During a segment on Channel Ten’s The Project, frontman of the band Shihad Tom Larkin made an attempt at giving those of us struggling with Chris Cornell’s untimely death clarity on the subject by shedding light on it from an artist/ musicicans point of view.
“Music itself attracts people whose way of operating, and their kind of creative gifts, also have another side,” he explained. “It means that they’re more sensitive, and they’re more likely to be overwhelmed, and particularly overwhelmed by aspects of life, that others are more resilient and able to take in their stride, can often knock someone who’s sensitive and creative, right over.
“One of the biggest myths around artistic creativity is the idea that you’ve got to be miserable to tell great stories, or you’ve got to be crazy in order to make great art,” Larkin mused. “The fact remains that it’s not quite true. What happens is that people who are miserable create very little art, it’s only when they get some clarity or some perspective on that misery that they’re able to see something else and see the story that they’ve lived through and then create that art.
“But the bottom line is that most creative people need clarity and health in order to produce great work, and that’s the thing I’d like to see change and come out of this.”
Whilst Larkin made some interesting points about needing to ‘take care’ of the mental health of musicians what Larkin failed to point out, and the really big issue here is HOW exactly do we take care of artists who Larkin dubs as being ‘ sensative’? What Larkin failed to do was to give any way of how we exact change.
What needs to be examined here is the fact that artists see the world more differently to most. And yes, it is true that artists are senstive. However the main point that Larkin missed was this : We need to stop telling creatives that the way they see the world is crazy. The human brain experiences so many emotions, thoughts, feelings, happiness and sadness. However the way an artists processes these normal human emotions is vastly different to the way other people process them. Other people go about their day, talk to their friends, seek counciling etc. But an artists articulates pain by creating art and the deeper the pain, the more extraordinary the art.
We as a society constantly force this unrealistic expectation on people that we constantly need to be happy. That if we’re not happy then we’re clearly not successful. What we don’t allow ourselves is the freedom to just ‘ exist’ with all our normal human emotions.
Instead what we do is lable people as ” depressed”, ” anxious” and “difficult” and we medicate them. We medicate them and make them belive that they MUST be failing as a human if they are not 100% happy all of the time. We medicate them because they don’t fit the box of a “normal” happy person. More often than not medication is the worst possible thing you can do to an artist. Medication numbs these powerful emotions that artists so senativly feel, and that in turn stops the art from being created. The thing about artists is they need to create in order to survive. Take away that abilty to feel and you take away what drives the artist to create- the extreme need to articulate and process how they feel. Art is borne out of a need to express these deep emotions as they more often than not able to be articulated in any other form other than art. Take away the art, and you take away the very soul of an artist.
Many artists suffer from extreme self- doubt, the irrational thought that what they create isn’t good enough. However, a little self doubt is OK- it is part of the creative process of pushing boundaries that makes an artist better at what they do. It makes them strive harder to create better art. The moment any real artists rests on their laurels and thinks ” I’m pretty good” is the moment they stop growing. Any true artist will tell you that its a double edged sword they constantly battle with, and its only validation and adoration from other people liking their art that the balance is finely maintained.
Adding to this already difficult balance of self- doubt and anxiety is the need for society to neatly fit everyone into a box. So what we create is a deadly cocktail of someone who already suffers from self- doubt being told by society that “anxiety” is not normal and therefore must be controlled and medicated.
What we need to do is to allow for the creatives to create without lables, to realise that as humans there are no good or bad emotions, that there is a range of human emotions and its simply OK to feel those. We need to stop labeling anxiety and depression as ‘ bad’ as the more we lable it as ‘ bad’ the more a person struggles to feel ‘ good’ and thus we create an endless struggle of feeling like failures because we’re not 100% happy all of the time.
That not being happy all of the time is perfectly normal and there is nothing wrong with it. Artists are not overwhelmed as such- they’re simply told they’re wrong to feel the way they do. What we need to do, and the change that needs to take place- that Larkin failed to point out is that we need to embrace these creatives for the beautiful and wonderful people they are and the contributions they make.
We need to understand that medication is not the answer and that teaching people that a little misery does not make you crazy- it makes you normal.