TRANSCRIPT Ep. 296: Emotional Discipline


Miriam Schulman: We say, “Oh, I need to wait to feel inspired. I need to be in the mood to do that.” And, of course, you know, I don’t have to tell you that feeling never comes. Inspiration doesn’t show up until you start doing the work. That’s why I say if you’re not feeling inspired, you can choose an emotion on purpose.

Speaker 2: It’s the Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists by an artist where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.

Miriam Schulman: Well, hey there, my friend. Welcome to the Inspiration Place. I’m Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration, and you’re listening to episode number 296. And I am so grateful that you’re here. So today we’re talking all about emotional discipline. But before we get there, I wanted to catch you up because for the last couple of episodes, it was right before I left for Israel. And I’m just going to pour myself some coffee now. I hope you’ve got a favorite drink to just pretend we’re sitting across from each other eating pistachio croissants, which I actually had in Jerusalem. It was delicious. And now I’m back in the US. So I wanted to tell you all about my visit with my son. So my son’s 23, and what I’ve been joking about with my friends, and I’m going to tell you now, is how this visit was absolutely no different than when we used to visit him in college. I mean, literally after a 12-hour flight, he took us directly to the grocery store for food. So that was day one, grocery shopping for his apartment. Day two, we went to Ikea. Now, I did not know they had an Ikea in Israel, but apparently they do. And I actually asked my VA, who lives in Manila, and she says, “Yeah, there’s an Ikea coming there too.” So the Swedish do get around. So day one was buying food for him. Day two is buying shit for his apartment. Day three was taking Mom and Dad with our credit cards for more shopping.

And towards the end of the day, he ditched us for his friends. So typical. So really, it was no different than visiting him in college. But it was a meaningful visit. It was not without some tears. And besides seeing my son’s smile, the highlight of the trip, you know, besides hugging him and seeing his smile. Um, the highlight of the trip was pecan pie, which I know is 100% indulgent and I can feel where it is right now on my stomach. But it was, it was worth it. Now, one of the things that I want to share with you about this–because I talked about this a little bit in the last few episodes, is how difficult it’s been for me to process, really what’s happening, and what I’ve found is I end up with the end of the day exhausted, mentally exhausted, and part of the reason for this is it takes a lot of energy for me to repress my true feelings about it. It’s like holding a beach ball underwater and trying not to feel what’s really happening. Trying not to process what’s really happening and just to continue to function, produce podcast episodes for you, run my launches, coach my students, do all the things that I do. Um. But at the same time, I have to say it’s not as if I’m sad all the time or stressed all the time. The one thing that really helps me, and I’m sharing this with you because I know from speaking with many of you that you may have emotional anxieties, overwhelm for different reasons than I do, but perhaps because of the upcoming election in the United States, or the economy or something personal with your family, maybe somebody has an illness, whatever the reasons are

What has helped me is something that we read in synagogue recently. So if you’re familiar with the Old Testament, with the story of Moses, and it’s probably one of the most famous Bible stories where Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, and they reach the Red Sea. And the Red Sea parts. And at their backs, the Egyptians are coming. So if they turn back, if they look backward, it’s the Egyptians with the Egyptian army. And if they go forward, it’s the unknown. It’s the oceans, it’s the waters. And in this moment in the Bible story, when they didn’t know if they were going to drown, if they didn’t know they were going to be killed by the Egyptians, they start to sink. And this is a beautiful metaphor for how I’m trying to live my life right now. If I think too much about the threats of the past, my past mistakes, those are the Egyptians at my back. Okay. The waters of the unknown. What’s in front of me? Those are the dangers of the future. Any kind of catastrophic thinking. But if I stay completely present, completely present in this moment. Which is what? This is how I get through this time, right now is I stay completely present in this very moment. This very moment. Right now, my son is safe. I’m fine. And I stay present with that.

This is a metaphor that you can use too about the Egyptians, the Red Sea, the parting. Even if you’re not from a Judeo-Christian background, there are other stories, by the way, in Buddhism that are very similar. A monk is being chased by a tiger. He climbs down a cliff. He’s hanging on to a vine. A mouse starts chewing on the vine. So he has the tiger in the past and the ravine falling into the ravine as the possible catastrophic future. So this is not just a Judeo-Christian concept. This is a world concept. But the message is this: you can’t spend time in the past. You can’t spend too much time worrying about the future. You have to trust and stay present and in order to get through this. This is what takes emotional discipline, and that’s the process I’m going to be sharing with you today. We have a beautiful brain, and we’re the only person who thinks in our mind. We can spend time in catastrophic thinking about the future. We can spend time beating ourselves up over the past. But in order to motivate ourselves, we have to choose our thoughts consciously. So today you’re going to learn how to use positive emotions as fuel for achieving your goals. Why you sabotage yourself to avoid negative emotions. And also we’ll discuss the difference between suppressing and repressing emotion. But before we get there, these words.

Now in my book, Artpreneur, I talk about Doctor Aaron Beck’s work, and he passed away. I think it was last year or the year before at age 100 and has left a beautiful legacy for us in his work. And his work became the foundation for cognitive behavior therapy. The concept is that there are circumstances in the world: wars, elections, economies, illness, death, etc. We have thoughts about those circumstances. And these thoughts, our thinking generates our emotion, both positive and negative. Now, a lot of times we think it’s the circumstances that are causing us to feel a certain way. And I can promise you it’s not. It’s the thought in between, even if it’s an unconscious thought. Now, positive emotions are going to create the most inspired action. We’re talking about when you go out to set a goal, whether it’s building your art business, creating a painting, doing anything else like that. Whereas negative emotions will either cause you to sabotage yourself because you’re not going to take action, or you’re going to avoid those negative feelings.

Sometimes it can be hard to come up with the thoughts that will create positive emotions. So the cheat that I like to do is to choose an emotion first, choose the emotion that I want to feel in order to generate inspired action. When you have an emotion or a feeling, and we’re using those words interchangeably, it will create a vibration in the body. The vibrations will create a positive feedback loop back to the brain. It’s a beautiful thing. So when you’re working on a goal, you’ll be asking yourself to do things that feel uncomfortable. Things like asking for a sale, sending out emails, asking people to sign up for your mailing list, asking people to pay money. In order to avoid these negative emotions, your brain will come up with reasons why it’s a terrible idea and why the action that you want to take may not work out for you. So you want to short-circuit this. Instead of focusing on these negative feelings, I like to use positive emotions as fuel for action. Now, most of us don’t do this. We say, “Oh, I need to wait to feel inspired. I need to be in the mood to do that.” And of course, you know, I don’t have to tell you that feeling never comes. Inspiration doesn’t show up until you start doing the work. Now think about this. If it was your car, if your car was out of gas, you wouldn’t wait for the car to refuel itself.

The same is true for motivation. That’s why I say if you’re not feeling inspired, you can choose an emotion on purpose. And you can also override your desire to avoid discomfort to avoid the negative emotions. Often when artists first join the artist incubator, they’ll start to feel overwhelmed. There is a lot of content inside the incubator, and this is totally normal. And once they start diving into what the content is, I’m asking them to do things in a way they may never have done before, and that will make them feel uncomfortable. So the brain will immediately come up with thoughts like, “I’m not sure that will work for me.” Or, “Oh, I don’t know how to do that or that.” And here’s the truth, my friend. The smarter you are and the more creative you are, and you are very smart and creative, the better you’ll be at coming up with those stories. Those stories will lead to the following kinds of negative emotion: overwhelm, confused, worried, or bored. Now, none of those emotions are going to provide the fuel to take inspired action. These negative emotions should be suppressed. Now, notice I didn’t say repress. There are some emotions you need to feel and process on purpose.

For example, I do have fear of my son being a soldier. Another example is if somebody dies. Yeah. You want to feel sad if somebody dies. It takes a lot of energy to repress emotions that should be processed. That’s why I told you I’m exhausted. It’s like holding a beach ball underwater. It takes a lot of energy to act happy when you’re not. And I was doing a lot of that in October. Having that time to visit my son and to cry, this did help me process those feelings. Now, the concepts of repressing and suppressing emotions are often used interchangeably in everyday language, but they do hold distinct meanings in psychology. And we’re going to explore that. And I’m also going to share with you a philosophical lens from Kabbalistic thought. So repressing emotion is an unconscious process. When you repress an emotion, you’re unknowingly pushing away unwanted thoughts, memories, feelings, pushing them to the back of your mind. And because repression occurs without your awareness, you may not even remember the emotion or thought you’re trying to avoid. However, repressed emotions can manifest through dreams, slips of the tongue, or physical symptoms. So your body keeps score and it will show up. That’s why sometimes we get sick when we’re stressed.

Suppressing emotions, on the other hand, is a conscious effort to hide or ignore emotion or thought. Unlike repression, when you suppress something, you’re fully aware of doing it but choose not to express or acknowledge these feelings. So suppression is ia short term coping mechanism, whereas repression is deep seated and more long term. When you repress emotion, you’re detaching or disconnecting from your ruach, your spirit. It’s part of your soul. The ruach is where your emotions and moral qualities reside, and pushing these aspects deeper into what we call the nephesh, the life force or the animal soul. They can remain unconscious and unresolved. So that’s why things like therapy are important to bring those things up. I think I talked about this in another podcast where the power of journaling, when you can journal about unresolved trauma, it’s kind of like it brings it to the surface. It’s like popping a pimple and it can be really ugly to look at, but sometimes it’s really the only way to heal it. Now, suppressing emotions might be understood as a conscious decision not to let the emotions of your spirit, of your Ruach express through one’s speech, and this is a form of emotional discipline. Of course, if it’s abused, it will hinder genuine spiritual growth. Now here’s what I want you to understand. There are negative emotions that we want to feel on purpose. Sorrow, for example, when somebody dies. But there are indulgent emotions that we don’t want to feel, and that’s when suppressing is very valuable and reframing is very valuable. So the negative emotions could be like overwhelm, confusion, doubt. Those types of negative emotions that are going to sabotage you, those are the ones you want to learn how to suppress.

So let’s talk about the emotional discipline you need to take inspired action when it comes to goal setting. This is something that I do talk about inside my book, Artpreneur. It’s actually in the second to last chapter. So if you didn’t finish the book, that’s where it’s hiding. So I always choose a word for the year. This year, for 2024, my word is flow. However, I also find it helpful to choose a word for the day. So if I’m feeling stuck when I sit down to my computer to do that kind of work, that requires a lot of motivation and discipline, I’ll look at what I need to do for the day, and I will choose one word to describe the kind of person I want to be that day. And if I need to, I’ll journal about why I chose it. I want you to imagine opening up a closet with all the feelings you could put on and pick out the emotion that will fuel you. Developing this emotional literacy, like really picking different types of emotions, is so important. When you need a productive day, you can choose a word like determined. When you have a day that requires courage, you can choose a word such as confident. You can choose how you want to feel and this helps.

Now I’ve created a list of positive emotion words. I’m going to share them with you in a moment. And these words are the ones that work best for me for generating inspired actions. You’re going to notice that happy is not one of those words. That’s because happy is not an emotion you need to fuel taking uncomfortable actions. You don’t have to feel happy about it. You’re going to pick one of these emotions and practice feeling it all day. I made this list of empowering emotions to help get you started, but you might think of others. So here is my short list for you: brave, certain, curious, committed, creative, interested, strong, decisive, disciplined, driven, determined, excited, focused, motivated, inspired, and persistent. And the last one, by the way, my husband came up with. Now, if you have other ideas of positive emotion words, DM them to me over on Instagram. I’m @SchulmanArt over there, and that’s Schulman, S-C-H. And I do answer most of my DMs myself. Now remember, I shared that thoughts drive our emotions. So a cheat is to think a thought that generates this emotion. However, sometimes it can be hard to think of, well, what thought is going to make me feel this way? However, here’s the trick. Simply begin this sentence in your mind, starting with “I am.” So “I am motivated” is a thought that will help you feel motivated. “I am disciplined” is a thought that will help you feel that way.

I literally write the word I want to feel for that day on the top of my planner, so I can look at it all day. Now, if you want a journal exercise to do in addition to that one power sentence, ask yourself these questions. We’re going to use as an example. Let’s say determined was the word you chose. How does a determined person think? How does a determined person act? What does a determined person look like? What does a determined person say? Whenever you feel doubt or worry sneak in, start practicing your emotions. Just circle back to that word. Let’s say it was determined. You go back to that word. Determine is a beautiful word. Disciplined is another one. But some of these other words can help you as well.

Before we head into our final wrap-up, I just wanted to share a few additional tips and pieces of information that can really help you master your emotional discipline.

Number one: journaling for clarity. Make it a habit to journal your thoughts and emotions regularly. This practice is so powerful for distinguishing between suppressed and repressed emotions. So you want to confront and process those repressed emotions effectively, as well as choosing how you want to feel on purpose. Choosing those emotions you want to feel. Choosing the thoughts you want to think on purpose.

Number two: mindfulness and meditation. So mindfulness practices and meditation really help. And don’t forget that prayer is a form of meditation. So those of you who have a practice with scriptures or if you’re Jewish like me, you have, you know, a different kind of practice. Or if you’re Muslim, you have another kind of prayer practice. Prayer is a form of meditation. So if and if you don’t have a formal religion, just regular meditation works too. This will help you stay present. Remember we talked about staying in that moment. I am safe right now. My son is safe right now. How that thought helps me instead of a catastrophic thought of what could happen. That kind of thinking won’t help me. It’s not useful. These techniques will help you stay present. It will help you reduce stress. It will increase your awareness of your emotional state, and it will make it easier for you to choose your emotions consciously.

Number three: emotional literacy. It’s a great idea to work on your emotional literacy. Some people, they don’t have a very good vocabulary in terms of their emotions. And that’s not about being smart, that’s just about practicing. That’s why I give you those lists of words. You want to expand your emotional vocabulary beyond happy sad. Being able to accurately identify and name your emotions is a critical step in managing them and choosing how you want to feel.

Number four: seek support. Now remember, it’s okay to seek support from friends, from family, from professionals, especially when working through challenging emotions. I work with a life coach. There’s a life coach who is part of the Artist Incubator because it’s such important work. Sharing your experiences and feelings absolutely provides relief and will give you insight. Sometimes we can’t see that we’re thinking thoughts that are not good for us.

Number five: I’ve talked about this so much on the podcast, but that number five is celebrate wins. You need to recognize and celebrate your progress. Our brains are going to focus on the most negative things, and it will gloss over those happy things. So no matter how small your win is, celebrate it. Celebrate your wins. And whether it’s successfully applying a strategy to overcome overwhelm, if that’s your win, that’s a victory worth celebrating.

So keep these tips in mind. I would love to hear which of these resonated with you the most, which ones you’re trying apply them in your daily life. This is going to help you navigate your emotional life and help you leverage. Conscious emotional thinking in a way that serves your highest good. Honor yourself. Celebrate your growth. Stay committed to cultivating a life filled with inspiration and purpose. All right, my friend, thank you so much for being with me here today. I’ll see you the same time, same place next week. Until then, stay inspired.

Speaker 2: Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram @schulmanart and of course, on

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