I had a Twitter conversation recently that invited me to look at the ways that I could use creative outlets to constructively involve the energy from feelings. That's a mouthful, huh?
Feelings as the energy of the moment
I think that feelings are e-motion or energy-in-motion. (I think I first heard this concept from my friend and mentor, Cynthia Winton-Henry.) I don't need to become attached to them. In fact, that would be a waste, because they are just going to move on. Like a wave of energy, they are here now and gone in a moment.
Many of us will remember stories from psychology 101 about the fight-or-flight response that is connected with fear. This visceral response certainly makes it more challenging. The impulse is either to respond to the adrenal rush by throwing punches or running away. But in societal situations, we have to try to cope with the fear itself and, for some, this becomes an overriding focus. But it doesn't need to be. As the e-motion approach to fear suggests, “this too shall pass.”
Keep in mind that much of what I'm saying here can be applied to other emotions (anger, sadness and so on). In my case, fear just happens to be the one that I identify as the main source of creative derailing for me, so I'm focusing on it. Translate to your preferred emotional train wreck, as necessary.
Fear is usually an emotion that's telling us that something is happening that goes against what we want. (This can also be true of other emotions, of course.) So, my assumption here is that the positive outcome of fear happens when we re-focus our attention on our desire and what brings us passion. If I stay fixated on the fear itself, it will be in control. If I shift my focus to what I want, something new can happen.
Translating emotional energy into creative energy
So how can fear give rise to beautiful music, art, or other creative outlets? It's going to sound easy. And I'm the first to admit that it's not easy in practice. Here are a few things that may help:
- Remove yourself from the fear stimulus, if possible.
- Take a deep breath. Let it out with a sigh if you find that helpful.
- Focus on what you want. If what you desire is not clear, that's okay. Here are some other things to try:
- point your thoughts in a general direction of the things you like even if it seems challenging in the moment.
- move your body to another position or location. Watch your mind shift with your body.
- think of anything that you consider to be beautiful.
- Use this “wishful thinking” to develop whatever creative ideas you're working on (writing a song, painting a picture, developing a performance art piece, etc.).
For a simple example, I had a particular rhythm (triplet) to play on guitar in a piece. On the first run-through in rehearsal, I botched it and I felt fear. (My palms literally got sweaty, my thoughts were racing and noticed the impulse to focus only on the fear/botch.) Since it was a rehearsal, I had the luxury of standing up, shifting my body and taking a breath to help me refocus. What did I want? To be able to play a beautiful rendition of the composer's piece of music. I experimented with possible down and up-stroke approaches until I had seven different ways to play it!
I'm still learning this process myself and it takes practice. My suggestion is to use the smallest moments of fear (like the one in my example) to practice on initially. Expand into larger fears as you are able and inspired.
There are other ways to shift your feelings into creative avenues. One of the best ways is to find friends and a sense of community near you.
Good luck and playful blessings,