By: Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC
Those who are involved in the arts are known to be emotional and often moody individuals. Whether it is music, drama, comedy, painting/sculpting, or writing the arts require the ability to reach deep into one’s soul to emote in their work to evoke the emotions of the reader, viewer, or listener. They want to convey their happiness, joy, sadness and despair that may exist in the roles they play, the stories they write or tell, or the artwork they create.
The “high” received from the artist is their audience’s reaction and acceptance of their work. The artist thrives on acceptance, appreciation, and respect for all that they do. Appreciation and respect are genetic needs that we all have that fulfill our need to acquire happiness. Some require it more than others. The artist who receives positive feedback is rewarded with a rush of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter that occurs when given appreciation for their work. It’s like a shot of adrenaline and a high that is not easily described.
If given psych-evaluations, the majority of both successful and starving artists would be diagnosed as “Bipolar” due to their many ups and downs. They thrive on their emotions and a common phrase used to describe them is often, “He wears his heart on his sleeve.” If not getting their “high” dose of acceptance, they often settle down to either an uncomfortable middle ground or even a depressed state of mine. When one does not receive a steady dose of the creative high, they often rely on such drugs as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, and alcohol to substitute for the void. All one need do is look at the list of those in the arts who have a history of addiction or died due to drug overdose or alcoholism.
Creativity is the life source of all the arts as well as happiness. Without it, there would be no performance worth any note to the viewer, reader, or listener. The audience wants to be moved emotionally and they get their high from the ability of the artist to deliver it to them. The artist does all the work and the audience is the benefactor if the artist is successful. The more the audience is moved, the more the artist is emotionally rewarded that culminates into a symbiotic relationship. The artist constantly needs to be” “working” or creating in order to satisfy his need for acceptance, appreciation, and respect. When not performing or creating, they often become very unhappy and feel something is lacking. It’s an addiction and even the greatest acceptance never seems to be enough.
One of the worst things that can happen to a creative artist is to put them on psych medications. These drugs have no curative powers but do have the distinct ability to destroy or cease the creative process of the brain. The result is even deeper depression than they had before taking the medication which can and often does lead to suicide. While not every artist who died from suicide was on psychotropic medication, many were relying on other drugs or alcohol to deal with their unhappiness. Added to this is the fact that all long term emotional problems are relationship problems with the important people in their lives and is something that is happening in the present. The relationship problem may also easily be their unhappiness with themselves.
Even when one has the respect, acceptance, and admiration of the world, it can be a very lonely place for an artist if he doesn’t have these things from those who are the most important people in his life.