Are Creative People More Apt to be Addicts?
Hi, Dr. Maisel, I have the sense that as a creative person I’m at greater risk than the next person to fall prey to an addiction. Is there some truth to my worry? Ronald L., Ft. Worth
Yes, you are absolutely right.
The short story “The Bound Man,” by the German author Ilse Aichinger, is a beautiful piece in the existential tradition. It goes as follows. A man awakens one morning to find himself inexplicably bound by rope. Instead of removing the rope at his first opportunity, as we might expect him to do, he decides to remain bound and to become a circus attraction, turning his accidental bondage into his trademark work.
How strange! Why would a person happily accept such bondage? It is similar to the question that Franz Kafka poses in “The Hunger Artist,” where a man, who also chooses to become a circus attraction, starves himself to death because he can’t find food that interests him. These authors ask variations of the following vital question: “Why do people carelessly, inexplicably, and even happily do things that harm them so much?”
One of the things that people do that harms them, but that they nevertheless hold on to as if they were benefiting from it, is to get addicted and to stay addicted. Not for anything can you pry them away from their alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, Internet surfing, video-game playing, overeating, shopping, or sexual escapades. Tell them that they are dying: no matter. Tell them that they are wasting half their life in front of a computer screen or in the aisles of department stores: no matter. Remind them that they can’t have love or a real life if they use sex as a drug: no matter. Point out that their liver is already not functioning, that their nasal lining is already perforated, or that their lungs are already black: no matter. What you experience as you talk to an addicted individual is that he or she is completely indifferent to your good arguments.