The most ubiquitous form of psychic attack comes from the people closest to you.
Does that thought make you uncomfortable? Do you find yourself wanting to reflexively deny it?
It’s not comfortable to think of your family and friends as potential sources of creative sabotage, as invested in keeping you stuck and using guilt and fear-based manipulation to do it. It’s perhaps less comfortable to think of yourself as both willing victim and perpetrator of the same, but that is exactly what week two asks you to do.
Week two asks you to look at the people with whom you surround yourself with a discerning eye, and then turn that same eye on yourself.
I recently had a friend announce on Facebook that she was no longer going to be using that particular social media outlet, as too much of the information posted by her friends was a source of negative input to her. This is exactly the kind of examination Julia Cameron says we should be making in our lives, particularly those of us who are actively pursuing creative recovery.
Stepping away from Facebook is one thing, but that still leaves all the input from the rest of the world, a world most of us don’t have the option to cloister ourselves away from. I doubt many of us would want to, anyway, considering that in doing so we would also be blocking much of the positive.
So how do we discern what and who is causing us to stay blocked and stuck, and what do we do about it?
Cameron likens our blocked friends to fellow alcoholics; none of them are going to applaud our attempts at sobriety when they are still invested in their own drinking habit.
Notice who applauds, and who is disturbed by your recovery. Who expresses well-meaning doubts? Who suggests with underlying disapproval that you are acting different or being selfish? Guilt is a readily available source of manipulative energy and, feeling abandoned, blocked friends will use it to try to leverage us back into habits that are more comfortable for them.
Being everything to everyone all the time does not make you a good person or a better friend. It makes you a frustrated person and breeds bitterness and resentment.
I found that as I worked through this chapter I began to notice all the subtle influences I allow others to exert on my mood, my views, my process – even my goals and dreams.
I’m working toward getting my massage license current after a hiatus of several years. A recent casual conversation that began innocently enough about massage therapy in Portland turned into a litany of complaints by the person I was talking to, based on his own negative experiences. Halfway through the conversation I had a very clear vision of myself listening to the diatribe, shoulders gradually slumping with a weighty sigh as I absorbed what was being said with a clear feeling of hopelessness in pursuing that goal.
Not long ago I probably would have joined him in cynical camaraderie, possibly not even noticing the sudden loss of hope. I’m understanding now that cynical camaraderie does the other person no good whatsoever and actively does me harm.
Realizing that this person was expressing a belief system designed to support himself in staying exactly where he is, it suddenly became much easier to slough off the doubts that arose from the onslaught of negativity. I also realized that if I want to be a good friend to him, the best thing I can possibly do is be successful in my goal.
These are concepts that are probably familiar to most of us. There are enough books and blogs and handy one-liners on this subject that we should all be pro’s at spotting the pattern and not feeding the negativity and doubt trolls. Still, we often are blind to the pattern and feed them anyway. We alternate between being the troll and feeding the troll regardless of what we think we know. Why?
This is the part where you turn the eye of discernment onto yourself.
You cannot simply play the blame game and divorce yourself from any friend or situation where feelings of self-doubt are brought up, without accepting responsibility for the part you play in perpetuating the dynamic.
“As blocked creatives, we are willing to go to almost any lengths to remain blocked”
– Julia Cameron
If my tendency is to engage in cynical camaraderie and drop my dreams by the wayside as a result, I have to ask myself, what is the payoff?
Life is simpler and far less threatening when you stay stuck. Pursuing your dream is not as easy as posting a bunch of pretty pictures on a vision board. It requires action, and continuous effort. It requires introspection, figuring out where your deepest fears lie and then going there to confront them. You will probably have to do this again and again on your journey; you are fighting a war, not slaying a dragon.
Up against so much, no wonder many choose to stay stuck.
It’s helping me to move forward by thinking about it in terms of skirmishes rather than an ongoing war. Each time I have a conversation with someone, I’m engaged in a skirmish. Not a skirmish with them, but with myself.
My job in this skirmish is simply to pay attention.
I’m looking for any signs of creative sabotage. I’m sorting what is real from what is fear. I’m setting boundaries with them and myself, choosing what to engage with, and what needs to be ejected onto the other side of those boundaries. I’m finding satisfaction in small victories, and I believe this is how I’ll make big gains.