13 October 2011


In yesterday's post I made reference to the essay Why Crazy People Make Better Bloggers ~ "crazy" in the sense of non-ordinary perception and thought enabling the writer to describe a situation in fresh and useful terms. Looking a bit further along the mental health continuum, one comes across research summaries like Creative Thinking and Schizophrenia. From Vincent Van Gogh to John Nash, many of our most original thinkers in the arts and sciences happen to operate within varying degrees of psychosis. Does psychosis predispose one to creativity, or does creativity drive one mad? Or are they both simply parallel symptoms of a third condition, like an unusual biochemical balance in the brain?

Douglas Eby's summary suggests that "As tormenting and devastating as it is, schizophrenia may also include qualities of thinking that enhance creativity ~ qualities we may all experience, even if we aren't psychotic .... schizotypy, a milder version of schizophrenia, 'consists of a constellation of personality traits that are evident to some degree in everyone. Research confirms a link between schizotype and creative achievement. In particular, 'positive' schizotypal traits such as unusual perceptual experiences and magical beliefs tend to be elevated in artists, and 'negative' schizotypal traits such as physical and social anhedonia and introversion tend to be associated with mathematical and scientific creativity .... looseness and the ability to cross mental boundaries are aspects of both schizophrenic thinking and creative thinking .... certain psychological traits such as the ability to make unusual or bizarre associations are also shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people."

The subject is fascinating. There's long been an awareness of a commonality between creative genius and diagnosable mental illness. Which is not to say that all creative people are crazy, or that all crazy people are creative. But where overlap occurs, the results can be breathtaking. Here's a thought ~ what about those people who exhibit both the 'positive' and 'negative' schizotypal traits describes above? Would such people be predisposed to creative thought in both the arts and the sciences? I have to wonder, because I have experienced both sets of traits at different times in my life ~ in the schizotypical range, but not (so far as I am aware) verging into schizophrenia. Perhaps I should start referring to myself as "we"? Just kidding.

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