Mastering Creative Anxiety By Eric Maisel, Ph.D. (3)

11. Disidentification techniques
“Disidentification” is the core idea of the branch of psychotherapy known as psychosynthesis. Rather than attaching too much significance to a passing thought, feeling, worry, or doubt, you remind yourself that you are larger than and different from all the stray, temporal events that seem so important in the moment. You do this dis-identifying primarily by watching your language. For example, you stop saying “I’m anxious” (or worse, “I’m an anxious person”) and begin to say, “I’m having a passing feeling of anxiety.” When your show comes down without a sale, instead of saying “I’m ruined” or “I’m finished,” you say, “I’m having a passing feeling of pain and disappointment.” By making these linguistic changes you fundamentally reduce your experience of anxiety.

12. Ceremonies and rituals
Creating and using a ceremony or ritual is a simple but powerful way to reduce your experience of anxiety. For many people lowering the lights, lighting candles, putting on soothing music and in other ways ceremonially creating a calming environment helps significantly. One particularly useful ceremony is one that you create to mark the movement from “ordinary life” to “creating time.” You might use an incantation like “I am completely stopping” in a ritual or ceremonial way to help you move from the rush of everyday life to the quiet of your creative work, repeating it a few times so that you actually do stop, grow quiet, and move calmly and effortlessly into the trance of working.

13. Reorienting techniques
If your mind starts to focus on some anxiety-producing thought or situation or if you feel yourself becoming too wary, watchful and vigilant, all of which are anxiety states, one thing you can do is to consciously turn your attention in another direction and reorient yourself away from your anxious thoughts and toward a more neutral stimulus. For example, instead of focusing on the audience entering the auditorium where you’re about to give a talk you might reorient yourself toward the notices on the bulletin board in the green room, paying them just enough attention to take your mind off the sounds of the audience arriving but not so much attention that you lose your sense of what you intend to say.

14. Discharge techniques
Anxiety and stress build up in the body and techniques that vent that stress can prove very useful. One discharge technique that actors sometimes learn to employ to reduce their experience of anxiety before a performance is to “silently scream” — to make the facial gestures and whole body intentions that go with uttering a good cleansing scream without actually uttering any sound (which would be inappropriate in most settings). Jumping jacks, pushups and strong physical gestures of all sorts can be used to help release the “venom” of stress and anxiety and pass it out of your system.

15. Recovery work
You can deal with mild anxiety without having to stop everything. But if your anxiety is more serious and especially if it permeates your life, affecting your ability to create, your ability to relate, your ability to dream large, and your very ability to live, then you must take your anxiety-management efforts very seriously, as seriously as you would take your efforts to recover from an addiction. One smart way to pay this kind of serious attention is by using addiction recovery ideas, for example the idea of identifying triggers, those thoughts and situations that trigger anxiety in you. Just as you might “work your program” to stay sober, you work your program to stay calm and centered.

If you intend to create, get ready for anxiety. It is coming — and you can handle it beautifully if you use these simple tools and turn yourself into an anxiety management expert. •

About the Author
Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is America’s foremost creativity coach and is widely known as the creativity expert. His most recent book is Mastering Creative Anxiety.

Based on the book Mastering Creative Anxiety © 2011 by Eric Maisel. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.

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