What a challenge the toxic workplace is! That’s where you find the myriad forms of dysfunctional work culture lead by the many forms of dysfunctional power bosses. These bosses are one of the following, or a combination : hateful, undermining, indifferent / absent, blaming, abusive, callous and indifferent. These traits are often accompanied by a high level of hypocrisy and a low level of self-awareness. The workplace itself is characterised by repeated loss of staff, very low morale, silent resignation and depression in staff members, and irrational bursts of apparent empathy by the bosses (usually very superficial). The question is “Am I ok with this type of workplace in our society?” It’s the same question as “Am I ok with bullying at school?”
This painting is about the cycles of mood in living within traumatic circumstance.
In the minds of many psychotherapists out there, as they try to make sense of the narratives they have heard in their work and in their lives, sometimes an overarching theme takes form. It is meta-explanation for all the dark material their patients and clients have expressed to them in the near-sacred space of the therapy room.
For some, it is biological : dysfunction of brain chemistry. Or it could be social : illness resulting from poverty, social exclusion, unemployment, often generational. This series of paintings is about Trauma as the overarching and central concept of mental illness and it’s cause. This is not limited to post traumatic stress disorder. This is the use of Trauma as an explanatory and descriptive concept covering most illness of the mind, from anxiety disorders, depression and even psychotic illness.
Most experienced psychiatrists use the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model of mental illness, which covers the concept of trauma as well as social factors as well as biological dysfunction of the brain. What I am painting here is Trauma as a concept that overlaps with philosophical traditions which are premised on the ubiquity of suffering and pain : Buddhism, Existentialism, Pessimism, Realism and others. These paintings are about the personification of trauma in these wraith-like figures that crowd the canvas, ready to impart their pain and suffering. To state the profoundly obvious, humans often traumatise one another. We live in cycles of trauma. Our workplaces are platforms upon which trauma is generated and imposed. Life is trauma-filled.
I must do a series on the Kindly Ones or the “better angels of our nature” that oppose the power of trauma.
Someone recently complained that being in any profession that involves close emotional contact with others means “losing your faith in humanity”. I would probably say you don’t have to be in a profession for that….just being part of the human race usually suffices. Why? Probably because human beings are frail, confused, power-seeking creatures that are easily caught up conflicts and prone to trivial ego inflation. You might say that human beings traumatise others of their species, despite knowing better and despite having a moral sense that provides an intuitive warning against such behaviour. You might even say that you have been a victim.
That repository of stories we call Literature often deals with the tension between misanthropy (literally, hatred of mankind) and the love of humanity. There are too many examples of the moral narrative in our literature to list them. It’s not just in literature, it’s in History and in Philosophy too that we write about this tension in the human mind / heart / soul. So that’s what we face every day….this tension, this pain.
And yet some people are good and inspiring. Some lives are likely to rekindle faith in humanity. Some people can resist becoming cynical and misanthropic and depressed.
This is what this painting is about.