Numbing Your Emotions – Creative Process
This summer, when I was sorting out books in my apartment in New York to determine whether to keep them or give them away, one book caught my attention. It was Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival by Anderson Cooper, CNN news anchor.
Keep Yourself in Motion
I bought this book a few years ago, and didn’t finish it for some reason, but I strongly remember the paragraph where Anderson Cooper compared himself to a shark. A shark has to keep moving in order to stay alive. He mentioned that motion keeps him alive as well. I felt connected. Now, I somehow understand more what he was saying.
Although this book mainly covers his experience in war and disasters, as the title shows, it has a personal and private story about his life and I like that part even more.
After I left the broadcasting industry to pursue an arts career a while back, I tend to pursue news events less and I don’t focus on other journalists as much. Yet, I have become interested in Anderson Cooper, perhaps after he talked about his personal tragedy in an article called “10 questions for Anderson Cooper” in TIME magazine from June 2006. I remember then becoming interested in his life, so I bought the book. It was around the time that I was having my right pinkie amputated due to an extremely rare medical condition. At that time, Dispatches from the Edge was about to be No. 1 on New York Times best-seller list. I normally don’t care about “best-sellers”, however, reading the article in TIME about his personal tragedy/ loss (- His father died when he was 10, and his brother committed suicide when he was 21) coincided with the personal tragedy of my hand and previous experience of the death of my baby.
Cooper answered the question by TIME saying he sort of numbed himself after his father and his brother’s death.
Time: Your specialty seems to be war and disaster. Why?
A.C.: I sort of numbed myself after my dad’s death and certainly after my brother’s death. I wanted to go places where the pain outside would match the pain that I was feeling inside. War seemed like really my only option. (Time, June 19, 2006)
For him, the place is war and disasters and maybe that keep him in motion.
For me, the place is art and I probably could not live without this motion. I will not go into details in today’s blog, but photography and art has kept me alive in a way and God is gracious enough to push me through these things.
It is interesting that Cooper seems to beat himself up to forget or freeze the pain by working in places like war and disasters instead of healing. It is an aggressive and brave choice. He is perhaps synchronizing his inside pain with outside pain, which war or disaster places have.
Blocking Own Emotions and Going Numb
I realized lately that I sometimes numbed myself after the extreme pain, not only the death of loved ones, but also the deception or betrayal of trusted people, I block my own emotion and let it be numbed. These things don’t happen so often in my life, but when they do happen, I let my emotion numb for a while or for the time being. When I faced the death of my son in a one in a million case of a medical condition, I was not even able to numb or handle my feelings and emotions well but I was not an artist at the time. I had to figure out how to move on from there as Cooper found his way. I sought not only how to move on but also how to find peace.
As the extreme pain passes by, I strive to sublimate the emotion into art. Naturally I am doing it to survive and to keep living.
Meanwhile, I am smiling and laughing often.
A creative life involves great swathes of attention. Attention is a way to connect and survive.
Survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention.
The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention. – Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way
This time, I finished the book, Dispatches from the Edge. Anderson Cooper describes in the book:
…. For so long, I’ve been isolated by sadness, …… I finally feel whole – connected to both the past and the present, the living and the lost. The world has many edges, and all of us dangle from them by a very delicate thread. The key is not to let go.
….. There is so much laughter, even in the midst of all this loss. It’s the way it should be – no distance between the living and the dead. Their stories are remembered, their spirits embraced.
These are just fragments. I would recommend reading the entire book. Sometimes, organizing a bookshelf is good. I found a new inspiration from the book I already had.
Feel your emotion by reading and taking in paintings or any kind of art.
This is just one of the natural processes of my creation.