Thoughts on common criticisms of the artist’s way

Clearly, this comes from a known advocate of the artist’s way. This is my deal, and it works for me. I am a big advocate of doing what works, and I do know people that this system really, really doesn’t work for. Atheists find it problematic, with reason, since a lot of it is higher-power oriented consciously along the lines of AA. People with ADHD, weird work schedules, hand problems find limits in the Morning Pages. I get that – all of it.

There are, however, two criticisms that come from either not understanding or just not doing the work of the Artist’s Way:
1)It’s narcissistic
2)It uses “pop psychology.”

On Narcissism
People who associate taking time to take care of themselves with narcissism are mistaken about how narcissism works. Narcissists don’t take care of themselves. A narcissist would never make it through the Artist’s Way. Why? Because narcissists expect everyone else to take care of them. Self care is a different story. The Artist’s Way encourages you to work on yourself, to humble yourself, to make gentle changes until you actually do like yourself. For example, the self-sabotage chapter where you write down and then challenge your own excuses? No narcissist in the world would actually do that exercise. Narcissists as a rule don’t like themselves but like absolutely everyone else even less.

When you like yourself, your behavior towards other people changes. Narcissists don’t just have inflated egos – they are lost in them. The steps of the Artist’s Way untethers you from that ego.

Its Use of Pop Psychology
One person who admitted to reading the book through rather than working the steps complained of it using “pop psychology” (referencing Inner Child Work) but not really identifying how this was bad/didn’t work. The argument seemed to be that it was bad just *because* it smacked of “pop psychology.” That’s some pretty lazy, stereotype laden thinking. Also in this
read through” the critic in question did not actually read any of the foreword or end material. It says pretty clearly in both of those that the work at hand is not intended to replace therapy even though it is therapeutic in practice.

The concept of an inner child is a metaphor. Artists used metaphors long before therapy existed. It seems likely that the metaphor existed before it was co-opted in the 80s.

As to the criticism of “pop psychology” unfairly and inaccurately linked in to the Artist’s Way I have to say, as I say entirely too often of late, a little discernment, please.

The stigma on pop psychology is just a general distaste for all psychology that traces back to misinformed people that think getting counseling means “crazy.” Not only is this another example of lazy stereotype thinking, it displays an absolute unawareness of how good therapists work. In western culture, we leave emotional management skills to the wild, evidently assuming that whole people are born knowing them and genetically flawed people just don’t. Neither is true. Most emotional skills can be taught; without those skills life can get distressing for just about anyone. Most of the time a good psychotherapist is nothing more or less than a tutor in those skills, and often that person had to go seek training in those skills him or herself. Medication doesn’t – or shouldn’t – come in unless something is happening in the biochemistry that keeps you from mastering those skills.

The pop psychology market of books capitalizes on those skills many people just don’t get taught. Often they are actually helpful. Other times, they are exploitative and stereotype driven – just look at Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, anything Dr. Phil writes, the very existence of Laura Schlessinger. Undeniably bad stuff there.

But as with any subject, a little careful thought and discernment goes a long way. The “bad” examples above always encourage some status quo, whether it’s one where “morality” is substituted as a word for “inequality” or where guilt and shame are advocated in place of sorting out what is genuinely harmful and accepting the rest.

The Artist’s Way is about creative recovery – it absolutely operates as a program for artists alongside the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. It operates on the understanding that humans resist big changes but can handle small ones. That may offend people that still believe they need to feel strained, burned out, and exhausted or they’re not “really working.” For those that work the steps, however, it’s nice to do the work while the ego – the source of all that stress – goes somewhere else for awile.