Alanis Morissette: Channeling rage and finding joy in creativity

“I have full PTSD that I’m still working on. I’ve done hours of therapy to process everything.”

Alanis Morissette, about dealing with the fame and responses to her album Jagged Little Pill.

She comments in the same article about some of the themes of her new album, Havoc and Bright Lights: “There are many ways to get away from feeling things, and usually they’re addictive.

“The song‚ ‘Havoc’ is about the recovery journey from those addictions and about falling off that recovery, and ‘Numb’ is about the reasons behind my reaching for the drug of choice, whether it’s a substance or a person. I’m curious about the bravery [it takes] to heal and grow.”

[Which song do you never get tired of performing?]

Morissette replies: “You Oughta Know.” It’s a great vehicle to channel through any rage or pent-up energy from that day.”

[Is it frustrating that some people still think of you as “angry Alanis” because of that song?]

“It’s a joke to think that anyone is one thing. We’re all such complex creatures. But if I’m going to be a poster child for anything, anger’s a gorgeous emotion. It gets a bad rap, but it can make great changes happen.”

From Alanis Morissette on Baby Brain and Why Anger’s a Good Thing by Shawna Malcom,, August 26, 2012.

In another interview, she comments about the ambiguity many artists feel at times about their work:

“I live for having the larger conversations that are spawned by the content of the songs. That’s what I’m here to do, whether I like it or not.”

Referring to one of the main themes of her song “Guardian” on her new album, she says it concerns “the degree of healing that is available with commitment and intimacy — whether it’s marriage or babies or commitment to friends who I imagine growing old with and dying at 108 together…. I’m terrified of intimacy, but I’m obsessed with wholeness.”

She recalls the mixture of reactions to “Jagged Little Pill” (1995) that has caused her such turmoil and “PTSD”:

“In the ’90s, it wasn’t so much a sisterhood climate. Whereas today there is more of a mutual appreciation, parity and support. That wasn’t the case 15 years ago. My intention was not to vilify men. My intention was to be authentic. So I had a lot of people hating me. I had chauvinistic women hating me, and it was hard.”

From article: Alanis Morissette nurtures ‘Havoc and Bright Lights’ by Steve Appleford, Los Angeles Times August 27, 2012.

Channeling intensity

Psychologist Cheryl Arutt notes: “Creating art has always been a way to channel emotional intensity…If you are an artist, you are your instrument. The greater access you maintain to yourself, the richer and broader your array of creative tools.”

From post: Affect Regulation and the Creative Artist.

Dealing with intensity can be a challenge for many high ability people, especially if they don’t have an effective outlet like performing or other form of creative expression.

Psychologist Belinda Seiger, PhD notes “Many gifted adults learn how to ‘numb and dumb’ their passion and sensitivity by smoking pot.”

From post Weed Girl – numbing her “rage to achieve”


An article noted, ‘While on tour to promote her platinum album, Jagged Little Pill [in 1995, at about age 21], Morissette began to feel helpless.

“Schedule-wise, my health and peace of mind weren’t a priority,” she told reporters.

“There had been this dissonance in the midst of all the external success,” she added. “Because on the one hand, I was expected to be overjoyed by it, and at the same time I was disillusioned by it.”

‘To combat her depression, Morissette traveled to India and Cuba, read, competed in triathlons and reconnected with friendships that she had let lapse. Feeling better within a year, she went on to produce a second hit album.’

From article Celebrity Meltdown – famous, important people who have suffered depression [Psychology Today mag. Nov 1999.]

In another article, Morissette commented:

“Having been so freaked out about my bouts of depression and everything that I’ve experienced, I’ve actively sought out different ways to turn to my innate joy.

“There’s been many different workshops and books and journaling and artistic expression that I’ve done…” [ Mar 24, 2005]

Related material:

Morissette’s feeling “disillusioned” sounds like the kind of “crisis of meaning” discussed in the book The Van Gogh Blues by Eric Maisel, PhD.

Post: Depression and creative people – managing depression releases more creativity

See more posts and resources on my site Depression and Creativity.

Post: Healing and art: Dealing with anger and other demons — In her article Impotent Rage [O, The Oprah Magazine, Oct 2004], Martha Beck writes, “If you’re constantly trying to let go of pent-up rage, you’ve probably spent decades letting your fear convince you to act as if you feel no anger. It’s time to let your anger persuade you to act as if you have no fear. The first step to being free from impotent anger is to let it tell its whole story, complete with expletives and the occasional chest-thumping roar… A therapist or laid-back friend can be a good sounding board. Because this is asking a lot, I often prefer writing about my anger.”

Photos from

Alanis Morissette’s new album: Havoc and Bright Lights

Originally posted 2012-08-27 22:31:18.


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