The Creative Imperative

How innovation and play beget wellbeing

Emotional and Creative Danger: The Only Real Risk is not Taking One

The only real risk is not taking one

Putting yourself out there - whether emotionally or creatively, raises your anxiety level.  It has to.  No one wants to be rejected. 

Whether you are expressing your romantic longings to the man you have pined for for months or you have put your heart and soul into an audition for the role of your dreams, you are exposed.  You face the possibility of rejection.  And that is terrifying.

This fear, which is in all of us, is deep and remote.  It evokes our earliest experiences and the dread reminds us of our most harrowing questions from childhood: "Will I be cared for?" "How do I earn their love?" ""If I work and work and work at it, will I be embraced or discarded?"  If you've put yourself out there in some meaningful way, you are likely experiencing some version of this terror.  This means that you are doing something right.

Even though the feelings that emerge when you take emotional or creative risks remind you of your primal childhood fears, they are not one and the same. The fundamental difference between the past-you and the now-you is that you are an adult.  You have come out on the other side of childhood and adolescence. Not only have you survived the trials of these life stages, but there is something inside of you that is insisting on pushing you forward in your development.  If you are considering putting yourself out there creatively/emotionally, or are already doing so, you have a potential audience that is much, much larger than just your parents.  It is true that the world can be a cruel and punishing place, but it is also large and welcoming.  It is just a matter of when you will be heard and who will be there to hear you.  There are scores and scores of people who can, and will receive you.  You just need to keep at it.

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If she told you that she likes you, but doesn't like you like you, or they didn't publish it just yet, or he said, "Thanks.  We'll let you know," you are undoubtedly in pain.  I'm not trying to talk you out of your emotional experience, nor could I convince you that it doesn't hurt, because it does.  Just remember: It is a bend in the road not the end of the road. Use the experience.  Don't cower.  Learn from it and get back out there.  The real risk is not in exposure, but in withdrawal.  By pulling away from the world either by refusing to put your work or emotions on the line again you guarantee failure - you deny yourself the opportunity to forge the connections that make life worth living.  Exposing yourself (not literally, please, I can do without the hate mail) is the only way to develop emotionally and creatively. You can slice it and dice it a million different ways, but growth, real growth, lasting and meaningful growth, comes from one thing and one thing only: Risk. If you can keep at it, if you can push through the fear and self-doubt to let others see you, you and your message will be received.  It may not happen exactly as you envision, but it will happen. 

 

 

Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping patients achieve mental health and well-being through creative expression.

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