[Continued from Part 1]
A disposition to use substances to deal with emotional challenges can start with being prescribed medications.
In the book Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential, Lisa, age 14, talks about being given Valium by a doctor: “Taking pills or smoking a joint helped get me through the day.”
She said gifted kids take drugs “To dull themselves… there is so much of the wrong kind of stimulation going on around you.”
For creative and talented people, there is a lot going on inside, too.
Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., head of the Gifted Development Center in Denver, notes in one of her articles, “Creatively gifted children and adults are emotionally intense and have rich inner lives.
“An enhanced capacity for feeling is essential to the production of great art, moving music, high drama, memorable prose and poetry, exquisite performances.
“It is natural for the gifted to feel deeply and to experience a broad range of emotions.”
One of many responses from other artists to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman:
“For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much.” Jim Carrey on Twitter.
Kazimierz Dabrowski, MD, PhD (1902-1980), a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, developed a personality theory that many current researchers and educators use to help understand highly talented people.
He noted that many gifted and talented people – including actors, of course – may experience ”increased mental excitability, depressions, dissatisfaction with oneself, feelings of inferiority and guilt, states of anxiety, inhibitions, and ambivalences – all symptoms which the psychiatrist tends to label psychoneurotic.” The more popular term now may be simply “crazy.”
Maybe a key reason so many intense and sensitive people self-medicate is to “dampen” their internal emotional and cognitive intensity, along with the external condemnations resulting from their “symptoms” that psychologist Dabrowski and others say can indicate a capacity for achieving higher levels of personal development.
Successfully dealing with addiction can be valuable in many ways.
Richard Lewis commented in his memoir, “I have been sober for almost eight years and my life is a billion percent better. Now I don’t have the craving for alcohol, I have the craving for clarity and life.
“It’s so much easier now to let the universe take care of itself without thinking like I used to, that I had something to do with it.”
But getting there may not be easy.
Melanie Griffith has said, “Facing my addiction was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life.”
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Lynda Carter – famous as the star of “Wonder Woman” – has talked about her years of addiction to alcohol as a “genetic predisposition that sort of grabbed hold of me.
“It was like staring into a deep, dark hole that I thought no one would understand or still love me if I ever admitted it – or (if) the public ever knew about this very shameful part of my life.
“My family suffered… and I was very good at hiding my problem.”
In June 2008, Carter said in an interview for People magazine that she had entered a rehabilitation clinic for treatment of alcoholism and had been sober for 10 years.
Now a singer, she released her third album, “Crazy Little Things” in 2011.
video: Lynda Carter talks about her past battle with alcoholism.
From page on AddictionInfo.org (‘Alternatives to 12-Step Treatment’):
Actress Lynda Carter Opens up About Struggle with Alcoholism.
Ewan McGregor also has talked about shame: “I think drinking and being out of control narrows your options in front of the camera. I was just ashamed of myself, really. None of my directors ever said: ‘I’d rather you didn’t drink at work.’ And they must have known. Originally, I was a happy drunk. But later I was miserable because it’s a depressant.”
Jamie Lee Curtis talks about learning to take better care of herself and her feelings: “After five years in recovery I’m getting better at setting limits. I used to hide my resentments in drugs and alcohol.
“Now I’ve had to figure out other ways to handle them… now I know that to care for myself I must set limits.”
From the book Positive Energy by Judith Orloff M.D. In her newer book Emotional Freedom, she includes information and strategies for creative people to deal with anxiety and overwhelm.
Also see post: Judith Orloff, MD on helping actors deal with anxiety.
Drew Barrymore, who was infamously abusing drugs and alcohol as a teen, has said of her rehab experience: “How do we not hurt ourselves? How do we not hurt those around us? When I came out of there, I felt so full of wisdom, so peaceful.”
Her famed ancestor John Barrymore (1882-1942) apparently thought of alcohol as part of his “process” as an actor: “There are lots of methods. Mine involves a lot of talent, a glass and some cracked ice.”
Drug use and abuse by actors (and other people) is of course not new.
For example, the article Cocaine: A Short History, by the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, says “Notable figures who promoted the ‘miraculous’ effects of cocaine tonics and elixirs included inventor Thomas Edison and actress Sarah Bernhardt.
“The drug became popular in the silent film industry and the pro-cocaine messages coming out of Hollywood at that time influenced millions.”
[The photo of Sarah Bernhardt is from the post Creative People Shouldn’t ‘Tone It Down’]
Your attitude about using/abusing can be critical to what you do, or don’t do about it.
Brett Butler once said, “I still do basically think of… addiction as a disease if someone else has it – and if I have it, it’s a moral failing. I have to try really hard to be as understanding about myself as someone else. It was either that or I’m dumber than a dog… I lost a lot and created a great deal of wreckage and don’t have anybody to blame for myself.”
Creative expression like acting can help many people – whether professional artists or not – deal with at least some of the mental health challenges underlying addiction or unhealthy habits. But at some point, more help from outside may be valuable. Even life-saving.
Eric Maisel, Ph.D., a therapist and creativity coach, wrote his book Creative Recovery to offer “a complete addiction recovery program specifically designed for the creative person.”
Reviews of the book include this: “As lifelong musicians and radio hosts who have interviewed hundreds of singer-songwriters, we know firsthand what havoc addiction plays in the lives of creative people—and how beautifully Creative Recovery will serve musicians and other artists looking for a recovery program tailored to their special needs.”—Vivian Nesbitt and John Dillon, producers and hosts, Art of the Song Creativity Radio.
Addiction psychologist Marc F. Kern, Ph.D., quoted earlier, has other resources: He is co-athor of the book “Responsible Drinking: A Moderation Management Approach for Problem Drinkers,” and the book Take Control Now! – about breaking bad habits. He provides cognitive behavioral, science-based information and alternative (non-12 step) treatment for self-destructive or unhealthy behaviors on his site HabitDoc.
Along with a number of other psychologists and addiction experts, he points out that much of the language around drug and alcohol use can be distorting, and tied to the idea of behavioral problems being a “disease.” The American Psychiatric Association, author of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, has decided not to use the disease term “alcoholism” and refers instead to alcohol abuse and dependence.
Anne Hathaway has talked about why avoiding drugs and alcohol makes sense for an actor. [Article on contactmusic.com]
She has commented that she may sometimes do “terrible things” that could make for sensational media stories, but has “very discreet friends.”
But, she notes, “I had an experience at college where I was at a party and people were passing cocaine around, and I looked at it and thought, that’s not a horse I can ride, I’m never going to do that. So I passed the tray along and left the room.
“Being an actress is hard enough without complicating it with drugs.”
For many of us, using and abusing alcohol, nicotine and other drugs, or taking substances, or engaging in behaviors (such as eating compulsively or not eating; overworking; over-exercising; sex) is not a simple “choice” but a complex response, driven by many inner and outer conditions.
But we do have the choice to get help, as I did about 30 years ago for cocaine addiction (with a therapist using CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). One of the best things I have ever done for myself. Self-care is probably an issue for many people; see the link below to my article “Self Care For Your Creative Life.”
If you need help, get it in whatever way works for you.
A final quote: Colin Farrell said he is finding that he is more creative being sober and happy.
“I was terrified that whatever my capacity was as an actor would disappear when I got sober,” he admitted.
“I ascribed to the notion that to express yourself as an artist, you have to live in perpetual pain.
“And that’s nonsense.”
From my article Pain and suffering and developing creativity [includes short video with him]
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After 75 Years of Alcoholics Anonymous, It’s Time to Admit We Have a Problem By Maia Szalavitz, Pacific Standard, February 10, 2014.
Maia Szalavitz is a health writer for TIME.com and the author of the forthcoming book Unbroken Brain: A New Way to Think About Addiction and Other Compulsive Behaviors.
Alcohol And Drugs ‘Stifle Artistic Creativity’ by Medical News Today
The idea that alcohol and drugs can stimulate artists, writers and musicians to create great works of art is a “dangerous myth” and can actually stifle creativity, a psychiatrist said.
Acting careers – Limiting yourself with drugs – In a Back Stage article, Ryan Thomas explains some of the other personal and career influences that can actively encourage or enable use. “Alcohol and drugs have long been a part of social networking within the entertainment industry. Camaraderie among showbiz types is often manifested at bars or at cast or wrap parties. Indeed, some maintain it’s that prevalence of booze and drugs that can help get performers started in the first place. Even at work. Especially at work.”
“For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much.” Jim Carrey on Twitter.
From article: Stars young and old reflect on Hoffman’s death.
The Disease Model of Addiction – Philosophy of addiction By David Clark. “The disease model assumes that the impaired control and craving are irreversible. There is no cure for alcoholism and drug addiction; they can only be arrested. The alcoholic or addict must maintain a total and lifelong abstinence from all mind-altering drugs, except nicotine and caffeine… Opponents of the model point out that the disease model can lead to people avoiding self-responsibility, believing that the disease must be attended to by experts, rather than the changes come from within (albeit with help from others). Opponents also point out that being labelled as an alcoholic or addict for a life-time, and spending a lot of time with other alcoholics and addicts, does not help the person attain a fully balanced lifestyle and re-integration back into society.”
Gifted, Talented, Addicted – Among the many artists who have used drugs, alcohol or other substances are Aldous Huxley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edgar Allen Poe, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Allen Ginsberg, composers Beethoven and Modest Musorgski, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams. and many other people with exceptional abilities. They have used drugs and alcohol as self-medication to ease the pain of sensitivity, or as a way to enhance thinking and creativity. Sometimes they risk addiction.
Addiction and Creative People | Developing Multiple Talents – This is not just about drug use and abuse – there are many forms of self-limiting addictive behavior that can interfere with realizing our creative and other talents.
Ellen Langer on Mindfulness & Addiction By George Hofmann – “Langer’s comments about aging, education, creativity, and work are original and thought-provoking, with little mention of meditation. I’d like to point out some ideas Langer brings to the treatment of substance abuse, because I believe her mindfulness approach can help people who grapple with addiction.”
Self Care For Your Creative Life – Why bother with self care? Aren’t we busy enough just trying to keep up with complex lives and be creative and successful? “The more you become your own best champion, supporter, cheerleader, and trusted confidant, the better able you’ll be to fully and joyfully express your blessed creativity. That’s when your art becomes more and more successful in the world. It begins with treating yourself with love, respect, kindness, and compassion.” Cheryl Richardson
Creative Recovery: A Complete Addiction Treatment Program That Uses Your Natural Creativity, by Eric Maisel, Susan Raeburn. “For writers, artists, musicians, and creators in every field, this book offers a complete addiction recovery program specifically designed for the creative person. Full of explanations and exercises, this book presents ways to use your own innate creative abilities in service of your recovery and at each stage of the recovery process.” [Amazon summary]
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“Creating art has always been a way to channel emotional intensity…Finding ways to maintain that optimal zone where we are neither under- or over-stimulated allows us to use our minds to respond rather than to react. The greater access you maintain to yourself, the richer and broader your array of creative tools.” Psychologist Cheryl Arutt, on the page: Emotional Health Resources
Article publié pour la première fois le 08/05/2015