Why Are Artists Tortured?

Okay, not all artists are tortured. Not all artists fit into the image we have in our heads of Van Gogh who suffered in dark depression as thick as wet concrete and cut off his own ear. But you have to admit, there are a good number of creative souls who fall into this category. Why is it that rock stars and actors and writers show up in the news for having behaved in any number of self-destructive behaviors? Suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, jail time, rehab. I’ve long believed there is a connection between artistic genius and pain. Not the type of pain you get from a broken bone, but the type of pain that comes from depression and anxiety. What are your thoughts on this? Please join the conversation in the comments below.

I’ve read many articles about how fame destroyed a person — they just couldn’t handle the pressure of fame and the lack of privacy, blah blah blah. I’m open to this, but I honestly don’t think that fame, in itself, is the mechanism that brings the self-destruction. If fame is labeled as the problem that pushed the person over the edge, surely there is a deeper issue. Think about it. Lots of people have MUCH worse stress-triggers than being so famous you can’t set foot in Publix without being mobbed.

Let’s say a person has managed to make their rock star dream come true, but deep down inside they have a large lack of true self-confidence. Their self-esteem comes strictly from other people’s opinions of them. Their self-esteem and self-confidence is propped up by the opinions of others and they have no authentic “self” to rely on for the truth. I can see how fame would not only NOT help them grow and become authentic and self-loving, but fame would highlight the fact that their true self is merely a shell. And if and when they realize that they don’t have an authentic self, that pain is the pain that would cause the person to implode and feel so bad they just don’t think they can handle life anymore. That pain, in the form of depression and/or anxiety would be so intense, the person would resort to self-medicating to escape the searing pain. That pain would be so intense, he or she would try to medicate it with whiskey, wine, pain pills, or donuts. Although the person might not even be aware of it consciously, on a deeper level, the little critic in their head might be wagging a finger and saying, “You really suck at this music thing. These people worship you, but they don’t know what they’re talking about. You are a fake. You’ll never be good enough and you’ll never feel good.” That type of critical voice or critical thought process would be enough to cause anyone to want to make it stop. We see it all the time: people self-medicating (and, poorly, I might add) with beer, new clothes they can’t afford, sex, binge eating, narcotics, etc. Blaming someone’s self-destructive behavior on the blanket culprit “Fame” seems like a cop-out to me. What are your thoughts? I’m intrigued by the connection between artists and addiction.

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