February 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman


Drug addiction is a mental health issue, not a criminal or religious/sin issue. The U.S.A, which enshrines the liquor industry and its advertising dollars, spends US $51 billion per year of its citizens' money on a bone-headed "war on drugs" that only manages to push drug addiction into the filthiest, darkest corners of society. Mr. Hoffman, a sensitive man of genius intelligence, clearly felt disengaged and ostracized from the world. On the final day of his life, he double-locked himself inside his apartment and injected heroin into his bloodstream. No one should have to confront his own mortality this way, alone, with a needle, on a cold bathroom floor. It sickens and infuriates me to know that this once-in-a-lifetime artist is gone and that his death was preventable. If you agree with me—or are interested in learning more—you might find this website helpful.

"It is not opium which makes me work but its absence, and in order for me to feel its absence it must from time to time be present." — Antonin Artaud

Acting for Animators Workshop Schedule

February 10-14, Animex Int'l Animation and Game Festival,Teesside, England

February 20-21,  Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennyslvania

March 14, Medellin, Colombia, Ruta N

March 26, Epic Games, Cary, North Carolina

April 21-24, FMX, Stuttgart, Germany

April 26,  The Animation Workshop, Viborg, Denmark

May 23-25, World Animation Masterclass, Birmingham, England

September 26-28, Malaysia, Animex Malaysia

November 15-16, San Francisco, Creativity Workshop, co-teaching with Eric Maisel, PhD

Craft Notes

Arthur Janov on "The Psychology of a Great Actor"

There was a time back in the early 1970s when it was fashionable for artists and other humans to get in touch with their authentic selves. One way was to go through Primal Therapy, created and written about by psychotherapist Arthur Janov. His idea was, if you wanted to find real peace in your life, it was necessary to regress to crawling-on-the-floor infancy, which is where everything got screwed up in the first place. I did my share of crawling and mewling, but eventually I had to stand upright because I had work to do. Of course, being on my feet put me back in touch with the inner emptiness again. It was, to be honest, an immensely illuminating time in my life, and I regret it not a bit. In fact, I would recommend it to the adventurous among my readers.

To be candid, I thought Arthur Janov had died. I had not heard his name in a long time, and his work seemed more or less chalked up in the annals of psychotherapy as faddish. Certainly, none of my subsequent psychiatrists made any effort to get me on the floor. (Yes, that's right, I have had many therapists in my time. Does that surprise you?  Actors are mightily concerned about emotions, human motivation and survival, and if you are willing to do the hard work, you can learn quite a lot sitting across the desk from a talented therapist.)

Anyway, for some random bolt-out-the-blue reason, as I was grieving the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Arthur Janov popped into my mind. I Googled him and, lo and behold, the man is still practicing and writing books and lives not ten miles from where I live in Los Angeles. And he writes a blog. And, sure enough, he is still trying to solve the challenges that are found in the souls of the more creative among us. I found an entry in that blog entitled "The Psychology of a Great Actor", and so I am now presenting Dr. Janov to you.

In a nutshell, he thinks that really great actors—which Philip Seymour Hoffman clearly was—have a love deficit, a need for love that cannot be satisfied, ever. Performing in front of an admiring and responsive audience feels good, but you can't remain on stage 24/7 and, as soon as you are alone again in your bedroom, the emptiness returns. It seems to me that he is touching on a fundamental truth about all actors, not only the super-brilliant ones. But it is disheartening to think he might be correct about the problem being a cradle-to-grave deal.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was obviously experiencing primal pain, and it traveled with him for most of his short life. Heroin will kill you sooner or later but, before it does, it will take away the hurting, that primal emptiness. Mr. Hoffman was self-medicating with his opiates, not having a one-man private bacchanal. The adoration of fans, respect of fellow actors, millions of dollars in compensation and even the commitment of a loving life-partner who gave him children could not settle his mind. He could not sleep. Neediness is exhausting.

My personal perspective is that intensely creative people are staring continually into a metaphoric sun—the sun being the human condition. When you look into the sun, you squint because the glare is painful to your eyes. And so a hyper-sensitive man like Mr. Hoffman was stuck because he could not turn his eyes away from the sun, and it is exhausting to squint all the time. Heroin allowed him to shut his eyes at least for a while. It is the world's tragedy that he will not wake up again.

Maybe Arthur Janov has been right all along. According to his published bio, Philip Seymour Hoffman's parents divorced when he was only nine years old, which suggests maybe a young home life of tension and friction. Maybe the die was already cast back then, and that was that.  Maybe his premature death was in the cards all along. This, from another of Janov's blog posts, resonates for me at this sad time: "When we get love very early in life it endures for a lifetime; it becomes the world's best painkiller. And it avoids the need for later painkillers and tranquilizers. Love loads us up for a very long time with natural anti-pain medication. And when it was not there, we play catch-up all of our lives, taking pills to ease the pain over the love we never got. A love we never knew existed. So what to do? It is so easy to love a child from the day she is born; and that is pure prevention for a lifetime. It ensures health and longevity. Who can ask for more?"


Until next month...

Be safe!

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