The pressures of high expectations and the benefits of creative expression

Written by Samantha Morris

Let’s face it, to get to where you’ve got to in your career you’ve probably had to work very hard as well as to uphold your professional and personal reputation!

It’s no secret that in most cultures doctors and dentists are seen as the crème de la crème in the social and professional rankings. Yet along with high social and clinical expectations, comes a hefty responsibility for you to maintain standards both inside and outside your clinical realm. In this sense, you certainly don’t work a 9-5 job as you try and uphold your role as a strong, reliable and skilled healer, who is always available for others, but who may feel unable to ask for help and support in return.

So… the question is what are your needs?

Having treated dentists in a therapeutic setting, I’ve been drawn to how shame prevents dentists from reaching out for help and support; especially when their personal and professional reputation could be at risk, or their confidence has been bruised and doubt starts to sink in.

However, the truth is that reality doesn’t seem to match the crème de la crème lifestyle so often attributed to the dental profession. You are not only put on a pedal stool but also condemned by society for it too. For instance, one moment you are either labelled the golden practitioner both within and outside work and the next you are perceived to be the money- grabbing and untrustworthy medic who is transformed into the pain inflicting character from childhood memories or social projections.

I have also come across dentists who have either lost their passion for their careers, or those practitioners who were encouraged or forced into the profession by their parents and social or cultural expectations, but who deep down feel unhappy, frustrated and unfulfilled. Aside from professional issues, many people forget that dentists are human too and that you also have personal lives outside the surgery, hospital or clinic which also brings with it both its own set of joys, issues and stresses.

So where does this leave you? All in all, if you’ve experienced any of these scenarios you might begin to feel incredibly lonely, especially if you’re trying so hard to carry on walking over that rocky barren terrain by yourself.

Connecting with your Creative Flow

We all grow up to learn what is expected of us in terms of the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘should nots’, where are talents lie and where they do not, how we should conduct ourselves (as well as with whom and where), what we should study and what path may be advantageous for us. These beliefs eventually become so ingrained that we tend to consciously and unconsciously carry these through into our everyday adult lives. Yes whilst it’s true that some of these beliefs are positive with the aim of encouraging and guiding us to live better lives, ironically some can be damaging. This can be experienced if you have been living a day-to-day existence whilst silencing or discounting your own needs, voice, emotions and identity. As a result, you may have felt lost, unheard and unseen, which can lead to feelings of loneliness, feeling stuck and stressed, frustrated, anxious, upset, angry, living in doubt, experiencing low self-confidence, identity issues and feeling a dry lack of creative flow within your day-to-day life.

Creative Release

It’s true, a lot of social stigma centers around the idea that dentists need to be surrounded by logic rather than creativity. However, nothing could be further from the truth! Instead, consider that logic and creativity are complementary and one cannot exist without the other.

As opposed to social stigma, you do not have to be a Botticelli or Andy Warhol to be creative! What if you were to look at creativity not just from an artistic perspective, but also as a way of life?!

We all have a stream of creativity within us- whether it be the music we listen to, the books we read, the art we like or dislike, the way we throw ourselves into our favourite sport, or simply the way you chose to live and approach life! Simply ask yourself do you live with flow, creativity and devote time for release, expression, healthy curiosity and self-care? Or do you live your life in a monotonous and stressful day-to-day regime and Hamster’s wheel where you meet yourself coming back and run yourself into a sinking hole, which you feel unable to escape? Either way, you may feel that simply talking is either not an option for you, or it is simply not enough.

The Benefits of Integrative Art Psychotherapy

Many people have either heard of or undertaken beneficial talking therapies, yet what is less well-known are the benefits of undertaking Integrative Art Psychotherapy- and no- you don’t have to be good at art! This form of psychotherapy integrates both talking therapies and the opportunity to work with a wide variety of creative tools such as imagery, the arts, metaphor, visualisation, imagination and artistic materials. The integration of both talking therapies and creativity enables you to release, to verbally or non-verbally express yourself and to process issues, which may have been troubling you.

Some Benefits of undertaking Integrative Art Psychotherapy

Creativity connects both your thoughts and feelings, leading to a greater holistic awareness of your experiences, emotional needs and the connection between your mind and body.
Creativity can provide an opportunity to explore and experience various situations from fresh and different perspectives.

Creativity is not just about the artistic process but also reflects how you experience flow within different parts of your life and as a result of past and current beliefs and experiences.
By being open to creativity it is possible to acknowledge where and how you feel or have felt restricted and in return, it is possible to invite more flow into your own life.

Using both talking and creativity can help you to relax, to feel grounded and supported, to feel both verbally and non-verbally heard and seen, and to experience both insight and ‘Aha!’ moments.

Through the therapeutic relationship, you can begin to experience, explore and gain further insight into how you relate to yourself, others, as well as how you experience the world based on your past and current experiences. You will then have an opportunity to explore whether these experiences have either been supportive or have caused you problems when relating to yourself and others.

Creativity can increase a sense of personal empowerment through increased awareness of your needs, emotional and relational experiences.

(Note: There is also a good amount of growing scientific evidence around the use of creativity within therapy, which you may like to research)

Remember, just because you wear the Scrubs… This does not mean that you need to be Superhuman! We all need time to reflect, to connect with ourselves again, to release, express and process repressed feelings and thoughts and to gain different perspectives in a safe contained space.

Sam Morris is a Integrative Art Psychotherapist and accredited and certified life coach (IACP & M). She offers a combination of talking therapy and creativity. You can get in touch with her via her email for pyschyotherapy; For coaching: Contact no: 02039002325

Illustration ‘Planting a seed’, is an artwork colloboration between Frances Kilbane and Mahrukh Khwaja.

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