A few thoughts on feelings, creative people and gender...
I feel my feelings intensely. I have euphoric highs and tearful lows. I have always been this way and was encouraged as a child to have and express my feelings. I’m glad of this. The thing is I have them, I express them and then they pass. You would be forgiven for confusing me with a week person, or an unstable person. But that is not the case. I bounce back quickly from any upsets and can cope with a tremendous amount of adversity. I have a good cry/rant/cuddle and the feeling passes, often to be replaced by a pleasant feeling of determination and optimism. The only time I’m really run into trouble was during my dance training when I tried not to have my feelings, tried to ‘toughen up’. What happened was essentially that I internalised my anger and frustration, which led to some nasty consequences for my self esteem and severe control issues. Do not be afraid of my tears, they serve me well.
I abhor the old stereotype of the tortured artist. It is a dangerous misconception. Dangerous owing to the fact that many artists neglect their mental health half thinking that this is the way they are ‘supposed to be’, or that somehow angst will improve their art. There is much evidence in history that suggests artists are volatile in their moods, or prone to depression. I have a theory on this. Historically it was far less acceptable to express ones feelings. Perhaps it was not that the histrionics were a precursor to high quality art, but rather, the artists had a lot of feelings, and were not allowed to express them. Perhaps it is possible to express your feelings in a healthy way, be a strong and balanced person, and still make high quality art? And perhaps its the presence of a plethora of feelings that provides inspiration, as apposed to the unhealthy intensity of said feelings.
This is not just an artists issue. I may be risk digression here but it is also a feminist one. Women are seen as more emotional than the ‘more logical sex’. I argue that it is not the quantity or absence of feelings that makes men and women different, it is HOW we deal with our feelings. And this of course differs between individuals regardless of sex. Women are more likely to express their feelings- not because it is in our nature necessarily- but because it is culturally more acceptable and therefore we can be better practiced. Hence the exceptions on both sides of the gender divide to that stereotype- some women’s upbringing may make them less practiced, some men’s more so.
If you doubt that feelings can pass simply through expressing them, try a gestalt sentence stem exercise. Sit alone or with a witness and say out loud how you are feeling (be as honest and immediate as you can.) Try not to hesitate. Repeat “I feel....” You may notice how quickly feelings can change and pass. You may even discover a feeling you were not aware off. Remember than uncovering it is no bad thing- it was there anyway- and you have the power to make it go away again, after all, it was you that buried it.
I guess what I am getting at here is maybe feelingful art is good art, and maybe a feelingful life is a good life. But maybe the key to avoiding the angst of life’s roller-coaster is finding healthy expression for feelings and knowing- even in the darkest of times- that it will soon pass and life will send you a new one.