“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“The excessive increase of anything causes a reaction in the opposite direction.” ~ Plato
Bad news: We are in the midst of more worldwide depression and excessivenessism (purposely exaggerated) than we’ve ever known in our lifetimes. Could they be related?
From the World Health Organization: “Depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 350 million people affected.”
Yes, depression is occurring at an epidemic level, yet there is very little being done to prevent or treat it effectively.
Now…take a deep breath in, and then slowly exhale, and give your brain some calmness.
When we turn our open eyes towards the reckless-impulsive and habitual-compulsive dynamics of excessiveness, we see the obvious dilemmas:
- Many of us are secretly eating ourselves into obesity.
- Others are covertly gambling and spending ourselves into bankruptcy.
- Or we are stealthily drinking ourselves into alcoholism.
- And some of us are blindly marrying ourselves into domestic violence and divorce.
Harsh, yes, but these are the realities of today’s world.
Our “bigger, better, faster, more, now” cultural tagline is driving us to become obsessed with more and more compulsive and impulsive activities.
Take another deep breath in, and again, slowly exhale.
BUT, here’s some great news: Each of us has within us an innate ability to uniquely create and distinctively express ourselves in healthy and therapeutic ways that prevent depressive states and excessive behaviors.
Consider the creative lives of many well-known musicians, poets, artists and authors, and think about how much of their artistic expression came from pain and loss. Here are but a few familiar names:
- Woody Allen
- Hans Christian Andersen
- William Blake
- Agatha Christie
- Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
- Edgar Degas
- Charles Dickens
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- T.S. Eliot
- Vincent van Gogh
- Ernest Hemingway
- Janet Jackson
Somehow, each of these unique creators harnessed the pain of their depression and existential angst to empower their expressive abilities.
Further, there are numerous fully accredited art therapies. Although the evidence-based research is shallow, art therapists universally agree that art therapy is effective in treating and preventing numerous emotional and addictive disorders.
In the realm of excessiveness, the term “addiction” can often be substituted. Although many people don’t think beyond drugs or alcohol in terms of addiction, there are countless other substance and behavioral addictions that are as, and even more, destructive collectively than drugs and alcohol.
Creative expression soundly redirects the inner hidden angst that drives the addictive impulse, craving and urge.
As a thirty-year veteran of education, prevention and treatment in the mental health and addiction fields, I can attest to the marvel of creative and expressive therapies I’ve witnessed with a variety of different maladies. From an elderly Alzheimer’s affected psychiatric patient, smiling for the first time in years when she hears the sound of a familiar song, to a chronic heroin addict staying clean and discovering a sense of self-esteem with the help of his newfound talent of pencil sketching.
Expressing one’s self creatively will always be one of the most natural forms of happy, healthy and sober people.
And for corporate types, when it comes to cohesive building for a leadership team, there are few activities more productive than having everyone get on the floor with magazines, scissors and glue, and collectively make a collage of the company’s values, mission and purpose.
Sing, dance, write, draw or photograph yourself into a happier, healthier and, most likely, wealthier place and space for your life.
In the meantime, I think I’ll work on another piece of writing for a future blog post, and then go out for a nature walk later with my camera in hand to see what soulful synchronistic gifts of nature will cross my path. Who knows, maybe I’ll even do a little singing and dancing during the usual monotony of washing the dishes tonight.
One thing is for sure: You can’t overdose on creative expression.