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burn-out
 

John Ruskan's
Emotional Clearing

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The incredible experience of creation on which artists are focused does not come without its complement. The act of creation brings with it the sense of isolation and inner emptiness from having exhausted energies. The ecstasy is balanced by the pain.

After understanding the dualistic nature of my creative experience, my life came into focus. I had spent much of my life taking in the ecstasy and then not understanding what the pain was all about. The pain of isolation, from both the present and the previous life, was the motive behind sharing my work and the strong, partly unconscious motivation for establishing a social identity as an artist. I felt if I could reach out with my work, the terrible pain of isolation would be relieved. That it never was relieved added to my confusion because even when my work received acceptance – when I got recognition – the pain was still there. I became confused and hurt. Recognition became pointless. I questioned the value of what I was doing and became self-destructive, probably in more ways than I realize even now.

The problem came into being when I allowed myself to be motivated by the pain of isolation; when I tried to seek its relief through recognition – what I thought was my desire to share. In similar ways, we all try to avoid our pain, without understanding that when we are motivated by the desire to avoid negativity, there is no escape from it.

I had spent much of my life unconsciously locked into a cycle of addiction to creative work. From the ecstasy of the creation, I would fall into its complement, the isolation of the creator. Seeking to avoid the negative aspect, either I would turn to sharing my work as the antidote for the isolation or, not finding relief there, I would again go back to the creative experience to escape the pain. I became compulsive about creating as a means to escape the isolation that came with creating. Not being released, the isolation was only suppressed. It built to the point where I became compulsive in other areas of my life as well, such as relationships. Eventually, the suppressed pain became so great that I had to stop work, reaching the point of burnout. The catharsis I had in the workshop helped me understand that it was the buildup of suppressed pain, from both the present and previous life, that had contributed to blocking me and holding me back.

How do we get rid of the isolation that may come with the act of creating as well as other emotional problems we may have? That is what Emotional Clearing is about. The first step is to integrate, to reclaim and accept, the feelings we are concerned with. When something has been integrated, it has not gone away but is no longer perceived as disturbing. Most of the pain is there because the feelings are unintegrated. Integration starts the process of healing and clearing. All aspects of life, not just the creative, have both positive and negative complements. We must learn how to integrate, not avoid, the negative. In so doing, something may be learned from the artist.

Artists are concerned with the unwholesome side of life as well as the beautiful. Often artists portray ugliness, disharmony, strife; indeed, many artists today live in the ghettos of our cities. They appear to have some connection to the sordid side of life that goes beyond the low rent. This is because the artist accepts, celebrates, and expresses the negative aspect of existence, both in the outer world and the inner feelings. The artist does this primarily to achieve his or her integration of it but also to show us that we cannot escape the responsibility of integrating our own personal experience. When we try to escape, we only suppress, and whatever we try to escape from or fight keeps building.

 
 

© 2004 John Ruskan / The Institute for Integrative Processing