so safely. They are our little secret, so what we write is ours. We can give kudos to our enemies or lament over our lost calling as a giraffe farmer. We can go on a tirade without fear of ruining the essential relationships in our lives (unless we forget to close or password-protect our laptops, but that’s another story).
Cameron’s suggestion that neglecting our morning pages if we don’t want to face our true feelings is painfully accurate. I avoided writing for a long time (in general) because I feared what it would mean if I wasn’t good enough.
Would I have to resign to my dream only ever being a hobby?
Loss is involved in any change or shift in perception, even the positive ones. That’s why being unhappy is often more acceptable to us than shaking up the status quo. There’s a lot of fear involved in change. It’s scary when we realize how much more is possible. This thought reminded me of a quote I like:
“Take your life into your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.”– Erica Jong
Real accountability is what we face when we admit our true feelings.
Buried Dreams, An Exercise
In this section, Cameron suggests an activity to learn more about the things you enjoy. She lists some questions which you are to answer as quickly as you can. Some of those questions are:
- List five hobbies that sound fun. (upcycling old furniture)
- List five skills that would be fun to have. (graphic design)
- List five things you used to enjoy doing. (moshing – slam dancing, haha)
Cameron also admits to purposely asking some of the questions throughout the creative recovery process in similar ways. Sometimes a difference in perspective can bring new information to light.
And now, we arrive at my most dreaded section. Cameron mentioned reading deprivation in The Artist’s Way’s introduction, and she can pry my beautiful books from my cold, dead hands. Reading the chapter and tasks is okay, of course, but we are to avoid other varieties of the written word. I read in some form every day, so I’m sure I’m going to fail this test.
I know that’s not a positive way to view things, and Cameron does bring up some good points on why this is a powerful tool. She explains that reading, or other diversions like watching television, can disrupt our inner reserves, or poison our well. We need to be able to quiet our minds and sit with our thoughts and ideas sometimes. In removing such distractions, our inner life becomes a playground we never knew existed.
That’s why achieving this can be challenging.
If you’re used to all that external chatter, learning to block it out will be akin to acquiring a new skill.
Excluding external distractions forces you into an unfamiliar sensory experience, which isn’t always pleasant. You may experience boredom or fidget when you try to sit still.
Cameron suggests it’s entirely possible to suspend reading for a week. I must disagree with her there. Reading deprivation isn’t going to be possible for everyone. For instance, high school and college students have mandatory reading assignments, often consisting of multiple chapters each week. I’m not sure what kind of school she went to, but I could never put off my homework without repercussions. Even in the most regular job, you can’t escape your email.
Cameron refers to such excuses as resistance. Am I resisting? I’m willing to pause my nightly reading or refrain from listening to audiobooks on my walks, but I’m currently taking a digital marketing course; therefore, not reading will be impossible. I will do my best, though. I do understand the benefits of cutting out distractions.
I’ll be back for week four, part two soon, but until then you can view my Artist’s Way Challenge from the beginning at the links below: