The Wounded Artist

The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: those who know what beauty is, and those who know what sorrow is: nobody else interests me. – Oscar Wilde (De Profundis )

In the recent past I faced disillusionment as a playwright and creator of therapeutic theater. This experience has been instrumental in understanding the abuse artists are frequently placed under, the traumatic wounds awakened, and the time of action of recovery. Essentially when the naivete and idealism of my artist collided with avarice and duplicity, I was challenged to grapple with and move by metabolic stress and bitter cynicism. This course of action catalyzed basic shifts creatively and emotionally, which consequently infiltrated the therapy sessions I ease with a multitude of different artists in NYC. Hence, my experience compels me to proportion about the painful hurdles the artist encounters, and the psychic toll and resultant wounds incurred. Likewise, I also want to clarify ways to champion the artist, so that these struggles and wounds can ultimately morph into wisdom, strength, and success.

Author of “The Artist’s Way” Julia Cameron, said to create is to surrender and align with a higher will. Cameron expounds that art is a mystical transaction, which unearths within the artist his purest essence. To risk bringing to life ideas of personal beauty and meaning and to bravely proportion one’s artistic work is to show unprotected aspects of what humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow referred to as the real self.

in addition often we are stymied by our at the same time quest to actualize ourselves, and the pull towards safety. Our formative experiences influence where we find ourselves on this spectrum of safety and actualization, as do myriad inessential factors that can discourage the expression of innate creative gifts and obstruct artistic expression. We see this conflict personified in the archetypal reality of the wounded struggling artist.

In NYC artists are often lacking resources to create their work. The cost of real estate, labor and materials, make it extremely challenging for artists to thrive. Variable forms of treachery encountered in the dark underbelly of the art world injure the artist’s soul. The rigors of public humiliation, copyright infringement, transitory acclaim, theft of intellectual character, and corporate theft of one’s work where higher ups regularly usurp and take credit for the work of the peon artist are shared occurrences. Hence, high-minded goals and creative ambitions are typically dwarfed by these difficult challenges. To survive, working artists may cobble together sundry art related jobs or take on a day job in a completely different sector. Balancing work with familial responsibilities may require relocating and/or giving up on artistic pursuits that require touring or long hours in a studio.

Artistic agency and idealism may need to be subordinated to adjust to those who finance artistic expression. This may take the form of private collectors, angel investors, producers, directors or corporate organizations. Endeavors to exercise entrepreneurial aims may show unethical narcissistic motives infiltrating these collaborations. Successfully navigating this complicate social and political ground requires savvy, healthy pride and great humility.

However, many artists are not equipped to resist these challenges. A foundation of healthy narcissism is needed in order to develop the capacity for valuing one’s rare creative gifts and to resist the onslaught of public scrutiny, duplicity and rejection. If throughout one’s life one is inadequately cared for, rejected and inconsistently supported, it is likely there are narcissistic wounds that hinder one from successfully navigating these difficulties and fully owning and manifesting aspirations. Under these conditions, the injuries incurred by showing or merchandising one’s art can catalyze creative stagnation, blocks, and traumatic enactments rooted in one’s history. additionally, unprotected to having revealed personal truths by one’s artistic work, the artist can be swept up by primal needs for admiration and approval. thorough-seated longings to be ‘special’, perhaps to compensate for and master unresolved betrayal and rejection, can set the artist up for a proverbial fall.

Artists who are victims of disordered parents may carry an insidious inescapable shame, which enforces the edict that one’s gifts are a threat, responsible for instigating feelings of resentment, inadequacy and envy. Envied and perceived as a threat the artistic child may be banned by the disordered parent to play music, draw, perform, or express his creative gifts in any capacity. Parental prohibitions and shaming of children sends an implicit message about actualizing potentials. Having learned that any indication of happiness, accomplishment or admiration results in contempt and myriad forms of emotional violence, these latent artists may hide in the shadows, having lost sight of their innate endowments or simply too fearful to expose those basic parts of themselves.

Alternatively, unable to tolerate human flaws and consequently pushed by perfection, the wounded artist may clarify with the aggressor and perpetrate the cycle of abuse they endured by deriding and diminishing others. Like their parental abusers they may to comply with self-defeating perfectionistic ideals as a defense against perceived inadequacy. While personality disordered parents are notorious for perpetrating continuous sabotage and deprecation, their egomaniacal fixation on position and personae may consequence in maligning the artistic child for his gifts while concomitantly vicariously exploiting him for narcissistic supply, so as to aggrandize the disordered parent’s stature and self-importance. Henceforth, when these artists have their creative work usurped, repackaged, and exploited with no recognition or accreditation memories of dehumanizing parental abuse are triggered. For the artist who acquires fame, being a narcissistic extension for industry moguls in the guise of caring and admiration and contending with the parasitical demands of a fan base, may replicate the trauma of being objectified and used by narcissistic parents.

Ultimately, in a subconscious effort to master psychological and emotional injuries traumatic patterns will be enacted with those who either embody the traits of one’s parental abusers and/or the scorned victimized child. To break free of these enactments the wounded artist will need to attempt an emotionally and psychologically taxing exploration of a painful history, so as to bring into consciousness destructive patterns and potent projections ignited by comparable dynamics encountered in the art industry. Only then can he mourn his losses and establish a grounded realistic commitment to his efforts to prosper creatively and financially as a specialized artist.

Freud contended in his paper ‘On Narcissism’ that dominant narcissism is an basic part in normal development and is basic to one’s survival. In order to engender healthy narcissism one needs to be fully seen and understood, be taken seriously, have feelings and needs respected. Self-promotion and actualizing ambitions and mature goals requires healthy narcissism. Likewise healthy narcissism forms a continued, realistic self-interest, principles, and an ability to form thorough relationships. By healing chief wounds and reclaiming a foundation of healthy narcissism, the artist equipped with a more great ego and perspective can more ably continue with the logistics of navigating the vicissitudes of the market and popular culture.

In order for current life affirming choices and changes to prevail the wounded artist will need to modify logistical circumstances. Client centered psychologist Carl Rogers said we should create two conditions for people so that the creative course of action in therapy can unfold. Rogers conveyed that psychological safety and psychological freedom make room for acceptance, empathy and the room to think, feel and contribute fully. When one is free from judgment and criticism, the energy of inspiration and possibility becomes easy to reach. Ergo, by breaking free of toxic bonds and unhealthy collaborations that stifle creative energy the artist can empower himself and prioritize his wellbeing by rebuilding a network of trustworthy colleagues who inspire and encourage resourcefulness and partnership so that healthy self esteem and self regard can be later to.

Dr. Robert Firestone wrote, “Personal strength is based on strength, confidence, and competence that individuals little by little acquire during their development. It is self-assertion and a natural, healthy strive for love, satisfaction and meaning in one’s interpersonal world.” The specialized artist, aligned with his strength and hence his birthright for love and fulfillment, will be prompted to protect his work and protect himself from unscrupulous dealings. He will recognize the need to acquire a basic understanding of legal rights and the necessity of procuring legal representation sensitive to the plights of artists when negotiating contracts and selling one’s work. He may come to realize that restoring one’s artistic integrity and authority may require taking legal action with those who adventure ideas and labor.

While protecting one’s work is an act of self-respect and a basic part of upholding one’s artistic integrity and aesthetic, it is also integral to strategic marketing. With renewed vigor the creatively pushed energized artist will be galvanized to embrace visibility by sundry channels. Knowing who one is as an artist and how one’s artistic identity coincides with cultural and economic trends will influence the promotion of one’s art.

Branding and developing a viable customer base will require an on line presence by a personal website, social media, different online galleries and web publications. This will require crafting a meaningful artist’s statement so as to introduce one’s rare aesthetic and the inspiration and meaning supporting one’s work. Depending on the artist’s medium, garnering commissions, auditions, and assignments may include artist representation such as agents, publicists, and curators. Additional outlets for merchandising one’s art may include online galleries and promotional sites for musicians and actors. To finance one’s art fiscal sponsorship can assist with fundraising capabilities and grant applications. Artist fellowships, residencies, progressive training/internships, and consistent networking with industry professionals, are also integral to achieving success.

To sum up, surviving the dark descent into historical betrayals, traumas and defeats and the similar battlefield of promoting one’s art lends itself to cultivating a greater capacity for discernment and discrimination so as to create the space to boldly and fearlessly return to one’s artistic course of action, and wash away from the soul the dust of every day life (Picasso). A tenacious, dedicated and disciplined commitment to hard work and long hours is an indisputable reality for the artist, but for the artist who has plumbed the depths and sustains the necessary stamina and guts needed to create and promote his art, the rewards are substantial. The emboldened healed artist, able to confront chief injuries and reach a sensible and balanced outlook, can safely traverse a daunting art industry and fully include with his gifts from that mystical place of surrender where his creative spirit resides.

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