Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion
In this chapter, Dr. Paris shares various scenarios on the struggle of immersion. I love the passage from Joseph Campbell that introduces this chapter:
Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it. But then a wonderful reconstruction of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life-that is the lure, the promise, and the terror…that we carry within
And so it can be with immersion; a struggle to begin, fear of starting, fear of the unknown, but the promise of a potentially wonderful outcome.
This chapter focuses on artistic blocks and how recognizing and understanding our blocks helps us get past them. And if we don’t recognize the nature of these blocks, we risk staying in a state of being unproductive.
I have to admit here that I still cringe at the word “productive.” The reason being the nine years I spent working as Speech-Language Pathologist. Whether I worked as a therapist for contract companies or whether I worked internally at a specific facility, we were expected to track our hours. Hours spent treating patients, time spent evaluating patients, time spent in meetings, etc, etc, etc. And though I understood most of the rationale for this (e.g. billable time), I couldn’t help but feel like someone was constantly looking over my shoulder. In some ways, it instilled a feeling that we weren’t trusted to do our jobs effectively.
Even today I tend to track my hours in the studio but sometimes I wonder if seeing that time written on a piece of paper contributes to my feeling guilty that I didn’t spend enough time working on my art or if it keeps me from getting started on a project in the first place. You know, because someone is looking over my shoulder checking to see if I’m being productive.
But I digress…..
In this chapter, Dr. Paris shares two examples of artists experiencing blocks and how they dealt with their individual situations (one through therapy, one through addictive behaviors.) But regardless of how these people dealt with their situations, the resolution in both cases revolved around understanding the situation and the significant role relationships play in the process.
It is when we disengage from one immersive experience and have no where else to turn for another immersive experience that darkness can set in. We become vulnerable to this “darkness” which may take the form of loneliness, hopelessness, feeling unsupported, or feeling worthless. The feelings may be fleeting or they may last for a period of time.
I can certainly relate to these feelings. I felt this way when I returned from France this summer. I now realize it was the immersive experience, the sense of community and friendship that made the trip so enjoyable. When I came home, I felt a sense of emptiness, loneliness, and overall blah. This is when I learned the importance of community in my artistic life. That is, connections.
Dr. Paris discusses five symptoms that can result as a lack of immersion and lead to blocks:
- anxiety and restlessness which leave one feeling lost and without direction (yep, felt that one)
- distrust and paranoia; lack of trust in the self and in others (sure, sometimes I don’t trust my self, my ideas out of fear of failure)
- underachievement; that is, it is safer not to immerse and risk failure (yep, related to that one)
- numbness and social isolation when the vitalizing effects of immersion are not present (makes me wonder if working in a home studio contributes to social isolation)
- anger, aggression, and violence; connections with other detached and angry persons can lead to aggression
So many lightbulb moments here!
This chapter concludes with a section titled “The Light” and this sentence seems to sum it all up:
We know what we need: to feel special, to feel safe, to feel understood, and to feel connection.
In the guides section, Dr. Paris outlines three points:
- To be aware of and respect the fears you are facing. To take a deeper look at what fears you are facing. Awareness of these fears is the first step in stretching beyond them.
- Understand your dread to repeat. Here is where you want to identify previous experiences of disappointment, failure, etc and how you coped. Then identify moments of success. Together our memories of disappointment, failure, and success contribute to our fears, dreads, and hopes.
- Reach out for support. When you disengage from creativity, turn to other relationships or activities for immersion.
I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.
Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:
Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion
Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines
Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry