Meaning is another of the “big topics” touched on in this book. Like passion, meaning is another central element in how we choose which of our talents to develop and express.
Or choose not to: If it isn’t meaningful in some way to use a talent, why bother?
Well, maybe if you get paid a lot for doing it. But does that really satisfy our needs for spiritual meaning? Probably not really.
Finding and making meaning is especially crucial for creative people, and one of the potential consequences of insufficient meaning in our lives and work is depression.
Psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel points out in his article Making Meaning that the ongoing search for meaning and the task of meaning-making “is work, but it is the loving work of self-creation. It is the choice we make about how we intend to live our life.”
And in his book The Van Gogh Blues: A Creative Person’s Path Through Depression, Maisel notes, “Creators have trouble maintaining meaning. Creating is one of the ways they endeavor to maintain meaning. In the act of creation, they lay a veneer of meaning over meaninglessness and sometimes produce work that helps others maintain meaning.”
He warns: “Not creating is depressing because creators are not making meaning when they are not creating.”
Author, artist, performer, and creativity coach Janet Riehl interviewed Dr. Maisel about his book in her article: Eric Maisel’s “Van Gogh Blues” Explores Connection and Meaning-making as Treatments for Depression.
Here is an excerpt:
Janet Riehl: “Eric, what I hear you saying is that when creative people in particular maintain a connection to their mission or purpose (you call it a Life Purpose Statement in “Van Gogh Blues”), a connection to the value of their work, and their own value as creative people in the culture, they will be stronger in their work and in their lives. Is that a fair way to put it?”
Eric Maisel: “Yes. Even before you can make meaning, you must nominate yourself as the meaning-maker in your own life and fashion a central connection with yourself, one that is more aware, active, and purposeful than the connection most people fashion with themselves.”
Making the most of our talents
Elsewhere, Maisel writes in a sample from his Meaning Solution Program:
“Self-actualization is a lovely word that stands for our desire to make the most of our talents. Instead of using only a small portion of your total being, just enough to get by, you make the conscious decision to employ your full intelligence, your emotional capital, and your best personality qualities in the service of growth and good works.
“We know that we’d love to make use of our potential and make ourselves proud. Self-actualization is the way you become your real self and your best self. You will do yourself a great service if you treat self-actualization as one of your most important meaning opportunities.”
Dr. Maisel has also created the field of existential cognitive-behavioral therapy (ECBT), which he says is “the technical name for a field where meaning, thoughts, and behavior come together.” The Meaning Solution Program he developed “spells out what a meaning problem is and does more than identify generic solutions—it walks you step-by-step to your own personal solution.”
Read more on my Personal Growth Information site page: The Meaning Solution Program by Eric Maisel.
The photo at top is collage artist Alexis Smith, who comments:
“I have a way to talk about whatever I want. And that’s more meaningful to me than whether people like my work or I make a lot of money.”
From the post [with video]: Making Meaning in Art: Alexis Smith, Eric Maisel
[This photo and quote are not in the book.]
See video with Eric Maisel, and links to his Academy for Optimal Living online courses “Why Smart People Hurt” and “Natural Psychology” in article: Brainpower and The Smart Gap.