There's this great show, Mad Men. You may have heard of it. It takes place during the mid century. In season 4, the lead protagonist & creative director of the ad agency of the show, Don Draper, wins accolades and many companies seek his expertise after creating an ad campaign for Glo-Coat, a floor wax. In the commercial, a little boy sitting caged in under a table surrounded with chairs yelling, "let me out of here! let me out of here!" to his mother who was disciplining him. What's interesting, later in the next episode, a psychologist that the ad firm hires hits the depth of the ad square between the eyes:
"I saw that ad. It's all about somebody's childhood.".
If you've seen any of the episodes of Mad Men, you know the title character, despite his flaws and womanizing: had this horrific, traumatic childhood that has contributed immensely to his wayward ways. Further more, it's contributed to who he is and the man he is in advertising and creativity.
A while back I read an inspiring article by Psychology Today titled, "Can Traumatic Experiences Make You More Creative?". In the article, the author describes the thought that traumatic experiences (job, life, childhood & adulthood trauma) can produce some of the greatest processes of creativity & the survivors state that they feel stronger due to the difficult times they had endured. The author continues on to say that creatives use their past traumatic experiences to source some of their greatest inspirations for their work, using it as a way of coping for their hardships.
Have you ever considered that these painful events you've gone through, may contribute to who you are as a person and define your creative process? That those difficult times make and create your identity as a writer, creative, designer, or artist in ways that are beyond what you thought was even possible?
Later in the Psychology Today piece, the author writes something powerful about negative childhood events & "the orphanhood effect":
"...... which suggests that highly accomplished people are more likely to have lost one or both parents at an early age. The orphanhood effect seems to be particularly strong for writers with rates as high as 55 percent being reported. Mihaly Csikszentmihaly has suggested that the "orphanhood effect" may be due to the need for children who have lost a parent at an early age to take on adult responsibilities and mature more rapidly than other children in their age group. Losing a parent or other traumatic early experiences can also lead to greater social isolation and a tendency to ignore social conventions - something seen in many intensely creative people."
When I read this I was thoroughly encouraged and in a strange way relieved. When I was about 3 years old, my biological father took his own life in the home I was living in with my biological parents. It was shortly after that, my birth mother revoked her parental rights of my brother & I to the foster care system. It's something that for a long time left a void in my life. I completely understand how someone can get to a point where they can't care for themselves, let alone two little human beings they've created. To me, it's a truly noble thing to realize and grasp you can't take care of your children, when you are at such low place without family, friends or resources to help you. Which was exactly where my biological mother was at the time What I really couldn't understand for quite sometime, was how a person like me who went through these events, could ever be.....something. Here's what I had seen in my life up until that point: the successful ones were the people with great histories. Families that they could trace back, pasts that they could remember and that patriarchs their family could attest to. I had none of this.
What I had was broken pieces of memories, pain of not feeling wanted or even fought for. You could know the reasons of your orphanhood, but the hurt and tragedy is still there. To tell the truth, I was ashamed for a long some time sharing my childhood & past with others. I mean, who really wants to hear a sad, heart-wrenching story? The happy stories were what I thought others truly wanted to hear. It was exceptionally wonderful to read that despite all of my past, despite trauma, I could completely be who I was. I could use what caused a void to fuel me creatively. I could use it to fuel what I crave to do:
write and influence others.
Now, what I went through may never create in me a Henry David Thoreau, Jane Austen, Hemingway. But, it can produce some of my most creative achievements.
Knowing this has given me courage.
I hope it has for you also.