Friday, November 2, 2012

my best therapist ever

morning pages take away--give yourself, and someone else, a great big kiss.
i freely admit to being a total self-help whore.  my children have mocked my epic search for the excalibur of solutions to all of my personal problems for years now.

when i started the artist's way back in the early summer of 2012, it was only one in a string of attempts, programs, and strategies i've tried over the years to overcome some of my frustrating blockages.  cameron's book focuses on help for "blocked creatives", those who fancy themselves to be artists, but can't seem to fully actualize their artistic intentions.

one of my favorite things about the artist's way is the morning pages.  in morning pages, you write three pages, by hand, in a notebook, every single day.  i've been doing this exercise faithfully, having only missed a handful of days, since june.

some days it's really tedious, but it seems useful (even when tedious) as a kind of meditative exercise.  it forces you to become more aware of the kinds of thoughts you're having, and it has the effect, for me, of centering both my mind and my body for the day, and making me feel like i'm more present in my own life--not so focused on  past and future.

this struggle to stay in the present is something i've dealt with since i was a child, and something that has caused a lot of depression and anxiety in my life.

so for me, morning pages are a kind of meditation, and since i feel very comfortable and focused when i'm writing, it's been an easier kind of meditation than a sitting meditation, which i've tried many times and have never felt great about.  the morning pages meditation is one i've been able to sustain for an extended period of time.

this morning, i was writing and feeling frustrated, experiencing a lot of tedium in the process, when i remembered to write down what i was actually thinking rather than what i thought i should be writing about and thinking about.

and then--bam!

i had some great insights into patterns of thought and behavior that cause problems for me in my life, relationships, career and artistic endeavors.  some of them are very particular, and are probably less relevant to "everyone", but i think a lot of people probably experience some of the things i wrote about today.

generally, one is not supposed to share morning pages.  they are meant to be a kind of private purge to rid your mind of negative thoughts at the start of the day, but i felt great about this breakthrough, and super proud that i was able to coax it out of myself, with no therapist, even, except for my beautiful morning pages notebook.

i felt inordinately proud of myself for becoming my own best therapist.

here's an excerpt from today's thoughts:

my new goal is to do my work without hurting myself physically or psychologically.  i don't need to abuse myself with my thoughts or with unhealthy behaviors in order to be productive.  this kind of self abuse* includes things like:

1) agreeing to commitments i likely can't fulfill.

2) recriminating thoughts when i can't accomplish unrealistic goals.

3) eating to cope with stress.

4) skipping yoga when i'm "too busy".

5) being "too busy" to spend time with friends.

6) being shy or exhibiting self-doubt about my abilities.

7) sabotaging the creative work i've done by not putting it "out there" because i think it's not good enough.  even after i've laboriously created and revised and workshopped it.

8) starting a new endeavor rather than completing the "old endeavor" because i lose confidence in the thing i made.  even after spending large amounts of time, effort and energy on the work. 

9) spending undue amounts of time and mental energy wondering how my work will be received.  

10) thinking too much about criticism from "the outside".

11) not relaxing my mind during down time--obsessing about work that needs to be done.

12) chastising myself for not pushing harder.

13) chastising myself again and again for past mistakes or choices.

14) ruminating on regrets and second-guessing past choices, even decades after those choices were made.

15)  fantasizing about possible outcomes and future success rather than engaging in concrete action.

*mormon readers who grew up in the '70's and '80's, i'm not referring to that kind of self-abuse.

i hope some of these thoughts resonate with someone out there.  at any rate, thanks for listening.

legwear: yoga pants

inspiration:  morning pages

looking forward: to the return of light to lower manhattan


  1. So, when did you crawl into my head? I think that a lot of intelligent, driven, and creative women harbor these negative thoughts. (Throw in academia and bam! It's amplified.) I too have wrestled with such self-recrimination and then gave myself a hard time for giving myself a hard time. I then took a different tack: acknowledge the negative thought for what it is, look at it, step back, and then let it go. Yes, easier said than done, but when I tried to talk myself out of having those thoughts, then I started a new negative cycle.

    Anyway, I hear you, sister. Positive change and self-awareness is a good thing. Bravo.

    1. it feels great to be heard, to know i'm not alone. thank you!

  2. Your post has kept me warm and happy all day!