Coronavirus and Creative Work

The pandemic we face is bringing catastrophic pain to millions of people in our nation and around the world. America has lost more lives than we lost in the Vietnam War. We face profound economic consequences. Thinking of creativity in this context may seem counterintuitive, but painters and poets and philosophers and writers and film makers and entrepreneurs have always been one of our front lines in interpreting and transmuting painful times into powerful ones. And this period of time, despite the grave difficulties we face, is no different. In fact, we will sorely need artists of every kind to help us think through our challenges and access feelings about them.

Consider just one facet of the pandemic: Sheltering at home. This brings individuals and couples and families into closer contact with their own thoughts and those of others than they may have ever been. And the conflict, loneliness, compassion, concern, angst, passion, anger and everything else that results can provide not only the raw material for plays, movies and many other forms of creative expression (which then help people make sense of those emotions).

Consider the pathos of people needing to say goodbye to loved ones who they cannot visit in the hospital. Or consider the psychological impact of being infected with the virus and facing isolation and stigma. These sort of gut-wrenching realities calls for artists to help us contend with them. We really need an army of such artists.

There is already a call for people to record Haiku about Coronavirus.

There are many calls for people to document their thoughts and feelings and experiences confronting Coronavirus.

Street art is appearing.

Artists of every kind will be needed. And they will answer the call because they have always done so when most needed. May they be the artists Wassily Kandinsky envisioned when he wrote:

The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Robert Pirsig, Being Zen and Never Quitting

Robert Pirsig, who wrote the book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote an Afterword to the book that is as powerful as the rest of it.  One of the reasons is that he makes it clear why it never makes sense to quit when pursuing one’s creative passion.  Consider this:  Pirsig writes that it was something like the 122nd publisher who offered him a $3,000 advance for his manuscript.  And that means that Pirsig never quit, despite receiving 121 rejection letters.

Just imagine that.  Lots of authors would have quit after 10 rejection letters.  Lots would have quit after 20.  Lots more would have quit after 50.  Maybe I would have, at one time.  But not anymore.  Because I believe that the world creates resistance to creative work and that sometimes the resistance is greater, not less, when the idea has greater power to change minds or hearts.  The same-old stuff can flow through the coarse filter of our culture.  New ideas, bold thoughts, unique perspectives—not so much.

That 122nd publisher knew $3,000 wasn’t much to earn up front for a book, but he reminded Pirsig that money wasn’t the point with a book like his.  And that was true.  But the book ended up selling millions of copies and becoming a classic.

Once Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance made Pirsig famous, he was asked why he had written the book, to begin with.  “Writing it,” he said, “seemed to have higher quality than not writing it.  That was all.”

Exactly.  Never quit on your creation.

Here’s an example.  I wrote a children’s book not long ago.  I sent it out to a handful of publishers.  Nothing doing.  I sent it out to some more.  No takers.  I stepped back from it for a while.  Then, out of the blue, I met an illustrator online, by chance. I felt his style spoke to the character I had created.  I felt he could bring the main character in the book to life.  So, I sent him the manuscript.  And now we’re working together to try to breathe life into the project.

What is it for you?  What in your life is calling out to you to be created? A new business?  A screenplay? A relationship? Better health?  A novel?  A painting?  A poem?  About what can you say, truly, that creating it would have higher quality than not creating it?  Because whatever that is, you can’t shy away from it.  Once you have brought it to life, you have to stand behind it, 100 percent and never quit on it.  That’s because quitting on it would be a lot like quitting on yourself. And you’re worth standing up for, forever.

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CREATIVITY AND PAIN-2-POWER

How the Creative Spirit Heals You

When you jump-start your creativity, you jump-start many elements of your life.  That’s why devoting time and effort to your creative pursuits can pay untold dividends beyond what may come from your work product, terms of financial rewards or acclaim or even satisfaction.  It yields gifts in many realms of your existence—from mood to relationships. Read more… 

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Questions You Can Expect to Answer for Your Creativity Coach

Creators being seized by irresistible impulses to generate manuscripts, or new entrepreneurial ventures, or new directions in which to lead existing businesses isn’t actually the way that creative efforts usually unfold.  Very often, the most powerful elements of worthy creative pursuits can be coaxed to the surface by questions.  Those questions then begin a process of further inquiry, effort, trial and error and editing (whether a business or a book) to get to the final product.

What are some of the questions I have put to my creative coaching clients?  Here are four areas of inquiry that may get your own creative energy flowing:

1- Creative people can often direct their creative energies to any number of possible projects.  If you were to choose one that you feel you have to pursue during your time on this planet, which project would it be?  Which one would you be satisfied with people close to you saying you had completed before your death?  I know focusing on death could sound a little morbid, but doing so can really get to the heart of your creative life.

2- Has there been a creative endeavor that excited you, but which you abandoned, at any point in your life—whether as a child, adolescent or adult?  Sometimes, we get negative feedback on our best ideas and truest talents, or at least don’t get the support we need to pursue them.  That’s because our talents can actually seem threatening to those around us who live at a distance from their own or who worry we’ll somehow get lost pursuing ours.  Reclaiming a creative impulse or agenda we buried can restart our creative engines in profound ways.

3- Is there a current project you’ve worked on—whether in art or in business or as an inventor—that is “partly” or “mostly” what you think it could be?  What is your most audacious vision of what it could be?  Why not go about actualizing that vision?  Too many of us are satisfied with getting the equivalent of a creative field goal when we could go for the touchdown and score.  Is there fear keeping you from the end zone?  What is that fear?  How can it be countered?

4- What creative project or passion would you be willing to pursue if it were not going to lead to fame or wealth, and you knew that, for sure?  Those are the projects, by the way, that speak to your soul.  And when you serve your soul, other people recognize it deep inside their own souls.  Those creative, inspiring connections—to self and others—are invaluable.  They’re also, by the way, the ones that often end up yielding worldly success, specifically because they aren’t designed to go after it.

The idea that artists or entrepreneurs need to be solitary folks pulling out their hair to get to the best ideas inside their heads isn’t so.  Very often, honest inspiration is one or two questions away.  And honest inspiration is the first wondrous step in manifesting spectacular creations.

Dr. Keith Ablow

    

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Lessons from the Burst Zika Bubble ~ Randall S Bock Guest Post

Here’s a piece that I’m hoping can help calm minds. I know we’re in the midst of a viral scare and I can’t fully comment on how everything will play out with coronavirus but I do want you to know that experts occasionally can get things wrong – and that the news-media will run stories before they are fully vetted and scrutinized. Scary news sells advertising-time. I want you to know that when we look back on many medical scares, we survive them. This should be a comfort. Let’s look back here at what happened with 2016’s Zika/microcephaly scare. Some of us may not remember it because it has gone away so thoroughly, but at the time they were cataclysmic, horrible predictions. Essentially none of these have come true in the meanwhile, but nobody’s retracted the original claims. The analogy here might be that we should look not just at the worst things that are around, but at some of the news elsewhere that looks much better, for instance the very low rates of fatality in Taiwan, South Korea and other places that have shown reasonable caution. Let’s learn, as we always do, from the best sources, keep our minds open, and carry on!” –Randall S Bock

Lessons from the Burst Zika Bubble

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BODY-MIND AND THE CORONAVIRUS ~ Kathi Fairbend Guest Post

The world is engulfed in confusion about Coronavirus data, guidelines, restrictions, sadness about those who have lost their lives and what will unfold in the future.

We have been inundated with instructions for disinfecting and hand washing, along with endless reflections on the stress of schedule changes for families.

Millions of Americans used to de-stress at the gym.  For now, that isn’t an option.

All of this increases the potential for anxiety and depression.  But here’s one insight I hope will be helpful:  You have a great alternative to the gym, right at home.  Our bodies are by far the best piece of exercise equipment!  The Body-Mind approach is all about using simple exercises that require no equipment, in order to relieve anxiety and help prevent depression.

The exercises I share with my clients improve physique, posture and mood.  I say they help people stand up to depression.  Certainly, there is ample scientific evidence to prove that posture affects mood, and mood affects posture.

While at home for this extended period, anyone can learn the life skill of sound posture to improve mood, as you gain flexibility, strength, ease of movement, balance and poise.  It’s another way to turn today’s pain into tomorrow’s power.

All this can be accomplished with daily stretching exercises at home, any time of the day. If you are home schooling your children, perhaps this could be gym time for them.

Here is one very simple and effective stretching exercise to get you started. This exercise engages many large muscles and normal motor patterns we use every day- walking, running, climbing stairs and even doing daily chores.

 

OPPOSITE ARM AND LEG EXERCISE

Starting Position:

Lie on the floor with both knees bent and feet flat on floor (towel under head and neck if needed).

Place your arms at your side, with your palms down.

Allow your back to “settle” when you first lie down.

Picture your shoulders and hips like the wheels on your car—firmly on the ground.

Next:

Gently pull in your lower abdomen, deeply.  Do not use your hips or push down with your back.

Move your right arm straight up and overhead and slide (keeping your heel on the ground) your left leg out straight.

Pause.

Now, bring your right arm down and slide left leg up so your foot is again flat on the floor.

Then, move your left arm straight up and overhead and slide the right leg out straight.

Pause.

Bring your left arm down and slide right leg up so foot is again flat on the floor.

Alternate 5-10 repetitions each side.

There are more of these exercises in my book Stand Up to Depression.  It’s available online. I kept the price low, but if it is prohibitive for anyone, I can make the exercises and illustrations available to you at no cost during this challenging time.  Just make the request at [email protected]

 

Kathi Fairbend, MS RPT

Author, Physical Therapy and Ergonomic Consultant

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What is True Personal Power?

It’s one thing to want to be “more successful” or to “have better relationships,” but achieving true personal power is a much more specific goal.  It means that the goals you seek and the successes you achieve are derived from your core self—that part of you that is the reservoir for your most heartfelt dreams and aspirations, professionally and personally.  It is also the part of you that stores your most ambitious plans.  Often those dreams and aspirations and plans are  buried as we move through childhood, adolescence and adulthood.  And they’re the very ones that can take us to new heights of happiness, self-expression and achievement.

How does this happen?  How does true personal power escape so many of us?  A big part of the answer is that the purest and deepest parts of ourselves retreat, when faced with people who don’t support those parts of ourselves.  That dynamic can go all the way back to one’s parents, by the way.  Out of fear, they may discourage some of our less “practical” dreams.  Friends or teachers may try to temper our ambitions as grandiose, when they could just be seen as confident and wonderful expressions of who we really are and what we really hope to become.  And because we’re asked to meet so many challenges in our educational and early professional lives, we can jettison the most unique parts of who we truly are, in order to get grades, meet deadlines, secure employment and avoid being seen as “different” by others.

Life events, though, sometimes discourage us from embracing and deploying the most powerful parts of ourselves.  We can experience losses, including the untimely deaths of loved ones, that short-circuit the energy we devote to manifesting our core selves.  We can see others around us who suffer defeats while pursuing big dreams.  And we can—wrongly—think that the best way to do our best is to do what is routine and expected and practical.  This resistance between the person we portray to the world and the person we are at core is like any other resistor in a circuit.  It slows down the flow of energy needed to be truly personally powerful.  It is a source of low self-esteem and depression, too.

Each of us is unique.  Each of us has an individual destiny.  Shutting it down has consequences.

There’s another factor, too.  When we devote ourselves to our true, treasured, God-given talents and dreams and seek to actualize them, we are letting the universe take control.  We’re servants of a Higher Power.  And that “letting go” requires faith and trust in the universe.  It requires a belief that we shouldn’t stand in the way of our inexplicable, immeasurable, miraculous impulses to create and build everything from truly intimate relationships, to art that emanates from the soul, to businesses of imagination and originality and boldness.

True Personal Power is the psychological equivalent of strong core body muscles.  It serves as the foundation for both stability and for surges of forward momentum.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Founder, Pain-2-Power

[email protected]

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The Heart of the Matter: The Pain-2-Power Principle

Today is the official launch of the Pain-to-Power website.  So, today seems like a good day to write about the central idea of Pain-2-Power.

In order to become truly powerful, despite any level of adversity (even facing the immense stresses associated with Coronavirus), you have to be working with the non-fiction, authentic version of your life story—from the early chapters like childhood and adolescence, right through the pages unfolding today.  The pain you lived through actually contains the code to unlock major sources of power.  The trouble is that the code is often hidden by the mental process known as denial and other ways we candy-coat or cover up the truth about our lives.

We all have buried truths.  Most of us fear revealing them, even to ourselves.  So, we leave them buried and do whatever it takes to keep them there, sometimes forever.  That’s a bad strategy because coming to grips with those truths, once and for all—especially the uncomfortable ones—is our greatest untapped source of power.

To find the self-esteem to get past today’s hurdles and live full and successful lives, we have to look back and figure out when and how we were deprived of it.

To find the courage to confront today’s trouble, we have to learn what in the past made us believe we weren’t strong.

To find the creativity to change our lives or companies or relationships dramatically, we need to see clearly who or what made us lose faith in our creativity.

Pain-2-Power is all about tracing the roots of your pain, in order to turn it into power—the power to choose who you want to connect with (not be drawn to the same disappointing type of person you keep ending up connecting with); the power to leave a job that confirms someone else’s impression of you and, instead, choose one that speaks to your internal sense of self; the power to take reasonable risks with your business so it can become more profitable; the power to make your marriage flourish in ways your parents’ marriage might not have; the power to make genuine friends who support you, even if important ones in the past let you down.

The authenticity that comes from facing the truth about what you’ve lived through—getting to the non-fiction version of your life story—will make you a stronger, happier and more successful person, parent, spouse, lover or friend.  It will utterly change your life.

If you take this journey with me, whether as my 1:1 coaching/counseling/mentoring client, or by reading my Insights here, or by watching my videos on YouTube, I believe you will be on your way to your true self.  And that means you will be unlocking your true potential for happiness, love and success.

I believe deeply that you matter.  Your story matters.  And I feel privileged to be in a position to help you make the most of your life.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

Founder, Pain-2-Power

[email protected]

 

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Ten Pain-2-Power Coronavirus Questions

We’re being deluged with information about Coronavirus through television and the Internet, by text and by email and by phone.  The media, friends and family are, of course, distributing and exchanging news, facts, rumors and advice all day, every day, while most Americans observe social distancing, working from home or having been laid off from work.  The influx of information can leave us with little time to ponder what living through this pandemic means to us, personally—not only emotionally, but financially, spiritually and, yes, politically.  That’s why I have created ten Pain-2-Power Coronavirus questions that may prompt you to take the time, and devote the introspection, to define (and perhaps write down or record) these very significant and very personal thoughts, feelings and opinions.

The questions are broad, by intent.  Different people may focus on themselves or others or the world around them, in answering each one.

Why would taking the time to answer the Coronavirus questions be helpful at such a stressful time?  One reason is that it takes a lot of energy to keep our heartfelt thoughts, feelings and opinions from surfacing.  That energy could be put to better use.  A second reason is that answering the questions may lead you to important reflections about life that you later choose to share with others—in order to deepen your discussions with them and your relationships with them.  Lastly, I hope that the questions simply lead you to know yourself a bit better than before.  And that’s one very real way of turning pain into power.

You can answer one or two questions at a time, or go through the whole list in one or two sittings.  You may also want to answer each of the Coronavirus questions more than once, allowing a few days, or even a week, to pass, in between.  As the pandemic evolves, your answers may evolve, too.

Ten Coronavirus Questions

  1. The two most inspiring moments I have experienced during the pandemic have been:
  2. The two most disappointing or sad moments I have experienced during the pandemic have been:
  3. Looking back, I hope that I can describe myself as having responded to Coronavirus by:
  4. If I had to describe this period of time to someone who would read my thoughts about 50 or even 100 years from now, I would describe it this way:
  5. The biggest stress I am facing right now, related to Coronavirus, is:
  6.  The pandemic is bringing up these memories of other times in my life when I confronted adversity or experienced loss:
  7. I find myself wishing that I could spend time with these people, with these very special qualities that I miss:
  8. The pandemic has me thinking in these ways about political leaders and their decisions:
  9. When the pandemic is over, I believe I will be changed by it in these ways, in terms of my view of myself and of others and of the world around me:
  10. There will be other pandemics, at some point in the future (hopefully, a very long time from now).  If someone living through a pandemic 100 years from now were reading my thoughts about this one, I would want them to know this:

When we bury our thoughts and feelings we short-circuit our true power to connect with ourselves and with others.  I hope these ten questions provide points of departure for powerful thoughts about this unprecedented time.

 

Dr. Keith Ablow

Pain-2-Power

[email protected]

For more on Pain-2-Power and Coronavirus, check out . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7Rgl99LtHE&t=34s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keu4O9jf5Ao&t=28s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcOazp-fYI4

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WHAT IF THE PEOPLE WHO HURT YOU GROWING UP WERE DOING THEIR BEST?

One theme that comes up repeatedly as I work with Pain-2-Power clients is how to understand those who caused them emotional pain.  Not infrequently, those are the people who were closest to my clients in earlier chapters of their life stories—their parents, for instance, or older siblings, or close friends.  For so many people, their true talents were not nurtured by parents, or their peace of mind was invaded by addiction in a parent, or their self-esteem was not protected when under assault by a sibling who was a bully (or worse).

Frequently, my clients and I arrive at this conclusion:  The people who underperformed as they were growing up rarely planned to do harm.  As hard as it may be to believe and as frustrating as it can be to accept, they may have been doing their best.  They weren’t off in some dark corner of the house rubbing their hands together and thinking up ways to hurt anyone.  They were fractured people who had their own deeply imperfect life stories and that’s what led to their own shortcomings.  Like a virus, trouble in one generation tends to infect the next and the next, until a new, healing perspective intervenes.

There’s a metaphor for this that comes from one of my favorite novelists, the late Harry Crews. In his book, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, Crews describes growing up in rural Georgia. He and his friends played “crack the whip,” a game in which kids join hands and then, like the hand of a clock, the whole string of children runs in a circle, with the kid in the center just turning in place, and the one at the end of the string having to run very fast to complete each circular “lap.”   Because of the force generated, that last kid is usually unable to hold hands for very long and gets launched from the string of children, flying off and tumbling onto the ground.

Well, Harry was that last kid one day.  And he got launched from the “whip” and flew, tumbled and tripped all the way into a vat full of boiling oil in which his parents planned to cook meat.  Harry writes that when he stood up he saw his skin had been horribly burned.  Then, he says, his mother did the single worst thing she could have done:  She ran to him and wrapped him in a towel.  And that towel—dried onto his raw flesh—later had to be removed from him at the hospital.

That’s real pain.

What Crews writes next is about forgiveness.  Because he writes that he understands that his mother did what she did out of panic and love—and because she didn’t know what else to do.

Now, back to Pain-2-Power.  Can there be people around us in the early chapters of our lives whose actions are not even close to loving?  Yes.  Can they cause us very real emotional injuries?  Yes.  But can those who do feel deeply connected to us, even those who love us, cause us psychological pain and injuries, because they are, seemingly, unable to do better.  Yes.  Because they are, themselves, fractured.  Like Harry Crews’ mother they don’t know what else to do.

That should give you a sense of why it’s necessary to look back at our life stories—especially some of the pain we experienced—and understand the self-defeating patterns of emotion or behavior that may have taken root.  Because stopping those self-defeating patterns may require seeing that the people closest to us—while not usually “out to get us”—were not the capable, strong, unconditionally loving people we wished, hoped or fantasized that they were.

Seeing that painful fact, and learning how to not obscure the insight with anger or anxiety or denial, is the way we become able to stop avoiding the truth—whether by overworking or overusing alcohol or obsessing over one doomed relationship after another.  Yes, we were injured.  No, we were not as safe as we could or should have been from those injuries.  But with a clear view of what happened, we can avoid repeating the same self-defeating dramas, again and again.  And, then, the next chapters we “write” of our life stories can truly be the most powerful of all.

Dr. Keith Ablow

Pain-2-Power

[email protected]

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