Culture and Tradition in the Pre-Colonial Africa in Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine

The story is a tale of a young woman, Ihuoma, who belongs to Nigeria’s Igbo ethnic group. Her plight involves her past life, when she was said to be the wife of the mythical Sea King deity. This gives her great status in the present, but portends doom for any mortal man who seeks to marry her. As the novel progresses, Ihuoma is wed and widowed three times, as a result of the wrath of the Sea King toward those who would usurp his bride. Though it seems a traditional cautionary tale on the surface, Dictionary of Literary Biography essay that “the strength of The Concubine rests on the fact that it is not folklore but realistic-style fiction, in spite of its strong penetration by the super-natural.

From his first appearance as a novelist, with The Concubine in 1966, Elechi Amadi established himself as a unique figure in African fiction. He was not alone in attempting to convey the day-to-day texture of traditional, pre-colonial life in an African village: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart had already done this, at least to an extent. But he distinguished himself by not offering any explicit contrasts between that traditional world and the one that replaced it. Whereas Things Fall Apart and many other African novels are concerned, in part at least, with the coming of the white man and the effect of that event, Amadi’s novels have never emphasized alien influences at all. The action of any of his three novels could have taken place either five years or a century before the colonial intrusion upon the area. Likewise the dilemmas that confront and finally destroy his heroes or heroines derive entirely from the beliefs, practices, and events of their indigenous culture.

In the novel, Ihuoma whose beauty attracts all men and women in the village of Omokachi and Omigwe, maintains rational behavior, intelligence and social decorum. her good reputation spans in the three villages including Chiolu. As a woman, she is a model of perfect beauty as the narrator attests by narrating that she was a pretty woman: perhaps that’s why she married so early… She was young; it was easy to reckon her age. Ihuoma’s complexion was that of an ant-hill. Her features were smoothly rounded… Ihuoma’s smiles were disarming. Perhaps the narrow gap in the upper row of her white teeth did the trick. At that time a gap in the teeth was fashionable. Ihuoma’s gap was natural and other women envied her. Her beauty is the scale of all women who want to be considered beautiful. Everybody envies her. Everybody likes to be her. Further, in truth she wanted to gaze at herself. That she was beautiful she had no doubt, but that did not make her arrogant. She was sympathetic, gentle and reserved. It was her husband’s boast that in their six years of marriage she had never had any serious quarrel with another woman. She was not good at invectives and other women talked much faster than she did. The fact that she would be outdone in a verbal exchange perhaps partly retrained her from coming into open verbal conflict with her neighbors. Gradually she acquired the capacity to bear neighbor’s stinging remarks without a repartee. In this way her prestige among the womenfolk grew until even the most garrulous among them was reluctant to be unpleasant to her. She found herself settling quarrels and offering advice to older women.

For the village people, these characteristics of Ihuoma place her on the pedestal of the tribal and communal center of exemplary womanhood and motherhood. Needless to say, all men in the village desire her. Most men envy her husband Emenike who married her at the young age of twenty two. The couple behaves like a perfect family blessed by the gods with four children. With a great sense of balance, they have two sons and two daughters whom they really love.

The concept of beauty and power for the males is measured by his features or looks, his strength in wrestling, his power in hunting, his willingness to go in a battle with their matchet always ready to defend the village against the enemies and his ability to maintain and raise his wife or wives and children well. Physical deformities and incapacity or abnormality are considered ugly. A man who is not able to win a wrestling match is denigrated and labeled weak. The village has strong patriarchal system as husbands control and dominate the house. Their wives are subservient and steadfast in attending to their needs.

Emenike, Ihuoma’s first husband is praised and liked by the elders of the tribe. They consider him as an ideal young man. He was good looking and well formed, a favourite with the girls. He was just an average wrestler but had the devil’s luck in throwing people in spectacular ways which onlookers always remembered long afterwards. He had won the old men’s confidence and they always let him run errands that required intelligence and extensive use of proverbs.

In contrast, Madume, though considered a successful man at the age of early thirties, was not considered strong. He was not a good wrestler (although he danced well to the beat of the drums) and many a young man had liked him.

Madume had one fault most villagers disliked. He was “big eyed”; that is to say, he was never satisfied with his share in anything that was good. He would roar until he had something more than his companion’s shares. Consequently he was always quarreling over land, palm wine trees, plantain trees and other such things. That was how he came to quarrel with Emenike.

Ekwueme, Ihuoma’s most patient suitor is also seen to be handsome, industrious and respectful of his parents Adaku and Igwe.

On the other hand, his bestfriend and song-making partner in many events of the villages like wrestling match, death of a member of the village, market day, planting, worship to the spirits and or gods is considered abnormal because of his deformed feet.

One of the most elaborate cultural traditions practiced in the novel is the custom of marriage. John Mbiti in the book African Religions and Philosophy relates that marriage is a complex affair with economic and religios aspects which often overlap so firmly that they cannot be separated from one another… For Africans, marriage is the focus of existence. It is the point where all the members of a given community meet: the departed, the living and those yet to be born. Marriage is a duty, a requirement… he who does not participate in it is a curse to the community, he is a rebel, and a law breaker, he is not only abnormal but “underhuman”. Failure to get married under normal circumstances means that the person concerned has rejected society and society rejects him in return.

Thus in the tale, we can see how the parents are highly concerned about the marriage of their children. They openly discuss an early arranged or matched marriage, like what happened to Ekwueme and Ahurole. Even if Ahurole is yet in the womb of her mother, she is already matched to Ekwueme. And when the time comes, the parents of the man have to inform the parents of the woman for the formal talk of the marriage. A year is given for the formal talk with the first visit of the family of the man bringing gifts and wine for the family of the girl. The subsequent visits will include the elders to bargain for the bride price or dowry. When the guide is able to reach an agreement, a date can be set for the final day which is manifested and celebrated by colorful dances and nights of drinking. This custom is performed to forge familiarity and friendship between the family of the newlywed and of the villagers.

He said his parents selected Ahurole as soon as she was born. He could hardly pull a bow by then. He really had no choice’ Ekwe said to Ihuoma.. the days that followed observed the negotiation for Ekwe’s wedding. Ahurole was engaged to Ekwe when she was eight days while Ekwe was about five years old.

Mbiti says that marriage is a long process, the key moments of which may be marked with rituals. When a child has been born physically, it must also be born ritually or or religiously in order to make it a social member of the family. At a later age it goes through a series of initiation rites… Only after initiation, where it is observed, is a person is socially and religiously born into full manhood and womanhood with all secrets, responsibilities and privileges and expectations. The whole community participates in it.

There are many customs and of the wedding procedure. In some societies the ceremony lasts for many days and is really full of rituals.

And so Ahurole’s parents were justly proud of their daughter’s engagement. For years they had exercised extra care and vigilance over her. The time had come at last for formal negotiations. Negotiations might well have started two years back but Wagbara said he was not in a hurry, which implied two things: firstly that he was not too keen on his daughter’s bride price, which implied he was well off; secondly that he was sure of his good influence over his daughter.

The days that followed were full of wine and gifts. Until the uncle of Ahurole became the appointed guide. After six months, the bride price was agreed. The entire family rejoiced and hurried to bring Ahurole home to Ekwe’s village. It is their fear that Ekwe might insist on marrying Ihuoma. It is the parents’ duty to guide their children for the proper marriage. And Ekwe, reluctant to marry Ahurole, followed his parents advice for he never wants his parents to have problems with the villagers and he never wants to be ostracized by defying the tradition even if his heart goes for Ihuoma.

Ekwe tries his best to make his marriage work but Ahurole is immatured and emotional, much to his disappointment. His desire for Ihuoma increases as it decreases to his legal wife.

Another custom that is highly elaborate is the observance and superstition of death of a member of a family and the community. When Ihuoma’s first and legal husband Emenike died because of lock chest, Wigme village mourned for eight days for his demise and Ihuoma’s lamentation. People showed much care for their neighbors. Much songs were sung and wines poured during the wake until he is buried within his rich compound, preferably his backyard. It is believed that his spirit will guide his property and his family.

His arch enemy, the greedy Madume, who claims a piece of land settled by the elders to be Emenike’s continues to impose ownership. This materialism of Madume leads to his death as one day, desiring Ihuoma, catches her harvesting plantains in the disputed land. He takes advances and abuses Ihuoma. The widow runs for her life until his brother-in-law, Nnandi, comes to a rescue. People run after Madume until he is caught and was spat by a cobra’s venom. His life changed after the incident, for that brings him swollen eyes and he becomes blind. His wife Wole escapes from her husband’s violent behavior. Upon her return, Madume is seen hanging in the door. The whole village could not believe Madume’s abominable act of suicide. Hence, his body is considered impure. No ordinary man or woman can touch his body for his body is impure. A medicine man is obliged to to perform the burial for he can cleanse himself. Madume’s body is thrown in the forest with the eveil spirits.

The last and tragic death of Ihuoma’s last suitor, Ekwueme is the most dramatic. A night before their hardly fought relationship, which the village in the beginning disapproves, is proven dark and portentous of Ekwu’s death. Agwoturumbe, the medicine man, who will perform sacrifices for their marriage, prepares all the herbs, animals and amulets so they can go to the river to meet the Sea King. The follwing day, as Ekwu is about to ready himself, is shot by an barbed-arrow shot by Ihuoma’s son. The arrow is meant for the lizard necessary for the sacrifice. The doom is finally set as the wrath of the spirits of the sea go against the fate of Ekwe even his parents hired the services of the medicine man, Agwoturumbe.

The people highly place their lives, their love and fear on the spirits of the ancestors and their gods. Each part of the earth is ruled by a god. Often mentioned and feared by the villagers is the god of thunder, Amadioha and Ojukwu, a god of the air and the forest, Ani, god of the earth. Each person is ruled by his personal spirit, and one is bound to follow. No one can go against the spirit but the spirit can go against the person like what happened in the wrestling between Emenike and Madume.

Polytheism-the worship of many gods-was characteristic of precolonial Igbo society. However, this did not preclude the belief in a supreme deity. Once close to people, the supreme being, Chukwu, was thought to have withdrawn from direct intervention in their affairs.

Igbo mythology repletes with examples illustrating the fact that this supreme being used to be close to individuals, and in fact used to intervene in the affairs of individuals and communities, until it was annoyed by the aberrant behaviour of some individuals, women especially, who transgressed one overriding code or the other…. From all accounts, it appears that the supreme being having decided to abscond from intervention in the day to day activities of human beings decided to vest some of His powers on beings with lesser and localized powers.

There was no equivalent of Satan, or the devil, in the precolonial faith. While the Igbo ascribed one evil or another to various deities in the pantheon, no single spirit was thought to embody all evil. Likewise, the precolonial faith did not include a concept of hell.

The traditional Igbos appear to have preoccupied themselves most often with their own guardian spirit. The supreme being is nominally supposed to be in charge of all things. At the individual level, however, the chi, variously interpreted as the guardian angel or the personal spiritual guardian of every individual, appears to play a more active role in the affairs of any individual. The belief was that a person’s chi had a direct hand in his or her affairs. Igbo ideas of destiny and free will were bound up with chi. “Each individual,” taught the Igbo, “has a destiny ascribed to his life” and his personal god controls his destiny.

The practice of the medicine men is accepted as holy, healthy and cure. The medicine man may pray for the gods on behalf of the people; he acts as a village doctor, he acts as a prophet who can see the future. Both Anyika and Agwoturumbe see the death of Ekwueme. Both are afraid of the Sea King who legally own the Sea goddess Ihuoma who chose to be human. Hence, the medicine man is as ubiquitous as the needs of the people.

Basic to all his works is the concept of life as an ongoing struggle. There is a rather ironic contradiction between Amadi’s philosophy about man’s insignificance and ultimate impotence in the hands of the gods, and the fact that his characters struggle to the very end, irrespective of obstacles and threats even from the gods, as demonstrated in The Concubine Although Amadi never specifies that the characters in the novel are Igbo (or Ibo), they are supposed by critics to belong to Igbo society. The Igbos reside primarily in southeastern Nigeria. Amadi’s fictional term for them is “Erekwi”; a little shuffling of the letters produces “Ikwere,” the ethnic group to which Amadi himself belongs. The Ikwere speak a distinct language within the Igbo language cluster, and they are a riverine people, which helps explain the appearance in their pantheon of a sea-king deity, who enters into the plot of The Concubine.

The traditional Igbo lived in small self-governing villages, each comprised of kin who traced their origins to a mutual ancestor. They did not base their society on a centralized government or supreme political authority, such as a king or chief. Rather the Igbo vested power in the people themselves or in a council of elders. These elders, drawing on the wisdom of the ancestors, settled land disputes and other fractious or crucial matters. There were public forums, too, at which the poor, the rich, and the young, as well as the old could voice opinions before decisions affecting the whole village were made.

In the novel the village of Omokachi corresponds closely to this model. It has no single leader; instead the villagers themselves govern their community, giving particular weight to the judgment of the elders. At one point, the protagonist Ihuoma reminds her greedy neighbor Madume that a land dispute between him and her late husband, Emenike, has been decided in Emenike’s favor by the village elders. At another juncture, the domestic disputes of the unhappily married Ekwueme and Ahurole are arbitrated by the elders of Omokachi and of Ahurole’s home village, Omigwe. The proverb if one attempts to run in front of one’s chi, the person would run himself to death alludes to the power of destiny; in order to succeed, one’s objectives for oneself must be aligned with those of one’s own chi. Other proverbs allude to free will, and taken together the two types of proverbs (on destiny and on free will) reflect the duality in Igbo thought. The belief was that everyone had hidden powers, supplied by his or her chi. A person had only to make use of these powers to score achievements in life. In other words, one can affect one’s own destiny, or, as a proverb says, “if a man wills, his personal chi wills also.”

A man and his chi were not thought of as perennially tied together. There are areas of life in which one must struggle to achieve something by oneself, with or without the active support and collaboration of one’s chi. It was, however, believed that a man must at all times be on good terms with his chi, so that when called upon, it would come to his support. When someone failed to mobilise his chi to support a particular undertaking, the spirit was commonly said to be asleep or away.

The Boot Leg Life

Life to be great, must be genuinely happy. But how many people are really happy? Not many are genuinely happy. But, in this article, I am going to give the key here in a “boot leg” way that certain people do not want you to know. I am also going to be and do something outrageous also. I am going to be honest with you, and do the honesty in a fully integrated way. I consider this paragraph done with the two sentences before this, so I will go on to the next paragraph.

It is one thing to boot leg drugs and whiskey, but, it is a healthy and unacceptable boot leg to be so genuinely happy, that it is a call sign to yourself and the rest of reality. Think of the envy happening there with that. Unacceptable to others, yet wonderful to yourself. When you genuinely have what you want, that is the most powerful thing in existence. If everyone has that feeling, there is nothing to boot leg. But in this existence and world, trust me, it is boot leg, especially when you are “the man or woman on the hill” genuinely and not just putting on a show of being superior and happy. Face it, the kind of genuine happiness I am talking about is usually mistaken for conceited behavior and haughty ridiculous foolishness. But the fact that type of happiness exists as a concept no matter what anyone does is proof that it is totally achievable and real. Sure, boot leg whiskey and drugs like I said is more legal to the envious person than that type of genuine happiness. But, no matter what, happiness is always a winner in every genuine way and sense, “proof in the pudding.”

So, the man or woman who is genuinely happy and radiates it is something that everyone seems to want to keep at the length of the arm away from them out of that equal and equivalent envy. But it should be encouraged, because happy people make a happy society and a happy society is a society that genuinely works. So, I say, let the genuinely illegal be illegal, and let happiness be encouraged as the most legal thing in existence. Some even say this type of happiness belongs to God and it is a sin for human beings to breach those feelings. I say, we are truly living up to the image of God when those feelings are had by us and it is a virtue, not a sin. Irrational pride is a sin, where we “fake it until we make it.” But happiness of this sort is a most genuine virtue when it is real because it is rational, naturally working pride, not irrational game playing. I am talking serious business now when I talk about real happiness that is not “fake it until we make it.” Happiness is earned, not made up fantasy life or given to us free. So, I do not believe in a free lunch no matter what, but we can all earn what we want. In that sense, no matter what, we are created and made equal. No matter how bad it seems, we can make a decision. It really is in our minds, hands, and that decision. Are you ready?

How to Spot a Narcissist

Narcissists can be beguiling and charismatic. In fact, one study showed that their likable veneer was only penetrable after seven meetings. But you don’t want to fall in love with one. Over time you can end up feeling ignored, uncared for, and unimportant. Typically, a narcissist’s criticism, demands, and emotional unavailability increase, while your confidence and self-esteem decrease. You’ll try harder, but despite pleas and efforts, the narcissist appears to lack consideration for your feelings and needs.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) occurs more in men than women. As described in “Do You Love a Narcissist?” someone with NPD is grandiose (sometimes only in fantasy), lacks empathy, and seeks admiration from others, as indicated by five of these summarized characteristics:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance and exaggerates achievements and talent

2. Dreams of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. Requires excessive admiration

4. Believes he or she is special and unique, and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or of high-status people (or institutions)

5. Lacks empathy for the feelings and needs of others

6. Unreasonably expects special, favorable treatment or compliance from others

7. Exploits and takes advantage of others to achieve personal ends

8. Envies others or believes they’re envious of him or her

9. Has “an attitude” of arrogance or acts that way

How a Narcissist Behaves

Basically, what this looks and feels like is someone who is puts him or herself above all others. However, you might not notice it at first.

SEEKING ADMIRATION

Narcissists often like to talk about themselves and your job is to be a good audience. They may never ask about you, and if you offer something about yourself, the conversation quickly returns to them. You might start to feel invisible, bored, annoyed, or drained. On the other hand, many narcissists are charming, beautiful, talented, or successful. So, you may be entranced by their good looks, seduction, or fabulous stories. Beware that some narcissists who excel at seduction may act very interested in you, but that wanes over time. Flattery is also a means to allure you.

FEELING GRANDIOSE AND SPECIAL

Not only do they want to be the center of attention, they brag about their accomplishments, trying to impress you. When you first meet, you may not know the extent of their exaggeration, but it’s likely the case. If they haven’t yet achieved their goals, they may brag about how the will, or how they should have more recognition or success than they do. They do this because they need constant validation, appreciation, and recognition.

Because they like to associate with high status, they may name-drop celebrities or public figures then know. Similarly, they may drive an expensive car and wear designer clothes, brag about their school, and want to go to the best restaurants. This may dazzle you, just like their charm, but it’s really a symptom of their need for an attractive facade to hide the emptiness underneath. A simple, intimate restaurant you prefer won’t meet their standards or provide them the public visibility they seek.

LACKING EMPATHY

Although some people who aren’t narcissists lack empathy, this trait is a crucial and determining symptom when combined with a sense of entitlement and exploitation. Notice their expression when describing sad stories or reaction to yours. Do they lack empathy for the hardships of others and in particular your own needs? I once told a narcissist I wouldn’t be able to travel to meet him due to a back injury. I was shocked by his insensitive reply: “You wouldn’t let a little back pain keep you.”

Simple examples are rudeness, not listening, walking ahead of you, ordering what you should eat, ignoring your boundaries, taking calls when you’re talking to them. Admittedly, these are minor things any one of them alone may not be significant, but they add up to paint a picture of someone who doesn’t care about you, and will behave that way on bigger issues. They’re not comfortable with vulnerability – theirs or others, and are emotionally unavailable. In time, you’ll notice they keep you at a distance, because they’re afraid if you get too close, you won’t like what you see.

FEELING ENTITLED

A sense of entitlement reveals how narcissists believe they’re the center of the universe. They’re not only special and superior, but also deserve special treatment. Rules don’t apply to them. They may not just want, but expect a plane or cruise ship to wait for them. If they’re convicted, it’s everyone else’s fault, or the law is wrong. You should also accommodate their needs – stock their favorite treats in your car, like what they like, and meet at their convenience on their timetable. A relationship with this person will be painfully one-sided, not a two-way street. Narcissists are interested in getting what they want and making the relationship work for them. Your purpose is to serve their needs and wants.

EXPLOITING OTHERS

You may not spot this trait until you get to know a narcissist better, but if you start to feel used, it may be because you’re being exploited. An example is someone taking credit for your work. A woman (or man) may feel used for sex, or for as arm candy if a narcissist shows no interest in her as a person. A man (or woman) may feel used if he gives money to a narcissist or provides her services.

Manipulation is a form of covert aggression to influence you to do their bidding. Narcissists are masters of it. To many, dating is an art of game-playing. Whether or not it’s an “intimate relationship,” narcissists usually aren’t concerned about the other person, their feelings, wants, or needs. (Read “How to Tell if a Narcissist Loves You.” When relationships feel one-sided, givers feels exploited. They are because they allow it, and don’t set boundaries.

More serious exploitation involves lying, gas-lighting, cheating, and fraud involving financial and business dealing. These may include legal violations. You might not see this coming, but a narcissist might brag how he put one over on someone he took advantage of. Someone who had an affair may not be a narcissist, but a pattern of lying might be a symptom of several narcissistic traits. Other more obvious signs will show up.

ENVYING OTHERS

Narcissists want to be the first and best, and don’t like their competitors. They want what they have. Instead of being happy for others’ successes, they feel envy. They may tear down the person they envy and say how the person doesn’t deserve what they have. Narcissistic parents do this with their own children and partners! They project and believe other people are envious of them. When someone has good reason to criticize or not like them, narcissists will dismiss their complaints as envy, because they are so great – and they can’t tolerate criticism.

FEELING ARROGANT

Narcissists act superior, because deep down they feel inferior. They may put down other people, classes, ethnic groups, or races. Notice how they treat people who serve them, such as waiters and doormen, while sucking up to people of influence. Their critical comments are usually tinged with disdain and are often rude, attacking the individual and not just complaining about the service. It may come out in abrupt anger or covert hostility. This gives you a glimpse of how they will treat you when they know you better.

They typically believe they’re infallible and always right in any conversation. You might feel interrogated or steamrolled in a debate or that your words are twisted. Narcissists never take responsibility (unless it’s for a success), rarely apologize, and frequently blame others for misunderstandings or when things go wrong. Their hostility can take various forms of narcissistic abuse. Listen to how they talk about their past relationships. Do they act like the victim and still seethe with resentment?

Beware of Falling for a Narcissist

Relationships with narcissists are usually painful and can be emotionally and sometimes physically abusive. If you’re the son or daughter of a narcissistic parent, you’re more susceptible to falling for one, because they feel familiar – like family. Once attached and in love, it’s not easy to leave. Divorcing a narcissist can be costly not only financially, but emotionally frightening and exhausting. On the other hand, you may feel devastated if you’re rejected and/or replaced.

© DarleneLancer 2018

The Wounded Artist

The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: those who know what beauty is, and those who know what sorrow is: nobody else interests me. – Oscar Wilde (De Profundis )

In the recent past I faced disillusionment as a playwright and creator of therapeutic theater. This experience has been instrumental in understanding the abuse artists are frequently subjected to, the traumatic wounds awakened, and the process of recovery. Essentially when the naivete and idealism of my artist collided with avarice and duplicity, I was challenged to grapple with and move through metabolic stress and bitter cynicism. This process catalyzed critical shifts creatively and emotionally, which consequently infiltrated the therapy sessions I facilitate with a multitude of diverse artists in NYC. Hence, my experience compels me to share about the painful hurdles the artist encounters, and the psychic toll and resultant wounds incurred. Likewise, I also want to identify ways to champion the artist, so that these struggles and wounds can ultimately morph into wisdom, power, and success.

Author of “The Artist’s Way” Julia Cameron, said to create is to surrender and align with a higher will. Cameron expounds that art is a mystical transaction, which unearths within the artist his purest essence. To risk bringing to life ideas of personal beauty and meaning and to bravely share one’s artistic work is to reveal vulnerable aspects of what humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow referred to as the real self.

Yet often we are stymied by our simultaneous quest to actualize ourselves, and the pull towards safety. Our formative experiences influence where we find ourselves on this spectrum of safety and actualization, as do myriad extraneous factors that can discourage the expression of innate creative gifts and obstruct artistic expression. We see this conflict personified in the archetypal reality of the wounded struggling artist.

In NYC artists are often lacking resources to create their work. The cost of real estate, labor and materials, make it exceedingly challenging for artists to thrive. Variable forms of treachery encountered in the dark underbelly of the art world injure the artist’s soul. The rigors of public humiliation, copyright infringement, transitory acclaim, theft of intellectual property, and corporate theft of one’s work where higher ups regularly usurp and take credit for the work of the peon artist are common occurrences. Hence, high-minded goals and creative ambitions are typically dwarfed by these difficult challenges. To survive, working artists may cobble together sundry art related jobs or take on a day job in a completely different sector. Balancing work with familial responsibilities may require relocating and/or giving up on artistic pursuits that require touring or long hours in a studio.

Artistic agency and idealism may need to be subordinated to accommodate those who finance artistic expression. This may take the form of private collectors, angel investors, producers, directors or corporate organizations. Endeavors to exercise entrepreneurial aims may reveal unethical narcissistic motives infiltrating these collaborations. Successfully navigating this complex social and political terrain requires savvy, healthy pride and formidable humility.

However, many artists are not equipped to withstand these challenges. A foundation of healthy narcissism is needed in order to develop the capacity for valuing one’s unique creative gifts and to withstand the onslaught of public scrutiny, duplicity and rejection. If throughout one’s life one is inadequately cared for, rejected and inconsistently supported, it is likely there are narcissistic wounds that hinder one from successfully navigating these difficulties and fully owning and manifesting aspirations. Under these conditions, the injuries incurred by showing or merchandising one’s art can catalyze creative stagnation, blocks, and traumatic enactments rooted in one’s history. Moreover, vulnerable to having revealed personal truths through one’s artistic work, the artist can be swept up by primal needs for admiration and approval. Deep-seated longings to be ‘special’, perhaps to compensate for and master unresolved betrayal and rejection, can set the artist up for a proverbial fall.

Artists who are victims of disordered parents may carry an insidious inescapable shame, which enforces the edict that one’s gifts are a threat, responsible for instigating feelings of resentment, inadequacy and envy. Envied and perceived as a threat the artistic child may be forbidden by the disordered parent to play music, draw, perform, or express his creative gifts in any capacity. Parental prohibitions and shaming of children sends an implicit message about actualizing potentials. Having learned that any indication of happiness, accomplishment or admiration results in contempt and myriad forms of emotional violence, these latent artists may hide in the shadows, having lost sight of their innate endowments or simply too fearful to expose those essential parts of themselves.

Alternatively, unable to tolerate human flaws and thus driven by perfection, the wounded artist may identify with the aggressor and perpetrate the cycle of abuse they endured by deriding and diminishing others. Like their parental abusers they may abide by self-defeating perfectionistic ideals as a defense against perceived inadequacy. While personality disordered parents are notorious for perpetrating continuous sabotage and deprecation, their egomaniacal fixation on status and personae may result in maligning the artistic child for his gifts while concomitantly vicariously exploiting him for narcissistic supply, so as to aggrandize the disordered parent’s stature and self-importance. Henceforth, when these artists have their creative work usurped, repackaged, and exploited with no recognition or accreditation memories of dehumanizing parental abuse are triggered. For the artist who acquires fame, being a narcissistic extension for industry moguls in the guise of caring and admiration and contending with the parasitical demands of a fan base, may replicate the trauma of being objectified and used by narcissistic parents.

Ultimately, in a subconscious effort to master psychological and emotional injuries traumatic patterns will be enacted with those who either embody the traits of one’s parental abusers and/or the scorned victimized child. To break free of these enactments the wounded artist will need to undertake an emotionally and psychologically taxing exploration of a painful history, so as to bring into consciousness destructive patterns and potent projections ignited by comparable dynamics encountered in the art industry. Only then can he mourn his losses and establish a grounded realistic commitment to his efforts to flourish creatively and financially as a professional artist.

Freud contended in his paper ‘On Narcissism’ that primary narcissism is an essential part in normal development and is critical to one’s survival. In order to engender healthy narcissism one needs to be fully seen and understood, be taken seriously, have feelings and needs respected. Self-promotion and actualizing ambitions and mature goals requires healthy narcissism. Likewise healthy narcissism forms a constant, realistic self-interest, principles, and an ability to form deep relationships. By healing core wounds and reclaiming a foundation of healthy narcissism, the artist equipped with a more formidable ego and perspective can more ably contend with the logistics of navigating the vicissitudes of the market and popular culture.

In order for ongoing life affirming choices and changes to prevail the wounded artist will need to modify logistical circumstances. Client centered psychologist Carl Rogers said we should create two conditions for people so that the creative process in therapy can unfold. Rogers conveyed that psychological safety and psychological freedom make room for acceptance, empathy and the room to think, feel and contribute fully. When one is free from judgment and criticism, the energy of inspiration and possibility becomes accessible. Ergo, by breaking free of toxic bonds and harmful collaborations that stifle creative energy the artist can empower himself and prioritize his wellbeing by rebuilding a network of trustworthy colleagues who inspire and encourage ingenuity and partnership so that healthy self esteem and self regard can ensue.

Dr. Robert Firestone wrote, “Personal power is based on strength, confidence, and competence that individuals gradually acquire in the course of their development. It is self-assertion and a natural, healthy striving for love, satisfaction and meaning in one’s interpersonal world.” The professional artist, aligned with his power and hence his birthright for love and fulfillment, will be prompted to protect his work and shield himself from unscrupulous dealings. He will recognize the need to acquire a basic understanding of legal rights and the necessity of procuring legal representation sensitive to the plights of artists when negotiating contracts and selling one’s work. He may come to realize that restoring one’s artistic integrity and authority may require taking legal action with those who exploit ideas and labor.

While protecting one’s work is an act of self-respect and a critical part of upholding one’s artistic integrity and aesthetic, it is also integral to strategic marketing. With renewed vigor the creatively driven energized artist will be galvanized to embrace visibility through sundry channels. Knowing who one is as an artist and how one’s artistic identity coincides with cultural and economic trends will influence the promotion of one’s art.

Branding and developing a viable customer base will require an on line presence through a personal website, social media, diverse online galleries and web publications. This will require crafting a meaningful artist’s statement so as to introduce one’s unique aesthetic and the inspiration and meaning supporting one’s work. Depending on the artist’s medium, garnering commissions, auditions, and assignments may involve artist representation such as agents, publicists, and curators. Additional outlets for merchandising one’s art may include online galleries and promotional sites for musicians and actors. To finance one’s art fiscal sponsorship can assist with fundraising capabilities and grant applications. Artist fellowships, residencies, advanced training/internships, and consistent networking with industry professionals, are also integral to achieving success.

To sum up, surviving the dark descent into historical betrayals, traumas and defeats and the parallel battlefield of promoting one’s art lends itself to cultivating a greater capacity for discernment and discrimination so as to create the space to boldly and fearlessly return to one’s artistic process, and wash away from the soul the dust of every day life (Picasso). A tenacious, dedicated and disciplined commitment to hard work and long hours is an indisputable reality for the artist, but for the artist who has plumbed the depths and sustains the necessary stamina and guts needed to create and promote his art, the rewards are substantial. The emboldened healed artist, able to face core injuries and attain a sensible and balanced outlook, can safely traverse a daunting art industry and fully engage with his gifts from that mystical place of surrender where his creative spirit resides.