It has genuinely surprised me to learn how many of my creative and performing artist clients are burdened by physical problems. Almost every single client has some persistent, chronic ailment, many of the mysterious variety that can’t seem to get diagnosed properly.
What is going on? Well, sometimes that pain must be caused by not creating. No one really doubts that there is a mind/body connection. That being the case, if you are manufacturing stress by avoiding creating you will likely end up with some physical complaint. Is creating an answer to every physical problem? Of course not. But it may be the answer to some.
Artists regularly fail to suspect that avoiding creating might be the cause of their chronic ailment. But mustn’t it be hard on the body to refuse to create when you know that you really must? When we ask ourselves a question like, “Wouldn’t I feel better if I got to my art more often?” we usually mean, “Wouldn’t I feel emotionally better?” or “Wouldn’t I feel existentially better?” But we should also frame the question as “Wouldn’t I feel physically better if I got to my art more often?” The answer may be yes.
Here are four tips for dealing with this possibility.
1. Because the underlying biological cause of a physical ailment can be very hard to pin down, it can prove difficult to obtain an accurate diagnosis from Western medicine. At the same time, an accurate, relevant diagnosis may still be possible. Countless individuals have happened upon the proper diagnosis after repeated misdiagnoses or missed diagnoses. So, if you have the wherewithal to get medical help and even if you’ve gotten frustrated and discouraged, do continue on the arduous path to a proper diagnosis.
2. While you’re continuing on that path to a proper diagnosis, take care of your health in all the ordinary, obvious, but still hard-to-accomplish ways that you already know. Learn how to reduce your stress; change your circumstances, if you can, so that your environment and your life produce less stress; sever or minimize toxic relationships; reacquire hope by, first, identifying your life purposes and, second, living them; get your rest, your exercise and your proper diet; and above all endeavor to think thoughts that serve you while ridding yourself of thoughts that produce anxiety, negativity, and hopelessness. This is a lot: but maybe you can prove the exception and do a better job of taking care of yourself than most people do.
3. Accept that there is a mind/body connection and that what ails your mind will ultimately ail your body. Currently not creating may be one thing that ails your mind but you may be suffering from other psychological conflicts and pressures as well. Your formed personality, formed in part by any childhood traumas you may have experienced, may now prove to be your enemy and, as such, can create and sustain physical illness. Therefore your challenge is to upgrade your personality by making use of your freedom and your remaining available personality to turn yourself into someone who doesn’t create illness and distress.
4. Engage with your creative work, even if you find it hard, even if you doubt its value, and even if it makes you anxious. Avoiding it is the bigger problem. If it is in your heart to create and on your mind to create and if you avoid your creative efforts, that is bound to produce a toxic environment internally, one that is likely to cause or contribute to physical problems. If creating is no longer one of your life purposes—if you’ve really shed it from your system, existentially speaking, and have made peace with that change—that is one thing. If you’ve really accomplished that feat, then not creating will not make you sick. But if creating still matters to you, then not creating is a toxic choice.