For many families, a career in the arts exists outside of their social and economic reality: “Art won’t pay the electric bill.” As a result, if the child is encouraged to consider art in job terms at all, he or she must consider it sensibly. Erin, a gifted children’s therapist, was in her mid-thirties before she began experiencing a haunting dissatisfaction in her work. Unsure what direction to take, she began adapting a children’s book for the screen. Midway through the adaptation, she suddenly had a telling dream about abandoning her own artist child. Prior to becoming a therapist, she had been a gifted art student. For two decades, she had suppressed her creative urges, pouring all of her creativity into helping others. Now, nearly forty, she found herself longing to help herself Erin’s story is all too common. Fledgling artists may be encouraged to be art teachers or to specialize in crafts with the handicapped. Young writers may be pushed toward lawyering, a talky, wordy profession, or into medical school because they’re so smart. And so the child who is himself a born storyteller may be converted into a gifted therapist who gets his stories secondhand.
Too intimidated to become artists themselves, very often too low in self-worth to even recognize that they have an artistic dream, these people become shadow artists instead. Artists themselves but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing declared artists. Unable to recognize that they themselves may possess the creativity they so admire, they often date or marry people who actively pursue the art career they themselves secretly long for.
When Jerry was still blocked as an artist, he began to date Lisa, a gifted but broke free-lance artist. “I am your biggest fan,” he often told her. What he did not immediately tell her was that he himself dreamed of being a filmmaker. He had, in fact, an entire library of film books and avidly devoured special-interest magazines on filmmaking. But he was afraid to take steps to actualize his interest. Instead, he poured his time and attention into Lisa and Lisa’s art career. Under his guidance, her career flourished. She became solvent and increasingly well known. Jerry remained blocked in his own behalf. When Lisa suggested he take a filmmaking course, he ran for cover. “Not everyone can be an artist,” he told her-and himself.