The War Of Art And The Pain Of Resistance

Books

A battle with the ego is a daily war, a mere voice in our head and a character that tortures us. The sense of our true self is experienced when we let go of thoughts that aren’t true. Those limiting thoughts creep in to consume us and eat us alive. The voice feeds us lies that aren’t true, and those feelings can be overwhelming. After reading the book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, he tells us the power of resistance, and the power of our ability to concentrate and do what we need to do. He enlightens us on the true meaning of the Self and encourages us to stay in tune with the Self.

How many times in our lives do we tell ourselves that we can’t do something? How often do we encourage people in their endeavours, yet we can easily bring ourselves down. Pressfield says that “Casting yourself as a victim is the antithesis of doing your work. Don’t do it. If you’re doing it. Stop.” I really felt those words, as if a wise teacher was telling this to me directly. We can often become a victim to doing something we know in our hearts that we can do, or we desire to do it, yet resistance and fear pierces us and stops us from taking action.

Resistance thrives off of stopping us through procrastination and disbeliefs that end up taking more expended energy and effort. It becomes painful. It becomes soul-destroying fighting the resistance. Resistance exists from our fear. One of the profound words that Pressfield mentions is the fear that we will succeed. We are fearful to face our fears in fear that we might become the person that we truly are. Fear consumes us, yet failure is the necessary step that we must take to survive in the world.

What truly matters to you? We are dictated with definitions of what happiness, success and love should look like in society. We are told that we are always living in lack and that there is always something that needs to be cured, fixed, improved or changed. We are told that there is product that will fix our problems, and that there is always a problem existing in our life. Pressfield states that “We live in a consumer culture that’s acutely aware of this unhappiness and has massed all its profit-seeking artillery to exploit it.”

In the consumer culture that we live in, we are told that we can attain happiness in an instant pill-like substance that will satisfy our desires and needs. Whether that be in materials, money or status. Pressfield elborates on the differences between the amateur and the professional. The Professional understands delayed gratification and is patient in the end results whilst knowing the importance of the process. The Professional knows that good things take time.

You create the reality you live in. We decide our attitude regardless of the situation and we must remember that our emotions can distort reality. This is the wisdom that I strive to live by and often the truth is that as humans we are aware and knowing of many things, but the absolute difference is in practicing it. We can think about how we live in a world with two strong emotions of fear and love. When we have fear, we judge others.

Pressfield says that “Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others.” This may be a beautiful rarity in its purest form, but a practice we should all aspire to each and everyday. This world desperately needs more kindness, love and empathy. The ability to see things deeply and truly from another’s perspectives, to have true empathy, to have deep compassion, to act with integrity and love and to not judge others out of fear.

When we are chasing the finish line, we lose focus. When we focus on the journey, we learn and we grow. This is our own journey. It’s like the tortoise that persists and keeps taking that one step ahead, rather than the hare rushing to get ahead. Pressfield reminds us to “Remember, Resistance wants us to cede sovereignty to others. It wants us to stake our own self worth, our identity, our reason for being, on the response of others to our world. Resistance knows that we can’t take this, no one can.” He reminds us that Resistance is a bully that has no strength of its own. Its power comes entirely from our fear of it.

Whatever it is that you enjoy doing every day, whatever it is that brings you joy, whatever it is that makes you feel a sense of purpose – please don’t ever stop doing it. There are moments where our mind tells us it’s too difficult to start, but often making the small steps count. Whether it’s playing an instrument, writing a book, or painting an artwork. Pressfield’s words beautifully says that “When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates us. The Muse takes note of our dedication.

Our mind can be the biggest battlefield that we will ever fight in our lives. It will tell us all the lies to tear us apart and it will try to tell us that we can’t face the world. The mind can be a prison where escape seems impossible. We are trapped in our continuous cycle of negative thoughts, until we come to realise that the key is within us the whole time waiting to unlock and free ourselves. One of the greatest choices that we can make for ourselves is to fight to be our true self and to strive to go past the resistance.

We all have the ability, but as we get older, it’s easy to forget it. We watch the beauty of nature, and how it flows effortlessly and watches the season goes by. It’s as simple as a child sitting down, being lost in play and being completely present in the world. The child doesn’t judge him or herself for the artwork they draw, the child just draws because they enjoy it. The power is within us. The ability to get up and do something. The ability to fight through the fear. Whatever it is that we do in our lives, the ability to have humility in all that we do is one of the greatest.

The principal of organization is built into nature. Chaos itself is self-organizing. Out of primordial disorders, stars find their orbits; rivers make their way to the sea. – Steven Pressfield

The self is our deepest being. The self is united to God – Steven Pressfield

Art by Miren Asiain Lora 

The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People

Books

Humans are wired to connect and to have authentic conversations. Being sensitive, empathetic and vulnerable are traits that allow us to truly connect with people. A highly sensitive person (HSP) experiences the world through a heightened way through high sensory experiences. This may be through crowded places, strong scents or loud noises. It is said by the clinical psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron that 15-20% of the population are HSPs. HSPs process and feel emotions more deeply than others and they are highly empathic and tend to have rich inner lives. The emotions they may feel are very deep whether that may be positive or negative.

Growing up as a classical musician, I was deeply moved by music during a performance, a painting in an art gallery, reading a book or watching a movie. Taking actions such as surrounding myself in nature, sitting at a library or taking time to pray or meditate would bring peace and calm. Discovering that I am an HSP explained so many factors from my childhood, career and the unexplainable feeling that there was something wrong with me. The act of practicing loving yourself and being gentle with yourself is one of the most kindest and lifechanging things you can do for yourself.

I recently read The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People by Mel Collins, and felt touched by a lot of the ways she describes the experiences that HSP’s have during their lifetime. The book is separated into three sections. The first section expands on the term HSP. This includes the definition of an HSP, the Environmental and sensory triggers and the challenges HSP face. The second section looks at different strategies through processing emotions, practicing self-love and tapping. The third section talks about the spiritual perspective from exploring our past lives and maintaining inner balance.

The book is a great introduction for those who want to have a better understanding of being an HSP. The book reminds you that you are not alone in this journey, as it invites HSPs to recognize their strengths rather than look at themselves as flawed. Collins expands on the top ten challenges faced by HSP’s. These include being empathic sponges, deep emotional sensitivity, a feeling of not belonging, a difficult childhood, self-esteem and self-worth issues, relationship struggles , health issues, difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’, parenting parents or other family members and feeling unfulfilled.

Being empathic sponges can be draining due to the HSPs being kind-hearted and highly empathic by nature. When surrounded in a negative environment it can leave them feeling over-stimulated. Collins says that “HSPs often feel a need to withdraw from the outside world to release the energies absorbed and to recharge.” Deep emotional sensitivity is felt through the positive (joy, kindness and love) and negative emotions (guilt, shame, fear, hurt, loss, unworthiness, jealousy, anger and feelings of betrayal). A feeling of not belonging can start from a young age particularly for those who have experienced a difficult childhood.

Self-esteem and self-worth issues may arise due to the HSPs sensitive nature being criticized or judged from a young age, causing shame and embarrassment because of it. Relationship struggles can be common for HSPs such as nurturing friendships, as they are natural givers and good listeners. This can attract the friendship patterns that are one-sided. Health issues can be a problem as HSPs are extremely sensitive to pain. For example, they may experience disorders such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or insomnia.

Difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’ is a common trait for many HSPs. HSPs tend to be kind-hearted people who want to be good to others. Collins states that “They often have difficulty accepting what is viewed as the ‘darker’ side of themselves. This can lead to them suppressing what they see as their more negative emotions.” The words Collins adds rings true “whatever you resist persists.” It’s important to find healthy and safe ways to release any suppressed emotions.

HSPs can grow up taking the role of the parent subconsciously. This is common for HSPs whose parents were emotionally unavailable. The final challenge Collins states is feeling unfulfilled. Collins states that “In my experience working with HSPs, many have a strong drive to feel they are making a difference in the world. As a result, many believe that if they don’t feel fulfilled in this way, they are in the wrong career.” Many may find that there is a long period where they may spend searching for what they are ‘supposed’ to be doing. However, she says that “In reality, however, any job has the capacity to reflect an aspect of themselves or meet an inner need […] Every job can be viewed in this way if you make a choice to do so – as a stepping stone towards a more fulfilling purpose.”

For many HSPs it can feel like you are spending a lifetime finding your purpose and understanding the depth and complexities of your emotions. Embracing your inner self and accepting that you feel deep emotions will free you from the chains. The pain was only extended through the deep fear of judgment and rejection for how I was feeling. Taking steps and finding specific ways that help you with your feelings is an important step to healing. I really hope in writing this, that it can help even one HSP know that you are not alone. I spent many years with depression and anxiety. I found methods such as meditating, praying, journaling, walking, being in nature and self-havening incredibly healing in the moments where I’ve felt helpless or overwhelmed.

Your sensitivity is your superpower. The ability to empathise towards others and deeply connect to animals, nature, music and the arts is a gift. The search for meaningful connections means that you give your all or nothing in friendships and relationships. Sensitivity is both a blessing and a challenge, but sensitivity is a strength, not a weakness. We live in a world that tells us that we need to be a certain way, but when we acknowledge the strength of being sensitive, it opens the door to understanding. The characteristics that you may have not seen as worthy are the very aspects that make you beautiful.

“By becoming conscious of what it is in the ‘darkness’ or ‘shadow, you are shining light into the darkness and encouraging it to dissolve.” – Mel Collins

Art by Kate Pugsley