“So many good things have happened to me because of how unhealthy I’ve been mentally.”
The photo shows Judd Apatow directing his wife, Leslie Mann, on the set of “Knocked Up,” which he also produced and wrote. Other credits include “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” and the acclaimed “Freaks and Geeks” TV series.
In an article, the prolific filmmaker admits, “Throughout my life I have used work as an emotional crutch. I used to always feel inadequate in every area except my ability to work hard enough to succeed in comedy.”
[Judd Apatow’s Family Values, By Stephen Rodrick, New York Times, May 27, 2007]
But, he added, “The thing about comedy is that there’s something really great about making a room of people laugh. But there’s also something really sick about needing to make strangers laugh.”
He said making “Knocked Up” was “all about trying to send a valentine to my family,” and he has eight more films in development.
“So many good things have happened to me because of how unhealthy I’ve been mentally,” Apatow said. “It’s unfair to [my family] that this thing I do that is a result of me being in pain is now going so well it’s trying to pull me away from them.”
Many other artists report this kind of ambivalence toward their work, while acknowledging the power of creative expression to heal or at least help encourage mental health.
Susan Borkin, in her book When Your Heart Speaks, Take Good Notes: The Healing Power of Writing, says, “When we use writing as a tool for awareness and healing, we find the outcome, the written word, to be useful, but frequently not as useful as the process of writing itself.
“Personal writing of this nature is intentional writing. Its deepest intention is to heal. Like water flowing, effortlessly finding its way around and through obstacles, the healing power of writing uses words effortlessly to to transform pain, confusion and internal chaos.”
[From the page Nurturing mental health: writing.]
Clinical and forensic psychologist, Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D. thinks “Creativity is one of humankind’s healthiest inclinations, one of our greatest attributes.”
As he explains in his book, “Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity,” our impulse to be creative “can be understood to some degree as the subjective struggle to give form, structure and constructive expression to inner and outer chaos and conflict.
“It can also be one of the most dynamic methods of meeting and redeeming one’s devils and demons.”
Read more in my interview with him: The Psychology of Creativity: redeeming our inner demons.
Using art to access and express our complex inner lives can help us be more aware and alive – and help others understand more about their own depths as well.
Psychologist James Hillman says “Active imagination aims not at silence but at speech, not at stillness but at story or theatre or conversation.
“It emphasizes the importance of the word, and thus the word becomes a way of ‘relating,’ an instrument of feeling.” [From his book Healing Fiction.]
Our “inner chaos” takes many forms, and has different sources and levels of impact for each of us. See quotes by and about many well-known artists such as Sarah Polley, Halle Berry, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonathan Safran Foer and many others, in my article Creative People, Trauma and Mental Health.