Finding Inspiration in Heroes
For some reason, the title of this chapter brought to mind various songs about heroes, from Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” to David Bowie’s “Heroes” (yes, that is a rather curious mix and so is our music collection…sans Bette Midler; sorry Ms. M.)
One definition of a hero is a man noted for his special achievements in a particular field. A heroine is defined as a woman noted for her special achievements in a particular field.
Dr. Paris defines a hero as someone we look up to, admire and aspire to please.
As I read this chapter, I wracked my brain trying to recall any heroes from my childhood.
I came up with a blank (parent’s not included.)
This doesn’t mean I didn’t have any heroes during my childhood. I’m sure I did. I guess they just weren’t very permanent.
Dr. Paris explains that parents are often a child’s first hero. This is the person the child depends upon for physical and psychological care. As children (and often into adulthood) we want to please our parents and make them proud of us. As children get older, realization about the parent’s limitations occur. Children start to see their parents as real people, warts and all. (And as adults we often want to blame our parents for those warts that might have been passed down to or otherwise affected us.)
Mentors and teachers are also powerful hero figures in a child’s and adult’s life. In the ideal situation, these relationships not only teach skills but also assist in immersion of the task.
So a hero is someone we look up to and admire and who supports our ability to immerse in creativity by helping us feel safe and secure. When we have a good internal or external connection with a hero, we feel inspired and motivated to move forward.
But what happens when blocks or fears keep us from developing healthy connections with heroes?
Absence and Disillusionment
The first block Dr. Paris discusses is the absence of a parental hero and disillusionment. This typically happens when an idealized figure betrays or neglects us. Sadly, not everyone has someone they admire and respect. This may be due to the absence of a trustworthy person in one’s life or a history of disappointments that lead to deep feelings of distrust.
People are quite creative, however, when dealing with experiences of disappointment. As was mentioned in earlier chapters, fantasy and imagination are often helpful in assisting creative types create safe relationships and thus immersion in a creative process.
Another block that impacts healthy connections with heroes is compliance. That is, in the quest to please an admired other, a person sacrifices his/her own individuality for the sake of the relationship. Dr. Paris explains
When the admired person has specific requirements for approval (or is perceived that way), we are forced to choose between honoring the demands and losing the relationship. The importance of the approval of the admired person makes this a very difficult choice, and many of us will choose to comply rather than to risk disapproval or rejection.
Anyone feel like they’ve “lost” themselves lately due to compliance?
One example that comes to mind is my early experiences in starting my business and working with consignment store owners. A store owner might suggest adding a new product to my line. Because I admire this store owner and because I want to make sales, I say “sure” and create the new product even though I grumble the whole time I make the product because I really don’t want to make it. But approval is important and I don’t want to say “no.”
Dr. Paris does point out that not all compliance is bad or that one should never comply.
Compliance can be a gratifying experience when a person chooses to try to meet the needs of another. But it is when we feel that we must always give up our own needs and uniqueness in order to satisfy someone else’s expectations that it becomes toxic to our creative process.
In this respect, compliance becomes a cage that does not allow for the freedom to immerse.
Rebellion and Rage
Here rebellion and rage goes beyond the event of “acting up” or dying your hair purple. In this block, rebellion and rage are by-products of disillusionment and betrayal by others. (See the first block on absence and disillusionment.) Here the individual attempts to regain power and punishes the offender. Their energy comes from a wish for revenge and a need to restore a sense of control and justice.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Paris believes that artistic expression of rebellion or rage indicates that the artist still has hope of being heard, appreciated and understood.
Artists who are inspired to express their disappointment and hurts through aggressive content and form still have enough hope to fight, to vigorously assert their point of view. Their artwork may be the only medium that gives them a voice, enabling them to stand up to others.
Dr. Paris ends Chapter 5 with three guides to help creative types develop or grow our relationships with heroes:
- Develop relationships with those you admire. Find a mentor, teacher or admired person (real or fantasy) and connect with that person. With real life figures, ask for advice and feedback. Your ability to ask for support is a sign of strength and will sustain your creative process.
- Immerse in the work of someone you admire. Read books on or by this person, appreciate his/her art, listen to his/her music.
- Make use of fantasy heroes. Call upon your hero or idol in fantasy. Imagine meeting your hero. Imagine him/her appreciating your work. Imagine your hero facing creative blocks or procrastination. How would they handle these situations?
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