Week 5, Day 7 of The Artist's Way
Today, let's explore how we've been systematically and unconsciously destroying our true self.
THE VIRTUE TRAP (continued)
The question “Are you self-destructive?” is asked so frequently that we seldom hear it accurately. What it means is Are you destructive of yourself? And what that really asks us is Are you destructive of your true nature?
Many people, caught in the virtue trap, do not appear to be self-destructive to the casual eye.
Bent on being good husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, teachers, whatevers, they have constructed a false self that looks good to the world and meets with a lot of worldly approval. This false self is always patient, always willing to defer its needs to meet the needs or demands of another.
Virtuous to a fault, these trapped creatives have destroyed the true self, the self that didn’t meet with much approval as a child. The self who heard repeatedly, “Don’t be selfish!” The true self is a disturbing character, healthy and occasionally anarchistic, who knows how to play, how to say no to others and “yes” to itself.
Creatives who are caught in the Virtue Trap still cannot let themselves approve of this true self.
They can’t show it to the world without dreading the world’s continued disapproval.
“Are you self-destructive?” is a question that the apparently virtuous would be bound to answer with a resounding no. They then conjure up a list proving how responsible they are. But responsible to whom? The question is “Are you self-destructive?” Not “Do you appear self-destructive?” And most definitely not “Are you nice to other people?”
We listen to other people’s ideas of what is self-destructive without ever looking at whether their self and our self have similar needs. Caught in the Virtue Trap, we refuse to ask ourselves, “What are my needs? What would I do if it weren’t too selfish?”
Are you self-destructive?
(The Artist's Way, 2016, p. 99-100)
I seek the creator within and embrace my own gift of creativity.
Are you self-destructive?
This is a very difficult question to answer. To begin with, it requires that we know something of our true self (and that is the very self we have been systematically destroying).
One quick way to ascertain the degree of drift is to ask yourself this question: what would I try if it weren’t too crazy?
One quick way to ascertain the degree of drift is to ask yourself this question:
List 5 things you would try if it weren’t too crazy.
- Sky diving, scuba diving.
- Belly dancing, Latin dancing.
- Getting my poems published.
- Buying a drum set.
- Bicycling through France.
If your list looks pretty exciting, even if crazy, then you are on the right track. These crazy notions are actually voices from our true self.
List 5 things you would do if it weren’t too selfish:
- Sign up for scuba lessons.
- Take the Latin dancing class at the Y.
- Buy The Poet’s Market and make a submission a week.
- Get the used drum set my cousin is trying to sell.
- Call my travel agent and check out France.
By seeking the creator within and embracing our own gift of creativity, we learn to be spiritual in this world, to trust that God is good and so are we and so is all of creation. In this way, we avoid the Virtue Trap.
“Finding yourself” is not really how it works. You aren't a ten-dollar bill in last winter's coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people's opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. “Finding yourself” is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.
– EMILY MCDOWELL
What is one way you will say “YES!” to yourself today?
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