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I have worked with a lot of artists and I know that one of the aspects of their personalities that is a gift, is at the same time, a curse - sensitivity (or perhaps, over-sensitivity). Artists that aren't sensitive cannot connect to the world around them and therefore cannot produce insightful renderings of the world examined. However, sensitivity is also an impediment to observation and interaction with other people and the world. Sensitivity blurs the realm of analysis by provoking the observer (or artist) to use taste and then judgment to understand issues, engage in discourse and build knowledge. The profound subjectivity produced can often lead to bias, dogmatism and even cruelty to others (regardless of being inadvertent or unintentional). 

I have found that sensitive people have a habit of confessing to me. I will know someone for a very short time and yet they will divulge the most personal details about their life, trauma, memory and past - the kind of things that many people never share with anyone their whole life. It often feels like I am being dumped upon. In fact, it can be extremely uncomfortable. However, over the years I have realized that people confess to me so readily without asking my permission because they hope that I will have an outside perspective that could help them hone new tools for negotiating their issues. The disclosure is a confession in the truest sense because these people are often relative strangers to me. 

I am put in the awkward position of either turning these people away or engaging in matters that usually have no clear resolution and are rife with difficulties. I find that I cannot turn people away when they share trauma with me because I have a sense that it only perpetuates the psychological paralysis. In fact, I encourage people to articulate around sites of trauma because this is the most assured method of mending the psychological ruptures. I choose to share what I know with those who confess to me - I promote articulation and discourse. People who value my outside perspective can become friends. They understand the information for what it is - little thought bubbles (floating signifiers) that can be attached or detached as the person sees fit. Others can end up discombobulating consciously and reaffirming their sense of autonomy, agency, power and control through coding me as synecdoche for the little thought bubbles. This is fallacious reasoning, but it usually ends up hurting me all the same. I will be rejected and ostracized for attempting to help others. The claims might be over a violation of safe space, without an honest reflection on the confession having been a similar violation in the first place. 

The issue is confessions: don't make them if you cannot separate the advice from the adviser. The conflation is a phenomenon that is extremely common for humans and this is exactly why psychologists are trained to stay detached and maintain a lot of privacy about their own life when talking with patients. The confession booth in Roman Catholicism is another strong indicator for the need to set up strict boundaries when people confess and expect not to be turned away. 

So, the point of all this is a message to artists - those who I have worked with and any reading this (with no one in particular in mind). If you choose to confess to others that you also do not know very well, then maintain your vigilance on not letting sensitivity blur the realm of analysis - do not conflate the adviser with the advice. In this way, you will feel more comfortable and you won't end up inadvertently demonizing, ostracizing or excluding those who were compelled to help through their own sensibilities once you had imposed a confession upon them.  
  • Listening to: your inner voice
  • Reading: is fun
  • Watching: out
  • Playing: possum
  • Eating: my head
  • Drinking: under the table
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Submitted on
September 17, 2016