Creativity, Genius, and Mental Health/Mental Illness

Discussion of Joseph Campbell's work with an emphasis on the personal creative impulse as well as the sociological role of the artist in today's global community.

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Creativity, Genius, and Mental Health/Mental Illness

Post by Cindy B. » Thu Aug 23, 2012 2:34 pm

Hey, Andreas.

And finally, huh. :P

The simplest way I could come up with to frame this topic is to first share this magazine article. Soon I'll offer some other ideas and resources as well. Let me know what seems to interest you most, too, and I'll see what I can come up with. And no doubt others will have interesting ideas, too, to share. I'll be interested to hear everybody's thoughts. :)

Cindy


***


Study Links Angst to Creativity
From Poets & Writers, 1999


The complex relationship that has always seemed to exist between mental illness and many of the world’s greatest poets, writers, musicians, and visual artists has been given a compelling new level of scientific support by a psychiatrist who has devoted much of his research over the last 20 years to the subject matter.

Dr. Arnold M. Ludwig of the University of Kentucky Medical Center released his findings in “Method and Madness in the Arts and Sciences,” an article published in a recent issue of the academic Creativity Research Journal.

Ludwig hypothesized that people who work in more formal, structured, and objective professions, such as engineering and physicists, demonstrate more emotional stability than those who work in more emotional, intuitive, or subjective professions, such as abstract painters and poets. While various academicians and psychiatrists have documented high rates of mental illness among artists before, Ludwig has taken his research a step beyond by applying fractal analysis. Fractals refer to parts that resemble the whole. In fractal geometry, for example, certain types of shapes, such as snowflakes, are made up of smaller parts that each resemble the overall shape.

By first examining a sample of more than a thousand eminent persons representing 18 separate professions, Ludwig determined that men and women in the artistic occupations have higher rates of mental instability than the rest. Applying the fractal analysis to his research, Ludwig then examined whether the more subjective subprofessions demonstrated the same pattern of mental instability as did the larger arts-profession grouping. Among artists, writers were found to have had the highest lifetime rates of mental disorders. And among writers, poets exhibited the highest rates of mental disorders, strongly backing Ludwig’s hypothesis that those engaged in more emotive or imprecise professions are likely to demonstrate higher lifetime rates of mental instability.

Do the professions themselves create this instability, or do people of a certain temperament and emotional background find themselves attracted to those professions because such professions suit them better? Ludwig believes that the latter is more likely to be the case.

“People who are wrestling with their inner demons, who are introspective, who are looking inward constantly, evaluating their motives, trying to be in touch with their feelings, those people are more likely to be drawn to professions in which that type of cognitive style is more rewarded,” explains Ludwig. “Somebody who can’t be in touch with his feelings, for example, is not going to do very well as a poet.”

In speaking of mental instability, Ludwig is careful to distinguish between mental illness and a sense of angst or unease, which he believes is present in the lives of many artists who aren’t necessarily mentally ill. In his 1995 book, The Price of Greatness: Resolving the Creativity and Madness Controversy (Guilford), Ludwig identified this type of unease as a key element behind creative energy. A person can have strong mental health and still possess feelings of anxiety and discomfort with the external world, argues Ludwig. These feelings, in turn, may propel him or her toward creative expression.

Following his theory to its logical conclusion, Ludwig believes that to remove an artist’s sense of unease would be to jeopardize the artist’s creativity. “If they’re happy and lying in the sun sipping martinis, they’re not going to want to write or paint. On the other hand, if they have too much anguish, they’re also incapacitated. Too little or too much is not advantageous to creative expression. A certain modicum of it, a certain amount that can be controlled and shaped and structured certainly can be helpful for those people who [use it] as the material for their creative expression,” he explains.

The challenge, it seems, is to find a delicate balance between the two extremes. But, as any angst-ridden artist can tell you, that is much easier said than done.


(Article contributor unidentified.)

http://www.pw.org/magazine
Last edited by Cindy B. on Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Andreas » Thu Aug 23, 2012 3:18 pm

Thanks, Cindy. I have to read it again... I take some time to digest and then write my own thoughts.
“To live is enough.” ― Shunryu Suzuki
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Post by Cindy B. » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:25 pm

:)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by lancimouspitt » Mon Sep 24, 2012 12:02 am

Quick thought:

How would this apply to a person if these professions where split?
Example; Jim is an engineer by day but writes poetry in his spare time.
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Post by Cindy B. » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:46 am

Human beings have natural tendencies, Lance, toward both practicality and creativity. Jim may be a person who has found a meaningful way to balance and express each of these tendencies. Now were it to turn out that he hates his day job and would prefer to focus full-time on creative self-expression, that would be a different story.

Cindy
Last edited by Cindy B. on Mon Sep 24, 2012 7:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Andreas » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:59 am

I was thinking something along the line of cure or acceptance. Society seems to reject whatever does not help the collective and tends to categorize it as an illness, especially psychology. I mean all we have to do, is look, how many mental illness we have discovered in the last 50 years. But how do we know that what is an illness and what is a talent or a skill that is much required for life and society? Dunno, does that make sense?
“To live is enough.” ― Shunryu Suzuki
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Post by Cindy B. » Mon Sep 24, 2012 5:34 pm

What cultures and particular societies deem to be "mad or bad," crazy or criminal, or to be worshipped or condemned evolves with the times, Andreas, and is an interesting area of study all its own. (This happens to be one of the major themes for me here.)

As for "mental illness," the general consensus among disciplines that have looked at the correlation of creativity and/or genius and mental illness is that its impact upon humanity is of far more benefit than not and helps contribute to successful adaptation overall--the roots of cultural change and practical innovations, for example, are born of those minds that cannot help but think and be outside the usual prescribed boxes. As of now it's surmised, for instance, and in the evolutionary scheme of things, that bipolar disorder and the intense creative periods that emerge during periods of mania and hypomania are reasonably likely to be favored genetically for this reason.

Cindy
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by zoe » Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:42 pm

So a little bipolar disorder tempered by self medication with drugs and alcohol is a good thing............................so long as it doesn't kill you.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mr- ... s-die-27-0
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Post by lancimouspitt » Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:49 pm

Cindy B. wrote:What cultures and particular societies deem to be "mad or bad," crazy or criminal, or to be worshipped or condemned evolves with the times, Andreas, and is an interesting area of study all its own. (This happens to be one of the major themes for me here.)

As for "mental illness," the general consensus among disciplines that have looked at the correlation of creativity and/or genius and mental illness is that its impact upon humanity is of far more benefit than not and helps contribute to successful adaptation overall--the roots of cultural change and practical innovations, for example, are born of those minds that cannot help but think and be outside the usual prescribed boxes. As of now it's surmised, for instance, and in the evolutionary scheme of things, that bipolar disorder and the intense creative periods that emerge during periods of mania and hypomania are reasonably likely to be favored genetically for this reason.

Cindy
Cindy i'm going to have to check your website out one day (maybe this weekend) I looked at it before but really couldn't "dig" into with a short amount of time. :D
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Post by Cindy B. » Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:11 am

My blog, Lance, is simply an online resume, so to speak, for my psychological novel, Head Games. In the Synopsis I mention how one theme is the evolution of the concept of mental illness and what it looks like today and how addressed. With a little luck, perhaps I'll generate some compassion, too. Since literature offers what no text book ever can, my goal is to get this work into university psychology programs as supplemental reading. I hope. :)

Cindy
Last edited by Cindy B. on Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Cindy B. » Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:14 am

zoe wrote:So a little bipolar disorder tempered by self medication with drugs and alcohol is a good thing............................so long as it doesn't kill you.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mr- ... s-die-27-0
Yep, one must assume personal responsibility for managing this brain disorder and its cycling. Asking for help is part of that, too. The key is learning to recognize when as needed and at the earliest. :)

Cindy
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:P


P.S. I liked the article, Zoe. 8)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by lancimouspitt » Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:09 am

I'm really curious lately about thinking on how our ideas and our beliefs shape reality on the individual scale and the larger scale. The micro and macrocosm if you will.
Just as Campbell said myths are public dreams and dreams are private myths.

What i'm getting at here is how do we know we as a whole species aren't mentally ill so to speak. We are consciousness. The voices of the earth,as Campbell once put it.
But how do we know that alone doesn't implicate as illness in itself that we can't fully understand because we are submerged in it?
For instance we are all familiar with the idea of armageddon. The big "end" so to speak.
All around the world different cultures have their take on it.
Even in science we will have armageddon in about 5 billion years when are sun decides to vaporize us. Scientificly did we reach this conclusion because somehow the idea is an archetypal imprint that we have to seek out in all mediums or would we have reached the conclusion independently? And if so would are ideas of the end be different if they weren't so heavily instilled in us?

This is the first thought of the morning with only a quarter a cup of coffee and i'm off the weekend.....................................Sorry. :lol:
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Post by Neoplato » Sat Sep 29, 2012 12:00 pm

I'm really curious lately about thinking on how our ideas and our beliefs shape reality on the individual scale and the larger scale. The micro and macrocosm if you will.
Just as Campbell said myths are public dreams and dreams are private myths.
IMHO, our individual perceptions and belief structures define how we interpret events as they occur. These interpretations then result in some type of behavior. So we become more objective to events as they occur, the more we gain the ability of choosing a reaction instead of automatically producing a preprogrammed or emotional one. This ability can only be obtained by practicing mental discipline through meditation/contemplation.

We affect the macro with our individual perceptions and behaviors; each one contributes, but to make a difference, enough similar perspectives must germinate. Even a forest begins with the first tree.
What i'm getting at here is how do we know we as a whole species aren't mentally ill so to speak. We are consciousness. The voices of the earth,as Campbell once put it.
But how do we know that alone doesn't implicate as illness in itself that we can't fully understand because we are submerged in it?
There are many schools of thought that imply that we are all actually mentally ill. So part of our purpose as human beings is to make the attempt to overcome the inherent mental afflictions and destructive emotions we are born with.
For instance we are all familiar with the idea of armageddon. The big "end" so to speak.
All around the world different cultures have their take on it.
Even in science we will have armageddon in about 5 billion years when are sun decides to vaporize us. Scientificly did we reach this conclusion because somehow the idea is an archetypal imprint that we have to seek out in all mediums or would we have reached the conclusion independently? And if so would are ideas of the end be different if they weren't so heavily instilled in us?
IMHO, the notion of “Armageddon” is an inherent awareness in us that there are cycles that we measure in the counting of years. Campbell called this the Cosmogonic Cycle.
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Post by lancimouspitt » Sat Sep 29, 2012 12:44 pm


IMHO, the notion of “Armageddon” is an inherent awareness in us that there are cycles that we measure in the counting of years. Campbell called this the Cosmogonic Cycle.
Thanks John I didn't realize this.
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Post by Cindy B. » Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:41 pm

The Creative Personality
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles ... ersonality

:)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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