How does trauma and other challenging life experiences impact creative people, and how can creative expression help them deal with it?
Most of us experience some kind of trauma in life, and a number of well-known people have talked about having these kinds of experiences.
Acclaimed actor Patrick Stewart is one of many artists who have been deeply impacted by trauma in early life.
An interview article notes he “was for decades a man plagued by fear and stifled by rage. The roots of his struggle go back to a difficult childhood, marked by poverty and abuse that took him years to understand.”
“I have been inclined to be solitary in huge chunks of my life,” says Stewart. “I don’t think that’s a good thing anymore. I think the interaction of being with people, especially people you like, is very important for keeping you sharp, alert, active, connected.”
He notes that when he returned from military service, his father became “a weekend alcoholic who beat up my mother and terrorized the house. For years I thought of him as the enemy.”
Stewart was cast in a school play at age 12, and says he “found the stage a very safe place to be…Because of the chaos in my life, I loved the certainty – and the opportunity to become somebody else and not myself.”
When he was offered the role of the “brutally savage” Leontes in a Shakespeare play in the 1980s, Stewart initially turned it down.
“For years a part of my acting suffered because I was not prepared to embrace rage. I said I couldn’t do it.”
But after encouragement from a director, he said, “I realized I could use those feelings and not only would nothing bad happen, but quite good things might happen.”
He has also learned his father’s violence was based in part on his own traumatic experiences in war and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), called shell shock at the time.
He has become an active supporter and patron of Refuge, a safe house in England for women and children, and Combat Stress, a British charity that supports veterans struggling with mental health problems.
Quotes are from article: Finding a Light in the Darkness By Meg Grant, AARP The Magazine, April/May 2014.
See links to that article and the charity sites, plus more quotes by Patrick Stewart and many other people who have experienced rape, physical abuse and other experiences – including Alice Sebold, Allison Anders, SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), Halle Berry, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonathan Safran Foer and many others, in my article:
Mastering stress and anxiety – a collection of articles, programs and other resources.