One of my favorite books is the unauthorized biography of Walt Disney titled Hollywood’s Dark Prince. There’s an anecdote there about Walt’s parents.
Apparently, once Walt started becoming super successful — right after the release of Snow White — he bought his parents a home in California. He personally ensured it was a high-class home, as his parents were modest rural types from Kansas. He wanted them to really live “the life.” So he oversaw the home purchase, and surprised his family.
Shortly after his parents moved in, his mother, Flora Disney, began to complain about the smell of gas fumes in the home. Walt had studio employees stop by to repair the problem… but apparently, it was never actually fixed. Flora continued to note in letters to family members that, although she loved her new home in California, the smell of fumes was really bothering the quality of her life.
She was found dead of asphyxiation a few days later.
Walt apparently never forgave himself. He spiraled into a lifelong grief because of it. He felt personally responsible for the death of his mother. He ran the tape in his head over & over about what he could have done different — if only he could go back in time.
These kind of things happen to everybody. Even Walt Disney.
Let’s call it, I don’t know… Trauma.
How did he deal with it?
Well, according to the unauthorized biography, he was devastated for a period of time… but then he fully repressed the memory of what occurred, and barreled forward as if nothing happened. Walt would not entertain conversation about what occurred. It was a subject not to be brought up in front of him. “Uncle Walt” fell deeper into drinking & cigarettes, but great corporate care was taken to make sure nobody saw.
His next project was Pinocchio. He made drastic changes to the script by eliminating Geppetto’s wife. He also emphasized the story-line of the wooden puppet’s wish to be a “flesh-and-blood son to the kindly old man that created him.”
Disney fell into film production, running away from his demons as fast as he could.
Never underestimate the power of denial.
A lot of good things happen because of denial.
Even Walt Disney fucked up big time in his life. Especially Walt Disney. The homie got super depressed when he essentially killed his mother because of a series of oversights and dumb mistakes. He had numerous mental breakdowns during his life.
And how did he handle his depression?
Walt sank in the funk of depression for a period of time, and then he just repressed those feelings by hyper-driving forward into his work. Is that healthy? Probably not. It may even be a stupid way to live, but hey! That energy helped sustain the manic creation of Walt Motherfuckin’ Disney. Good things came from it. He persevered (despite his many other character flaws. The dude was human the way you & I are).
I’m experiencing my own similar feelings & traumas.
I’ve been waking up everyday in a sweat screaming or tossing & turning from the same nightmare. Shit’s been intense for the last month. I, too, have been running the trauma-tape in my head repeatedly, hoping to discover some new morsel of information that’ll help keep me calm or move me into the future with peace.
But there’s no healing in picking scabs.
I have a few big pending projects. Creative projects. These are the things I need to focus on, even if forcefully like meditation practice. Whenever I start running the tape of my traumas inside my head, whenever I get stuck in that loop of depression, I believe it’ll help me to be like Walt and move beyond the despair and into a total denial of depression. The antidote to depression is not depression.