Find Your Art to Awaken Self Healing

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“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti

Self Healing through Self Discovery

Ever feel like everyone has a leg up on you? That they manage their to-do lists better, make more money, have a nicer house, and a hotter husband? Ever feel totally other – like you’re watching everyone hustle through life from your fishbowl of one? Have you felt scared into complying with rules, regulations, and laws because you’re not one to rock the boat and you’d rather keep your head down?

On top of all that, do you get sick a lot? Struggle with symptoms of malaise, fatigue, poor attention, even apathy, and a deep sense of pain? It could be that sometimes you feel so betrayed by your body that you’d rather just float off without it. It may feel like a tomb you’re locked in, one that leaves you heavy with the burden of life.

What if I told you that you are an artist, and that this is why you’re struggling here right now, in this society we’ve made. I don’t mean an artist the way you are thinking of it – with a hobby kit of paints and canvas, with a guitar that seems to stare at you with the judgment of neglect, or even with a love of dancing that gets expressed two weekends a year. I don’t even mean an artist in the “working artist” sense, with galleries and ticketed performances.

I mean that your feeling of mismatch with the world, and with your own body, is a reflection of a real mismatch. It’s a sign that you don’t fit, and I believe that illness is often a reminder that the real you needs to be born from the ash of this struggle. The real you is the artist. It’s the creative. It’s the connection to a type of energy that is unstoppable.

A world for doctors and lawyers, not artists and poets

As a second generation child of parents who devoted their lives to my academic opportunities, I was taught a reflection of the modern story – that art is a hobby at best. Many of us more productivity-oriented families regard “the arts” as a largely vestigial appendage on the more central body of real life with real jobs. It is decoration and maybe entertainment. It is pretty pictures and little projects.

Given that, I’ve unsurprisingly always bristled at the thought of an afternoon at an art museum or a night at a gallery. I experienced nothing but the seeming pretention, preciousness, and purposelessness of wasting one’s time on these expressions.

I have been indoctrinated to believe that art is frivolous at best and dangerous at worse. We are here to work and get things done, not play. Art is playing, isn’t it? What if what we are calling art is just a whisper of the creative force that has been neatly contained by the fancy canvas and the ticketed rock concert. What if there is a force so powerful behind and beneath these conventionalized art forms that we can barely look at it out of the corner of our eyes.

Much like religion has become a dogmatic version of what it once was – a celebration of the experience of ecstatic merging, art has been neutered of its true power. It’s power lies in transformation and shedding of blinders, lies, tales, and false identities. When an artist is in alignment, they have direct experiences that shatter the frameworks that bind us into submission. They come back to tell us about them, and in the sharing, the possibility that we too might have these experiences, increases. This is morphic resonance at its best.

It is only when they are forced to conform to today’s societal expectations that they are pathologized, marginalized, and generally diminished. They may very well not even sense that something is missing. But the pain and suffering is that sign.

Oppression of the rebels

The dominant paradigm at play for several thousand years is one that seeks to fill the holes of our unmet primal needs with what Francis Weller calls secondary satisfactions. Because we have strayed from the Continuum – what our mind, spirit, and body have come to expect after millions of years of evolution with nature – we spend our lives wanting and missing. We try to fill holes and make it right. The most tempting trap is to try to make it right by controlling your life, acquiring things, and achieving benchmarks of approval. We want power and money and things and accolades and evidence of our worth and of lovability that we can’t self-source.

We are living in a world of duality with an experience of every man for himself, against nature. We are primed to believe, that if we just try hard enough, one day we will touch happiness, ease, and the ever-sought experience of having arrived where we are going.

But it just never happens that way.

So we reach for things to make the struggle feel better. We reach for recreation, distraction. We reach for drugs and alcohol. We buy into the idea that we were just born broken and we have an imbalance that needs chemical healing.

But that rarely works either.

Then we feel hopeless. Sometimes it’s just a brief contact with feeling like this can’t go on. Sometimes hopelessness is like a shadow companion that snuffs the lights out everywhere you go.

Through this hopeless lens, the world looks bleak. But maybe it is bleak? We are sicker than ever before, our waters are cesspools of industrial waste, our soils are nearly unrecoverable, we are mowing down entire ecosystems, manipulating weather patterns, and generally devolving. Deep down, we know that this cannot go on. This life, like this. We feel the bankruptcy of our day-to-day experience which supports an illusion of productivity and functionality as a surrogate for beingness.

Maybe your depression, chronic fatigue, ADHD, and chemical sensitivity are just ways that your body, mind, and soul, are saying no. No, the demands of this world, the day to day experience of this food, these chemicals, this disconnection is not working.

The thing is that the no is almost a reminder that there is another way. It’s an invitation back to yourself, and your caged artist.

When artists get sick

Working with Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez for the brief time of my blessed mentorship helped me to understand the bigger picture of how and why we all get sick in different ways on this sick planet. He helped me to see that the reason for the success of my particular dietary template in my practice was that I was working primarily with patients who are what he called parasympathetic dominants.

The parasympathetic nervous system is the arm of the autonomic (think automatic) system that manages rebuilding, healing, and regenerating. It’s sometimes referred to as the “rest and digest” system. Immunity, digestion, and elimination are managed by parasympathetic nerve function. When the parasympathetic nervous system is unbalanced, in states of dis-ease and stress, it is overactive leading to apathy, fatigue, autoimmunity, allergy, weight gain, low thyroid and sex hormone function, and liquid cancers. These patients are “tired but wired”. This is when you reach for your meds, your substances, and extra cups of coffee, which, you guessed it, make everything worse.

Nick explained to me that parasympathetic dominants had typical traits that are amplified when they are under stress and eating the wrong diet – these are the patients who are hungry in the morning and hangry if they go too long without eating. They look at a piece of toast and gain weight. They are night people and don’t get going until about noon. They sweat, have loose stool, allergies, their skin flushes easily, and they crave fatty foods. They have low libidos often, low drive in general, and are often called “dreamers”. These are the folks, Nick said, who are the “right brainers” – the Hemmingways, Faulkners, and Picassos.

Broad sketches of these types should be familiar – there are alphas and betas, Type As and Type Bs, gunners and dreamers, and my favorite, what Alan Watts called “prickles” and “goos”. Goos are the natural artists, the parasympathetic dominants, and the canaries in this coalmine of modern life telling us that things just ain’t right.

He said:

“In academic circles, no other theory of the world than the fully automatic model is respectable. Because if you’re an academic person, you’ve got to be an intellectually tough person, you’ve got to be prickly. There are basically two kinds of philosophy. One’s called prickles, the other’s called goo. And prickly people are precise, rigorous, logical. They like everything chopped up and clear. Goo people like it vague. For example, in physics, prickly people believe that the ultimate constituents of matter are particles. Goo people believe it’s waves. And in philosophy, prickly people are logical positivists, and goo people are idealists. And they’re always arguing with each other, but what they don’t realize is neither one can take his position without the other person. Because you wouldn’t know you advocated prickles unless there was someone advocating goo. You wouldn’t know what a prickle was unless you knew what a goo was. Because life isn’t either prickles or goo, it’s either gooey prickles or prickly goo. They go together like back and front, male and female. And that’s the answer to philosophy. You see, I’m a philosopher, and I’m not going to argue very much, because if you don’t argue with me, I don’t know what I think. So if we argue, I say ‘Thank you,’ because owing to the courtesy of your taking a different point of view, I understand what I mean. So I can’t get rid of you.”

How psychiatry keeps us stuck

The Paras or the Goos are the patients being diagnosed with ADHD, chronic fatigue, depression, and multiple chemical sensitivity. Is something innately wrong with them? Is it some genetic problem that is just now being better diagnosed?

No.

They are responding on a mind, body, and soul level, to the wrongness of their lived experience. Their depression is a sign of this mismatch – it’s a sign that the processed food and 100,000 unstudied chemicals are not right for them. Their bodies are saying no. Their spirits are rejecting a lifestyle that prizes productivity, linear thinking, measurable achievement, and relentless application of will to subdue any obstacle. These are the people whose very souls are saying no to a life lived by punching the clock until we die.

Where does the life force go in these individuals – these square pegs for society’s round hole? It goes into self-medication with secondary satisfactions like alcohol that dampen the pain of a suppressed fire, and often into prescribed medications that hijack consciousness. Graham Hancock speaks about these legal instruments of mind-control and suppression of a type of creative drive that would overturn our social structure. Perhaps this is why hallucinogens, despite their completely non-addictive profiles, are banned. Because this type of primal connection to meta-consciousness is the most threatening of all human behaviors to society as we know it.

Let food be thy medicine

How do we heal to set ourselves free? In my clinical experience, diet and body consciousness are the portal through which one must pass to get to themselves. There is no one diet, of course, but for these types, for the artists, there is a good template to explore, and to the chagrin of the more dogmatic yoga and spiritual community, it is an acidic diet notable for its red meat content which stimulates the sympathetic system and balances these stressed beings. If this is the right approach, you’ll know it. Something deep inside you will say Yes!

Nick Gonzalez taught me how we have co-evolved with the environment over millions of year, in different ecological niches. In these different niches, our nervous systems adapted to survive. Our ancestors interacted with the available food, the climate, and the microbes, and their bodies met and yielded to these forces like stone erodes from the waves. Those that survived, over time, had to be designed to complement the environment. From the Eskimos to the Amazonians, the alkaline vs acidic nature of available foods selectively stimulated arms of the autonomic nervous system to perfectly balance a system’s native dominance.

There are those who thrive on a low meat, high leafy green and citrus diet, and those who thrive on a high-fat, meat three times a day regimen. And it turns out that your temperament and bodily habits can tell us a lot about where you fit in this spectrum. His mentor, Dr. William Kelley elucidated 10 dietary types on a map and also personally and clinically tested hundreds of nutrients for their properties in stimulating the para and sympathetic arms.

Healing artists, saving us all

It’s become more clear to me that healing these people will save us all. As I recover one patient after another from psychiatric medication injury, from environmental and dietary poisoning, and from a fear-based attachment to a lifestyle that just doesn’t fit them, they show me that in this free state of self-possession, anything is possible. Their creativity blooms. They free that inner artist.

It’s been my experience, with my patients, that bodily healing is a portal to transformation. These women wake up to themselves when they are able to reclaim their agency through simple interventions like a clean diet. They blow the dust off of their existence, and their inner compass comes back online. They expand and expand and expand in fearlessness and bloom into visionaries.

As Terence Mckenna stated, “artists are here to save mankind”. If we can give these individuals, incarnated with the propensity to use their minds as instruments of expression, growth, and evolution, the tools to balance their bodily organism, it is my belief that they will come into fuller contact with their soul, their reason for being, and their essential role in ushering us into the next story. I was reminded of this when I was approached recently by a kundalini yoga teacher and musician who has been struggling with her health to the point that she can barely teach – how critical it felt to get her back into the space of sharing her gift to awaken others to their own.

They find out what they are here to do.

They keep looking for it until they cannot control the drive to pursue what feels like the most important thing on the planet for them. This unstoppability is art. When these individuals have a direct experience of grace and flow, the very fact that they have had this experience and are sharing it, changes us and our potential for accessing this space – it’s morphic resonance.

The artists are the ambassadors to the next story. They will show us what it means to put love before fear. To shed the skins of an identity that served a purpose but now feels false – an identity of intellect-based dominance over all that challenges us. They know how to tap into their Shakti, which is a limitless reserve of creative energy. It’s a flow from the deepest truth of all – that we are simply playing the part of separation, and we can come together whenever we want. We can dematerialize our egos at will.

If you are struggling, there is an invitation embedded there. An invitation to free yourself and to light your fire that feels extinguished. We need you awake, alive, and in touch with your soul.

This is why healing depression naturally is not about using St. John’s Wort instead of Prozac. It’s about engaging in transformation so you can show up for what you’re here for. It’s that serious because we are the custodians of this planet, like it or not, and we have to ready ourselves for the highest expression of that role. One artist at a time.

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About Dr. Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your OwnOwn Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She is the founder of the online healing program Vital Mind Reset, and the membership community, Vital Life Project. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from M.I.T. in Systems Neuroscience. She is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. Learn More