Coping with the Disappointment

October 4, 2010

by Leslie Zeigler

In this blog there have been posts about the inevitable part of being creative that involves rejection and disappointment.  Whether it is receiving  another rejection in your attempt to find an agent  for your novel,  or being turned down for the 66th time on your most recent audition to become an actor, or being told that your photograph is not going to be accepted at a particular gallery, the question is how do you deal with the feelings?   Do you fantasize about crawling under the covers and not coming out for months?  It’s only natural that you might feel that way.  Perhaps you feel an urge to turn to drinking a bit too much or overeating–or maybe your drug of choice is retail therapy.  At any rate,  what are some helpful ways to think to help you get thru those difficult moments when you feel like giving up even though you know that you won’t? 

In reading Pema Chodron’s book Taking the Leap  I began to think that her ideas could be very helpful to anyone involved in the creative process.   Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist, who writes often about how to deal with life.  I am not a Buddhist and you don’t need to be one in order to benefit from her heart-centered wisdom.  Her concept of  “shenpa”   is potentially useful in the context of  expanding your options in coping with your disappointment.  She describes it as “the itch and it’s also the urge to scratch.”  She gives examples of how it is natural to be drawn to an unhealthy habit, such as reaching for a cigarette or some other such habit.   She describes SHENPA   as preverbal but it breeds thoughts and emotions very quickly. She suggests becoming aware of this feeling .  Basically her advice is to become aware of this feeling without acting on it.  It is very similar  to what I learned as a therapist, which is to encourage people to become aware of what their feelings  are and learn to sit with them and tolerate them rather than turning to a negative habit.

This advice might sound simplistic, yet we live in a culture where doing and being productive and turning to action is so prevalent that the notion of not doing can seem weird and actually hard to implement.

So the next time you come home from your  acting audition, or receive your letter of rejection for your screenplay or find out that you were not accepted for a particular painting class,  just as the Beatles say,

Let yourself  Be.