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  • Writer's picturekyle Hailey

AI as Therapy : The Hero's (Mid ) Journey

Updated: May 17, 2023

Users go through an evolution in 3 months that artists go over in 10 years. It’s is rapidly evolving our sense of selves and aesthetics.

Creating art is a fundamental human instinct that lends our lives meaning and purpose. When we unlock this creative potential, the impact can be transformative, leading to a heightened sense of fulfillment and purpose. But what happens when we democratize this creative process, when we make it accessible and effortless? What happens when we bridge the gap between imagination and creation?

Take, for instance, a seemingly whimsical image of Donald Trump portrayed as a bunny in a pink bathrobe. On the surface, it may seem humorous and detached from therapeutic value. Yet, creating this image served as a stress-reliever for me, a moment of levity amidst life's tensions. Just yesterday I saw someone posted an image of “Donald Trump as a fluffy rabbit in a pink nightgown” . It was funny and cute, so I made one and the results made me laugh. I felt better.

The therapeutic potential of Midjourney, an AI art platform I work with, is perhaps not widely recognized. We estimate that over 30% of Midjourney use is therapeutic amd 80% feel it has a therapeutic benefit for them/ How do we ascertain this? We run surveys and by looking at the prompts and engaging with our users.

These anecdotes underscore the fact that many are using Midjourney as a tool to navigate life's challenges. Whether it's global crises like the Covid-19 pandemic, personal trauma, or simply the day-to-day stressors, Midjourney has proved to be a valuable resource. It certainly was for me - it helped me manage anxiety during a particularly traumatic period. I've met countless others in the Midjourney community who share similar experiences, finding the platform beneficial in combatting depression, anxiety, and improving overall mental health.

For example, someone prompts “Maltese dog in heaven”. Hmm, that’s an interesting prompt. We reach out to them and ask why they prompted that and they respond “My Maltese dog just died, and I was imagining him in heaven”. Then we ask “‘so sorry to hear that, all you all right?” and they respond “yes, using Midjourney to process through his death has been so useful.”

Another person is prompting “temple of donuts". We ask "why?". I'm an atheist and I don’t understand religion and worship. I’m trying to understand. I’m mixing things I understand with things I don’t understand and so I’m making a temple of donuts!

Even geopolitics finds a place in the Midjourney universe. During Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we noticed a surge in Putin-related images. Interestingly, they weren't violent or aggressive - instead, they were of Putin made of chocolate. When asked why, users often couldn't pinpoint a reason. They simply felt that creating these images helped them process and understand the world events unfolding around them.

Similarly, images of Trump, often humorous or absurd, serve a therapeutic purpose. No, these aren't created to enact social or political change. Instead, they provide a sense of relief, a momentary respite from anxiety. They allow users to externalize their internal thoughts and emotions, offering a much-needed outlet in an often chaotic world.

People are making images to think about things.

For example people make a lot of Trump images, but what is really going on here?

Are they trying to put those images on the internet to affect change? No.

These images are making them feel a little better , a little less anxious.

People feel a little less anxious after making the images. For example they say “ Trump is a baby” and then they make an image of a baby Trump. Then they are like “here is a baby trump, yeah, some people are just babies like this guy”. Then they go through their day feeling a little better. It’s therapeutic. People have a lot of internal things going on and for them it is a way to externalize those things. The therapy side of Midjourney is important because most people don’t have outlets in the world to work through things.

The way people are using Midjourney over time is interesting. It’s like the hero’s journey, or the hero’s midjourney. People start out with something like “I love cats. I’m going to make cats. Wow these cats are great! Cats, cats, cats ....” until they get tired of cats. Then they say something like “I like cyberpunk. Wow these cyberpunk images are great.” Then they create cyberpunk, cyberpunk cyberpunk. Then finally they are like “hey !?!? what abou t .... get this ... cyberpunk cats!” and then “cyber punk dogs !”, then "cyber punk samurai!“. Then they are like ”cyberpunk is not me , I never liked cyber punk“. Am I Vapor Wave? Who am I?“ Then they see an art deco cat. ”Art Deco? Am I Art Deco? Then they try to find an aesthetic that represents them and finally they start to figure some things out. Then they think about something like ”chair, I like chairs, chairs are cool, how about an art deco chair? how about an art deco chair in a futuristic cafe?“ Its a whole process. Users go through an evolution in 3 months that artists go over in 10 years. It’s is rapidly evolving our sense of selves and aesthetics.

The user journey through Midjourney often mirrors the hero's journey. Users begin with familiar themes and subjects - "cats," "cyberpunk," etc. Over time, they begin to blend and mix these themes, venturing into new territories. Eventually, they start questioning their choices, exploring different aesthetics, and seeking a visual language that truly represents them.

Surprisingly, the demographics of Midjourney users defies expectations. Despite being accessible only through Discord, a chat service primarily used by those under 18, we have as many users over 45 as we do under 18.

Interestingly, after three months of using Midjourney, no user prompts a single artist. Instead, they start to explore multiple artists and styles, refining and redefining their personal aesthetic. This is not merely about art - it's a journey of self-reflection and self-understanding.

In essence, Midjourney isn't just about creating art. It's about nurturing imagination and embarking on a journey of self-discovery. It's the artist's journey.

Its not really about art.

It’s about imagination.

It’s the artists journey.

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