Psychologist, creativity coach and author Eric Maisel provides helpful ideas about fear versus anxiety and creative people.
Yesterday I addressed the Tri-Valley branch of the California Writers Club on the subject of “overcoming creative anxiety.” I described 24 sources of anxiety in the lives of creative people and 22 anxiety-management strategies.
In the question-and-answer period that followed, a fellow asked, “Can you tell us a little bit more about ‘the fear of success’?”
In fact, I had used the phrase ‘the anxiety of success’ in my talk; and it struck me that the phrases ‘the fear of success’ and ‘the anxiety of success’ were very different one from the other. Language is so interesting!
‘Fear of success’ is a future-looking idea: it is about your relationship to the success that might come your way one day. ‘Anxiety of success’ is a now-looking idea: it is about your relationship to the success you are currently experiencing.
Whereas ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ may be relatively interchangeable words in some sentences, ‘the fear of success’ and ‘the anxiety of success’ are not interchangeable.
Both are real and both are problematic; but they are different. It is the difference between an addict worrying that at some point in the future he may encounter a trigger that causes him to slip versus suddenly finding himself surrounded by temptation right now.
‘Fear of success’ can be dealt with cognitively: you notice how your thoughts are weakening your resolve and you replace those self-sabotaging thoughts with thoughts that serve you.
The anxiety that arises from actual success, on the other hand, must be dealt with behaviorally. You must do something with the new offers coming in, the fan mail, the interview requests, the invitations to excess and distraction.
Try not to fear success. It is true that success may bring with it some new anxieties, but what aspect of living doesn’t?
Let’s raise a glass to [a year] filled with our successes. May all the hard work that each of you is doing pay dividends. If we all cross our fingers for each other, that will amount to thousands of crossed fingers!
[From an issue of his newsletter: Dec 20, 2009]
Photo collage at top is from my article:
How to Relieve Stress and Anxiety When You’re Highly Sensitive.
Second image is from “How to Disrupt Worry” – an article by the HeartMath company – see my article for more: HeartMath Technology for Stress Relief and Emotional Balance.
One of Eric Maisel’s multiple courses is
A New Look at Mastering Creativity
The page for this course includes:
Have you been creating less often than you would like?
Are you avoiding your creative work altogether?
Anxiety may be the culprit!
It is the number one problem that creative people face—and yet few know about it.
Anxiety regularly stops creative people in their tracks and makes their experience of creating more painful than pleasurable.
It blocks would-be creative people entirely, preventing them from realizing their dreams.
In this course you will learn:
- How to start and complete your creative projects without experiencing disabling anxiety
- How little-known anxiety management techniques can help enormously
- How successful artists cope with their anxiety
- What NOT to do to deal with creative anxiety
- Why mastering anxiety is the key to a rich creative life
A brief excerpt from Lesson 1 – The Anxiety of Creating and Not Creating:
Eric Maisel writes:
In these 16 lessons I intend to describe many of the sources of anxiety in a creative person’s life and provide you with an anxiety mastery menu of strategies and techniques to manage that anxiety.
The more you understand these sources of anxiety and build your anxiety management skills, the better you’ll be able to deal with the rigors of the creative process and the realities of the creative life.
Anxiety is a feature of the human condition.
It is a much larger feature than most people realize.
A great deal of what we do in life we do in order to reduce our experience of anxiety or in order to avoid anxiety altogether.
Our very human defensiveness is one of the primary ways that we try to avoid experiencing anxiety.
If something is about to make us anxious we deny that it is happening, make ourselves sick so that we can concentrate on our sickness, get angry at our mate so as to have something else to focus on, and so on.
We are very tricky creatures in this regard.
We are also very wonderful creatures who have it in us to create.
Learn more about this and other courses at his site: