Mind games

Depression, the persistence of memory, and the fallout of a political showdown -- TTers share their thoughts this week.


Salon Staff
May 27, 2005 7:29PM (UTC)

Social Issues

Van Gogh on Prozac

mszv - 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time - May 23, 2005 - #7 of 30

Ah, the romanticization of artistic torment and mental illness -- how annoying. Artists do good work in spite of their mental illnesses, not because of them. I'm sure that Van Gogh would have still been a great artist -- the difference is that he would have had a longer career, and wouldn't have had to self-medicate with alcohol. That's bad?

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Feelings of "alienation" and "depression" are part of the human condition as are feelings of love, connection, joy -- the whole gamut. Even if you live a perfectly happy peaceful life, there will be enough sadness in the world and in your life for you to draw on, should you choose to use that in their work. Things will happen. It's also a way to narrowly restrict who can be an artist. Caring for a family, wanting to have health insurance and a roof over your head and occasionally go on vacation and have happiness in your life and grow old -- nope -- hey, you can't be an artist, you aren't tortured and depressed enough, just too darn functional! That's just silly. It's also self-serving. It's also, sadly, a way to glorify depression -- it's somehow OK to be depressed, because you are a sensitive artist and that's what sensitive artists are, depressed. In reality, all sorts of people get depression. We don't glorify depression in the steelworker, but we glorify it in the "artist." Again, how incredibly annoying.

Look, this romanticization of the "tortured" artist is pretty new, historically. Someone correct me, but it's all an outgrowth of the 19th century romanticism "cult of personality" -- the melancoly (their fanciful word for depression), brooding character as defined by Byron. Hey, it worked for him -- he got a lot of mileage out of this. The 20th century abstract expressionists really ran with that too -- the art was even more about them than their work -- not that some of them didn't have depression, but they also cultivated the belief that this was all part of being an artist. Now, it's entrenched in the culture.

How people thought about "artists" in other time periods -- it varied by culture and historical period. Sometimes they weren't even considered "artists," more a craft, a skill, a trade. Great work still got produced, which addressed the human condition.

Private Life

Since You Asked by Cary Tennis (v2.0)

Rachel Avery - 11:49 a.m. Pacific Time - May 23, 2005 - #4061 of 4154

A good friend of mine has a good policy: you have as little contact as possible with your ex for AT LEAST 4 months. Even if you still get along OK. Even if you think you want to be friends.

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In light of something I learned about the brain structures involved in emotion and memory, this makes sense. Your rational memory, all the stuff tied up with language, the stuff you can talk about and string into logical stories, mostly involves the hippocampus region of the brain. People with damage to this area can't form memories that they can verbalize, even to themselves.

Experiential memory, the kind that involves emotion and feeling, the stuff you can't put into words, but which is often the most compelling, involves the amygdala. People with damage to this region don't form experience memories. Both kinds of damage result in some odd behavior.

From what these crazy brain researchers can tell (I read this in "The Emotional Brain" by Joseph Ledoux) these two types of memory get laid down along different pathways. The hippocampus and the amygdala are wired to "talk" to each other, but there's a LOT more wiring going from the amygdala to the hippocampus than going the other way. So talking yourself out of the power of an emotional memory might be a difficult thing to do for a very physical reason.

That's why there shouldn't be much contact after a breakup. You might know, in a rational sense, that it's over, but those stubborn little emotional centers are going to fire every time you see/hear the other person. You can tell them "we're broken up now," but when you come into contact with that person, your amygdala is screaming "but she's RIGHT THERE!" You're just stamping the imprint deeper, which is NOT what you need to be doing. But if you get away, let the tide of the world wash over the memories for awhile, it gets easier.

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White House

Here Comes the Judge - 2005

missfitz - 01:42 p.m. Pacific Time - May 24, 2005 - #506 of 659

The whole thing is crazy. Filibustering is saved for the Democrats, but only if they don't use it. And the GOP got everything it wanted, because they believe the Dems won't come to be a majority again, in the same way that Bush and his brother Jeb were quoted in 2000 (they were flying together on a plane while the tape was rolling), saying with great confidence that they were not going to lose Florida.

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The arrogance was, at that time, unbelievable. Not unbelievable anymore. We KNOW how they knew they wouldn't lose Florida.

IMO, this "agreement" changes nothing except to further underscore the fact that the Dems don't have the balls to shut down the government in order to save the government, all because it will give their opposition yet another sound bite to use in the next election, should they have all voted nay.

The GOP doesn't need sound bites! And I'm not buying Lindsey Graham's little speech about this will make the folks at home unhappy. The folks at home are going to be able to have 10 more insane activist judges appointed on top of the 200-something the Dems already approved for George W. Bush.

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Call me naive; I think we lost, yet again. The public should have been able to witness a huge overreaching by the GOP Senate. What was there to lose, besides, ooooooh, some bad press by the MSP? That would be something new, wouldn't it.

Randi Rhodes thinks we've saved the Supreme Court. I don't agree. May I please be proven wrong!

Posts of the week is an ongoing feature of Table Talk, Salon's vibrant community forum. Older posts of the week may be found here in TT. Want to join the discussion? Sign up here.


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