Anyone here into learning about cults? I know it isn’t just me. I listen to podcasts, watch TV shows/documentaries, and read about cults in my spare time. I’ve never been in a cult, but I’ve been in a cult-like situation* so I find my hobby to be very cathartic (as well as fascinating).
Robert Jay Lifton is a psychologist and renowned writer who wrote about thought reform. He came up with 8 criteria that describe how someone may manipulate someone’s mind and change the way someone thinks. Mystical manipulation is one of these. The term refers to the way someone (such as a cult leader) will claim that coincidences and other events were in fact examples of their power. If I were to draw a picture of you perfectly with my eyes closed, and then claim that it was my God-given power of true sight that made it possible (not my skill) – that’s a clear example of mystical manipulation.
Gets the mind racing, right? I hope you enjoy my marker drawing, which I think ended up looking like a poster. It was a way for me to channel my impressions of this particularly powerful concept.
*It wasn’t a cult, and I’m okay. I don’t want to take away from people who really have been affected by a cult.
One thing my doctor and I talked about when he was diagnosing me with ADHD was that when I was a kid, I saw faces in everything. I would always find two eyes and a nose, even inside the barely-visible strokes of paint on the wall. What a weird superpower.
Finding the face in things made me feel calm when I was in a stressful situation; something that happens to a kid pretty often. To my doctor, this was something of a sign that my brain was wired a little differently from others.
Today, I draw faces more than I see them. They still comfort me.
Suffice it to say this post is about some of my struggles with mental health. If you’re not in the mood for that, enjoy the pretty pencil drawing of a giant bird behind a tree and a sinister apple. Skip my ramblings below and laugh at the tree blocking most of the bird’s body, or enjoy the lines of the apple’s “shadow” instead – I won’t fault you. Not that I’ll know, anyway!
I have depression and anxiety. Anxiety is the part of me that is constantly deluded and fighting everything around me. Depression is the part that sticks me right into the ground and boxes me inside thick walls. However, sometimes my anxiety freezes me and my depression makes me commit desperate, irrational acts. After all of these years I am able to understand and identify the subtleties of it all; it’s actually quite complicated and based on past events as well as my own body chemistry.
My mental health does not drive all of my art. None of my art is drawn in the worst depressive or anxious phases. Those are times when making art feels so impossible, even though I may want to. So I draw a lot when I am feeling “well” and scan them to post here.
Being in a bad mental place, or in the downswing of the cycle, isn’t the only time depression and anxiety show themselves. Constantly dealing with those mind states simply forces my hand; being yet another place of inspiration. Many of my drawings include ideas related to paranoia and irrationality as a result, even the bird and apples above.
When we look at the history of art, we see almost a glorification of artists who are stifled with poor mental health. Such troubled people created such beautiful work, right? I think that this is a result of academics who do not understand psychiatric struggles writing about that which they do not know with unnecessary wistfulness.
I’m not thankful for the negativity my mental health brings to myself and others around me, but I recognise how much it influences me. But so what if my depression and anxiety give me stuff to work with? The toll is often extremely high. I’d rather not make them the center of my universe.