Eric Maisel on investing meaning in our life and art for mental health



Eric Maisel, PhD is author of The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression. In our interview, he addresses some of the meaning and mood issues facing creators, noting that when we consciously make meaning, we improve our lives and mental health.

Q: The kinds of anxiety we call stage fright, or fear of the blank canvas (or blank page) — can these be related to meaning issues?

Carrie UnderwoodEric Maisel: “When we fear that we do not matter or that our efforts do not matter, we get depressed.

“Similarly, the places where we make large investments of meaning, for instance in our performances, paintings, or books, are places of great anxiety, because there is more than our ego on the line, there is our very sense of the meaningfulness of our life.

“If the world is not interested in our paintings, for instance, we will be hard-pressed to maintain meaning there; so, when we come to the blank canvas, we can already be a little (or a lot) frightened that a negative reaction to this as-yet-unborn painting will precipitate a meaning crisis.”

Continued in interview: Investing meaning in our art.

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He also comments:

“Only a small percentage of creative people work as often or as deeply as, by all rights, they might be expected to work. What stops them? Anxiety or some face of anxiety like doubt, worry, or fear… anxiety is the great silencer of the creative person.”

From post: Eric Maisel on anxiety and developing creativity.

[Photo: Carrie Underwood: “At the beginning of my career, I used to have panic attacks." - From article: Performers With Stage Fright and Anxiety.]

Here is an excerpt from a news show (several years ago) in which he talks about the existential nature of depression for creative people.

Maisel notes in the video that creative people want to be cultural leaders – “the cultural witnesses, cultural actors” to “hold meaning afloat for the world.”

He cautions that the term depression “has virtually replaced unhappiness in our internal vocabularies.”

In an article of his, Dr. Maisel notes, “We feel sad but we call ourselves depressed. Having unconsciously made this linguistic switch, when we look for help we naturally turn to a ‘depression expert.’ We look to a pill, a therapist, a social worker, or a pastoral counselor – even if we’re sad because we’re having trouble paying the bills, because our career is not taking off, or because our relationship is on the skids.”

From my post Rethinking Depression and Creativity.

His newer book is Rethinking Depression: How to Shed Mental Health Labels and Create Personal Meaning.

To create art, and live a fulfilling life, he says, we need to consciously choose to make meaning.

“When a value that means something to you is involved, you must make a choice—or fail yourself by not choosing. When work that means something to you is at stake, you must choose to do it — or fail yourself by not choosing to do it.”

From article: Making Meaning by Eric Maisel, PhD.

Also see my related site Depression and Creativity.

Here is another interview in which he talks about making meaning:

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Originally posted 2013-06-30 08:55:19.

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  1. […] He cautions that the term depression “has virtually replaced unhappiness in our internal vocabularies.” – From my article Eric Maisel on investing meaning in our life and art for mental health. […]

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  3. […] Eric Maisel on investing meaning in our life and art for mental health – Eric Maisel, PhD is author of “The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression.” In our interview, he addresses some of the meaning and mood issues facing creators, noting that when we consciously make meaning, we improve our lives and mental health. […]

  4. [...] Eric Maisel on investing meaning in our art to manage depression [...]

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  7. Great interview especially bringing out that meaning making requires, “getting back up on the horse” again and again.
    I must say I also love the resources here and the articles. I also read the one on fear as a energy drainer. So true. And helpful.
    Thank you!!!
    Susan

  8. Janet Riehl says:

    First, I want to say how much I love the image at the top of your post from “African Canvas: The Art of West African Women, by Margaret Courtney-Clarke.” It’s a stunning example of creative energy streaming through. One year I had the calendar from the book as well to brighten my days.

    Second,I want to thank you for linking to the Riehlife article with Eric. That rather startled me, but in the best way possible.

    Third, I’m just agog at how queued up your whole site is…how crisp…how filled with all sorts of resources on these important topics. Further, I’m so happy you are extending the depression exploration into the much-feared and much-mis-understood area of mania. Excellent work.

    Having the video here, too, is a wonderful plus. Gosh, what a good piece of work you’ve done. Applause, way past the dessert course!

    Janet Riehl
    http://www.riehlife.com

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