Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
My cousin Donna is a painter and seems to have applied her artistry to her own view of herself as well. As she explains it: ” I suffer from a philosophical melancholy and yearn for the world of perfection that I strive for in my work.” I think this is a way of romanticizing what is really just a sense of entitlement. I don’t know what she expects. She has never wanted for anything; maybe that’s the problem.
My family had very little money when I was growing up and I just sort of expect to make do with whatever I find. Perhaps you could call me a sidewalk shopper, compared to a woman with a platinum card out for a day on Rodeo Drive.
Now Donna thinks she needs therapy for her moods. What are they going to do, put her on an antidepressant because she has “philosophical melancholia?”
An antidepressant alone isn’t the answer for your cousin. However, given the nature of insurance, if that is what she asks for, that might be all she will get.
Your cousin seems to be a self-imposed perfectionist. These people are often very black and white, all or nothing. A client of mine with similar thinking said she was a pessimist because optimism is a delusion. She doesn’t understand that pessimism is a delusion as well. Optimism and pessimism are both black and white thinking.
Perfectionism is all about control. Perfectionists impose themselves on reality and often on everyone else as well. They don’t understand that so-called “imperfections” are what make everything and everyone unique.
The play RED is about artist Mark Rothko. He was a perfectionist and all about control. I sense that his impressionistic vivid colors contained in geometric shapes/boxes were probably his attempt to control a bipolar disorder and extreme emotional sensitivity via his art.
I agree with what you said: “ romanticizing what is really just a sense of entitlement.” That is one way of looking at it. Therapy might help your cousin if it focuses on concrete skills acquisition (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) rather than just talking about what she thinks or feels. For her these ideas aren’t grounded in reality so focusing on them won’t change anything. On the other hand, learning to how to self-regulate will make a huge impact on the quality of her life and possibly might expand the nature of her art as well.
A balanced life is a mix of impressionism and realism. Artists who have only been able to see one side of life have often been very unhealthy. Rothko’s art, although a valid attempt to create balance, failed him in the end- probably because he treated himself and didn’t fully understand what was going on. He eventually killed himself.
Your cousin, whether from nature or nurture, can’t use your more flexible and imaginative building approach to life. Hopefully with the help of a good councilor she might gain some of that ability.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: Your cousin may well be romanticizing the pain of her inner yearning, but I am not so quick to write it off completely as something so shallow as a sense of entitlement.
All sentient beings on earth are suffering. I do have to say though that I think that artists in every discipline and media tend to be more sensitive than most. It’s part of what makes them artists- they perceive more intensely and react beyond mere acknowledgement. The expression of feelings is behind their drive to create. It can be unsettling to have all those emotions running around inside with nowhere to go.
People who deal with life more matter of faculty tend to sneer at artists. This is natural- it’s like the tendency of those who fall asleep and snore like logs to sneer at those with insomnia…or the tendency of those with money to judge those who can’t pay their bills. If you haven’t had the experience, it is easy to judge.
However, all that being said, I have this advice for your cousin- if she can’t figure out how to deal with her feelings, she is going to spend the rest of her life making mountains out of molehills and being sneered at by people with no imagination. She may also end up medicated, which will mute her feelings to the point where she has no desire to express anything at all.
We all have to play the hands we were dealt. If we had a choice, things might be different. But we don’t. Life is full of unpleasant things; otherwise we wouldn’t know what happiness was when we saw it. I hope your cousin doesn’t end up in some quack’s office who has an itchy prescription pen. It is better to feel, and be ripped apart by something that matters, than never to have felt at all.