Writing about dreamwork yesterday, I got to thinking about other techniques and exercises I’ve used as a creative arts therapist. Back in the 1980’s, I gave numerous workshops at colleges and growth centers in the Hudson Valley – “Empowering Yourself through Creative Art Therapy,” that sort of thing. I even taught at Omega Institute for a couple of years.
Here’s another exercise you may be able to use. As writers, probably most of us have negative thoughts and voices running through our heads. Some of my own:
This work is a pile of crap . . . .I’m never going to get anywhere . . . .I might as well give up . . . . I just don’t have the talent . . .
I’m sure you can add many of your own, but there are ways to exorcise these messages. I used this one many times as a guided visualization, but you can do it on your own. If you like, you can record it and play it back to yourself, or have a friend read it to you and take turns. Here goes . . .
Get comfortable, relax and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing . . .(Here you can use any type of relaxation induction that works for you, for a minute or two.)
Picture yourself working in your ideal studio. This might be your regular writing space, or it might be a space you create in your imagination. Perhaps you’re writing, or perhaps you’re practicing another art form you love or that you’d like to try. Take some time to visualize yourself in this space. What are you creating? Whatever it is, you’re feeling very pleased with it. (Pause)
Suddenly there’s a knock on the door. You stop working, go and open the door. It’s your critic. Who is this person? (Pause) You invite them into your space to show them your work. Now imagine what they say, and what you say in return. Imagine a dialogue between the two of you . . .
Now give them a final message, say goodbye and usher them out the door. . . In your own time, come back to the present space and open your eyes.
In an actual workshop, at this point I would have people make drawings or paintings about the experience, then share in a group discussion. I might also encourage them to write down the dialogue they had with the critic and maybe expand on it and carry it further, or maybe get into some sociodrama and have them act out the scene with another person.
When people meet “the critic at the door,” they come up with many different characters. Most often it’s a parent; often it’s an influential teacher from their past. Occasionally it’s someone well known, an artist or writer, or an unknown figure of some kind. Note that the phrase “your critic” is neutral – neither positive nor negative. Critics can give either rave reviews or bad ones. With people I’ve worked with, though, 20% or less have encountered positive critics, people who say, “That’s great, I love it – keep up the good work.” For most of us, the critics are negative.
I hope I’ve given you some helpful hints on banishing your inner critics if they’re evil, and cheering them on if they’re good. I’d love to hear from you – who are your inner critics?