Dissatisfaction Starts Like This

A series of life storms enters in, consuming your time and energy. You are in auto-pilot with no pause for reflection about what you’re doing and certainly with little free time. You get irritable, tired or simply disengaged from good feelings…

Your Shadow Is Your Friend
A 35mm image I made of an art piece I saw in Manhattan, 2013.

Then here comes the weekend, the last storm has passed, life’s okay again….until another set of storms arrive. You go into auto-pilot again. Your energy is depleted along with your free time. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Surely, Something Must Be Wrong Or Missing

There is a restlessness inside and since we don’t know what to name it, we figure that maybe we should try to reach for something, anything  –  or just get distracted. The feeling that something must be wrong, that nothing is ever “good enough” may be coupled with annoying thinking like, “I’m so ungrateful. What’s wrong with me for thinking this way?” We want the “next big thing” to happen.

At this point, some of us find a way to numb out or maximize time using a variety of strategies. Others who seek a deeper awareness may experience the desire to change something and express that to others. For those of us who numb out, there is no dialogue that we’re aware of, but for those who become persistent, it sounds like this: “Ok, so no, I don’t want change after all.” … What do you want? “I don’t know but I feel I should be doing something else.

In my experience, many of us seem to engage in this dialogue without knowing it. For some, this dissatisfaction is so chronic and severe, that it can lead to depression.

What If What’s Wrong Is Actually Something Very Right?

Richard Saul Wurman, Founder of TED Talks claims he no longer has ambition like he used to. He says,

If you do something and it turns out really well, why would you do it again? I realized a little while ago that if you do something, and you keep on doing it better and better and better, that is almost embarrassing.

What Wurman seems to point to is that tension we have as human beings when we dangle between holding back expressing the creative impulse against societal pressure to “keep on keeping on”.

I think this happens way more often than we are aware, but that’s just it – we don’t stay aware. We forget who we are, we get caught up in a spiral, get frustrated with life and ultimately, with ourselves.  I believe are all in the same boat. We are all human beings and over time, we have been conditioned to bypass insight and buy into that feeling of “something’s wrong” or lacking.

The Irony: Your Shadow Side Is Your Friend

I understand chronic dissatisfaction and have lived with it for years – it’s just that I didn’t know that underneath was my need to expressive myself creatively. I used a myriad of substitutes to assuage the tension instead.  Today, I’m still subject to the tension, especially when life events or challenges cause me to forget the importance of creative expression. I can get lost and feel the uncomfortable stirring of something I have been quick to blame on this or that. Eventually, I do “wake up” and understand that the dissatisfaction, discomfort or restlessness is simply the shadow side of the desire to create.  The creator in me wants to play, laugh and discover, like a child discovers something new. What is the shadow side to all of this yearning when not fulfilled? A really heavy, dissatisfied person with a dark outlook!

Shadows I shot in Centennial Park, Atlanta, 2012

The irony is, that human shadow in all of us is our saving grace because it makes us climb in deeper and deeper into the opposite of what we desire. This shadow appears to keep us locked in self-sabotage and laziness. The irony is that our shadow side doesn’t really want to keep us down. What it wants is to bring us close enough to see the kernel of required change. It wants to show us up front and center what we do NOT want for ourselves, so that we will choose what we do want. It wants us to show up for our lives.

This week, I saw my shadow side. I started writing this post last week when I wasn’t seeing it quite fully as a friend, but a foe. It’s clear now that my shadow wanted to bring me as close as possible to that critical point where I would become so tired of my excuses and my thinking, that the light bulb would go off.  It wanted to provoke inspired change – not yet in my routine, but definitely my thinking. Only then would my shift in thinking elicit a change in my routine. It worked!

It Boils Down To Less Ambition and More Fun

So, what’s your excuse for not following your lust for creative spurts of energy? What’s the reason you don’t take at little time in your day to pamper yourself? (After all, self-care is the seed of creativity). I haven’t been creating for several weeks and here are some of my great excuses:

1) My day job has been too crazy right now.
2) I’ll just do it tomorrow.
3) It’s not that important (followed by “who cares?”).
4) I am too tired.
5) The cat just farted.

There’s been one excuse after the other. The wheel of chaos kept me asleep at the wheel, unaware of what I’m not allowing for myself. It created a shadow self, held me back from opening up to engaging in life and ironically, that shadow befriended me, creating a space for light.

I believe that you don’t have to be an artist to know about this. We are all creative human beings and every day we are challenged to engage in something that brings us giddy, childlike joy and that feeds creative power and energy. It’s when we get so busy that we straddle the fence, feel that tension, numb out, become listless and reluctant to engage. That restlessness arises in all of us…but when it does, don’t worry. It’s probably your shadow side just trying to be your friend.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s