People often ask why “artistic types” seem more susceptible to addiction than the average Jane. I believe the answer lies in the fact that people with “genius,” defined as “having exceptional intellectual or creative ability,” have a much thinner veil between their individual psyches and the Collective Unconscious. *I think it is also important to note that I truly believe all people have genius of some sort. The difference with people who identify as artists is simply that they are aware of their genius/gift/talent. Those who feel they have nothing artistic to give are usually disconnected from their abilities or have yet to uncover them. This disconnection usually stems from fear of inflation, trauma, or ignorance; but that is another blog.
This “easier access” artists have to the mysterious Unconscious can be illustrated by looking at how art is produced: images and symbols flow through the artist and manifest in form. We often speak of an artist as a medium and refer to his or her talent as a “gift.” A gift means it is something given to them, through something else; in general, there exists in most of us a belief in something greater than simply the power or will of an individual. That “something greater” might be a belief in the power of science and biology, The Universe, God, or The Self (capital “S” indicating the “higher Self” or inner wisdom). Its importance lies in the fact that it is the belief in Something More that allows many addicts the ability to recover. Therefore, if this gift of genius is not channeled in a productive, healthy way, it will seek expression in an unhealthy form. Why? Because genius just needs to express. It does not know the difference between healthy and unhealthy expression. This is why a gift is often referred to as a curse and vice versa. (In fact, it is the ego’s job to discern how to use genius and this is precisely why developing a strong ego – an ego capable of serving a person’s deepest core values – is so vital to having a fulfilling life.) Thus, if genius is stifled, it will find a way – any way – to come out.
Let’s take the archetypal example of “The Crazy Art-eest.” We all know this person. We see him or her in history books, films, myths, and quite regularly in the Entertainment Industry: Van Gogh and his ear! Amy Winehouse and her heroin. Albert Einstein and his cocaine. Kurt Cobain and his depression, drugs etc. The list is endless. In each example, we can see the two sides of genius: when it is channeled productively, we get a glorious painting or soul-warming song; when it becomes too much, we get insanity in various forms. These people were thisclose to The Unconscious. These artists see symbols and images and create masterpieces from them; at the same time, they also suffer the agony of being in such close proximity to something so powerful. They often get inundated with ideas, some which become manifest and others which, for natural human limits’ sake, cannot be. How an artist handles his or her creative daemon will determine whether the creativity is a helpful “spiritual daemon” the way in which Socrates referred to it; or whether it becomes an actual demon – something that claws at the heart and soul, begging expression. If the artist herself becomes too overwhelmed, frustrated, afraid, inundated or whatever – she may rebel or shut down; in other words, stifle the creative flow. This shutting down, if not done consciously, will eventually kill her. What do I mean by shutting down consciously? Examples of consciously switching the “off” button may include meditation, yoga, exercise, writing, seeing a movie or other healthy forms of release. Unconscious shutting down or rebelling is usually more reactive (thus less conscious) and is often what propels creative types to “check out” through using their substance-of-choice and numbing the influx of creativity which washes over them. Much of the work of the addict/artist is learning how to manage these unpredictable energies.
Through this lens, we can see why Creative Types would have more trouble with addiction – they have a higher libido, are closer to the edge of the great abyss; often, they feel in a very deep, unique way. It also appears that the more genius and ability a person is gifted with, the harder it is to tame the flood of art that flows through the artist.
So, in the end, are “Creative-Type-Addicts” all that different from the “General Addict?” It is my bias that they may have more work to do than non-creative types (or people who have not found their gifts), since they seem to have more “coming at them.” They may have to find more outlets, and use them more often. Creative Type Addicts are forced through their gift to relate to the messages they receive from it on a regular basis, and it can be very tiring, drawing up feelings of resentment or exasperation. That said, the work all addicts have to do in order to recover is pretty – ahem – sobering.
One thing I do know: each of us has within us the ability to heal. Not just addicts. Everyone. Most of us need a little help to do it (and even more of us hate admitting that), but we all need to be healed in one way or another. There is a strength that resides within us that is profound. Those who feel weakest are often the strongest of all – but this strength will only be discovered when we can turn inward and face what we fear; when we can understand that there is gold hidden in the pain that is ours for the taking. When that is accomplished – and it is no easy, quick task – we will truly be transformed.
And, finally, if you are an addict reading this and think there is no hope – I would tell you that hope is the fire in your heart that drew you to read this…and my wish for you is that you find what that Next Right Step is for you. And, with courage in your heart, that you take it.