Theodore Gericault (1791-1824)
This essay tells the story of two anonymous female gamblers. One in an 1822 painting; the other in jail in 2006.
The sensation energy center of the false self includes all addictive behaviors whether they are addictions related to substances or processes. Gambling is a process addiction and can be as powerful and as destructive as any substance addiction. The painting depicting this type of suffering is entitled The Woman with Gambling Mania (1822) by Theodore Gericault. “In 1822 and 1823, the artist, a fashionable gentleman driven to expose social injustice, executed a series of five portraits of women with specific mental illnesses. Although this is a likeness of an individual woman, the sitter’s gaze, locked into a perpetual future, makes the image read as an allegory.”[i]
Our modern woman in this essay probably has a similar blank stare as she sits in her jail cell in Colorado in the year 2006. I read the following editorial on the morning of the same day that I was reading about Gericault’s painting.
What a coincidence! In fact, the synchronicity in my life has become commonplace for this creative process.
“I do not believe that gambling is harmless. As a criminal defense lawyer, I have witnessed the tremendous harm that gambling can bring about. I’ve watched the destruction of the addicted gambler, including one woman who was an otherwise blameless citizen until she began playing the slots. Casino managers watched as the machines ate first her salary, then her savings, and eventually the hundreds of thousands of dollars she embezzled from her employer. The casino bosses plied her with free rooms and dinners for her family. They sent a limo to bring her to the casino. They made her feel special as she fed huge quantities of $5 tokens into two machines simultaneously.”[ii]
“[She] lost her dignity, her marriage, custody of her two children, and eventually her freedom. True, the state had no desire that she embezzle. But the state did repeatedly send the message that gambling was an approved activity. Playing the slots puts gamblers ‘almost in a trance. They forget to eat, forget to go to the bathroom, don’t sleep. That’s how intensely gambling desire and excitement enslaves people,’ said Suck Won Kim, a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota.”[iii]
A modern artist today could execute a similar series of portraits of women, men or children suffering from the “mental illnesses” associated with P-B and our false-self identities. Like Gericault, he could paint almost any one of the seven billion people on the earth and it would be of a person suffering from addiction to the pursuit of plenty, pleasure or power. Our definition of mental illness is, of course, broader than that commonly used in Gericault’s time or today but accurate, nevertheless.
People are mentally ill if they consistently engage in self-destructive behavior as individual’s or collectively engage in creating unsustainable cultures or nation-states. This picture of humanity becomes all the more tragic when we realize that people are unaware of their suicidal activities. Lacking awareness does little to excuse human beings from creating toxic environments that set-up horrific scenarios for our children and grandchildren. We should all feel ashamed.
[i] Bonfante-Warren, Alexandra. The Louvre. New York: Barnes and Noble Books. 2000, pages 266-267.
[ii] Pozner, Larry. “Gambling is state’s two-faced coin.” The Denver Post. March 12, 2006, page 3E.
[iii] Thompson, Nicholas. “Scientists explore treating gamblers’ compulsive nature.” The Denver Post. November 27, 2003, page 39A.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.