Resilience Through Creative Arts
Grow, Thrive, and Shine
March 15, 2020
“Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.”
― Sergei Rachmaninov
I remember the first time listening to a musical masterpiece: Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2. I was astonished by the soaring melodies. Serene, heavy, absorbing and overwhelming: it was my most intense listening experience ever.
I was amazed, and asked myself: what exactly made Rachmaninoff such a successful artist? I did my research, and the answer was surprising, but makes sense: created music to survive a prior catastrophic experience. Before he created this piano concerto masterpiece, Rachmaninoff wrote Symphony No.1, and the premier was different for all the wrong reasons: the conductor was intoxicated, leading to disastrous performance by the orchestra. Rachmaninoff was left embarrassed and shattered, plugging into a state of deep depression.
It stands to reason that Rachmaninov would have given up his profession from thereon. But he survived and thrived. For three years, he underwent psychotherapy and severe writer’s block. Instead of quitting, Rachmaninoff used his experience and state of mind to compose one of classical music’s greatest works, Piano Concerto No.2.
Frida transformed excruciating pain into grace and beauty
“Pain, pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence. The revolutionary struggle in this process is a doorway open to intelligence.”
― Frida Kahlo
Who can forget Kahlo’s iconic Tehuana dress and unibrow? Behind bold and vibrant colors I see pain, passion, and a fierce personality emanating great resilience and intelligence.
Disabled by polio as a child and severely injured in a bus accident as a teenager, Kahlo struggled with physiological deformities and deterioration. While recovering in a body cast from a broken spine, collarbone, ribs, pelvis and shoulders; she began to focus on self-portrait and became a renowned painter and a worldwide symbol of feminism and vigor.
I love Kahlo for many reasons. The most obvious is her artistic style: proud Mexican folk art inspiration, bold and feverish use of colors and brushstrokes, illustrating her own reality by mixing existing realism with fantasy. The most inspiring is her refusal to be devoured by tragedy: as tears, wounds and turmoils are depicted in her portraits, there is also sobriety, fortitude and saneness. Kahlo painted from pain, with pain, in pain, and the co-existing of beauty and pain gives depth to her creative artistry.
Building Resilience for You
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
– Helen Keller
There is much we can apply from the Rachmaninoff, Kahlo, and many more artists’ experiences, by taking difficult experiences and formulating new perspectives and connections. This approach is often termed “resilience.”
Being resilient does not mean eliminating difficult experiences in life. Being resilient means to leverage. And instead of staying down, we grow and become better.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself, that will build your resilience:
- How will I choose to experience this situation?
- How does this experience align with my important values?
- How did I grow and learn from a stressful experience last time?
- What strengths of mine can help navigate this experience?
- What resources will I use, to enable me to get through this?
You owe it to yourself - tap into your creativity and become more resilient.