Monday, 24 February 2014

The Correlation Between Creativity and Mental Illness

We all know that creative people can sometimes have some weird and crazy characteristics. You Michael Jackson with his childish ways; Albert Einstein picking up cigarette buds on the streets to get tobacco for his pipe, or the fact that he  married his cousin; Beethoven's preference for dirty clothes, and his severe anger management issues...and so one. Most of these behaviors could be related to one mental illness or the other. When people hear 'mental illness' they automatically think of the madman on the street, but their are far less severe mental illnesses than that of a madman. You have anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, psychosomatic disorders, substance abuse disorderpersonality disorders and a host of other mental illnesses that people overlook, and most of this have been found to be associated with creative people.

Please note that when I say creative people, I am speaking of artists, musicians, writers, inventors, actors...etc. Psychologist, Hans Eysenck asserted that creative genius correlates with a high level of what he called Pyschoticism. Psychotism as he defined it, is a dimension of personality that suggests a susceptibility to psychotic behavior. A person doesn't have to suffer from Schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to exhibit this traits, predisposition is enough.

I am not implying that all mentally ill people are creative, but that most creative people live with some case of mental illness or the other. Of cos, this is still being debated, but if we work with most of the famous creative people we know, then we can say this theory is more true than false. I started looking into this research about 6 years ago when I was depressed, and my mental state was in disarray. I noticed that, in all that turbulence of the mind, I would write stories that people would gasp at. It surprised me how, out of the ugliness of my mind, I could create works that people saw as beautiful. I was happy that I could get some joy from my pain, and that I could put smiles on people's faces who read my stories, but, I wanted to know why things were this way with me, and if every other creative person was like that. So, I started reading.

The way I have come to understand things is that every creative person is on that thin line between sanity and insanity. Sometimes, he falls on the side of insanity, and then he swings to the other polar extreme of sanity, but he never stays on one end too long. All those times when he is on the extreme of insanity is when he exhibits most of the psychotic behaviors that make people see him as crazy. To look at it another way, creative people don't have any barriers for data flowing into their head like non-creative people do. They let every idea in, and then analyze them to pick what can be of use. This can be a huge task for anyone, and the effects of it often times shows on the outside in the form of symptoms of mental illness in a creative person.

You have to think beyond the ordinary to be able to create at a center level, and that would definitely bring out some behaviors in a creative person that society would term abnormal. Being a creative person myself, I have found out that normal, for too long can drive me crazy, so I have to get some crazy at times to remain sane. I hope that makes sense. As I said, creative people are open minded to multiple possibilities, and do not allow laid down rules by society or what has always been to dictate for them. For example, if you could time-travel back 400 years ago, and you happen to be trying to use your phone to contact someone in public, you would be quickly picked up, and bundled off to the asylum...or worse, burnt at the stake. Because at that time, the idea of talking to someone (who was not in the same location as you) on a small handheld device was not seen as a possibility, and anyone who could think that was possible would definitely be considered a mad man...or a witch.

When I was a kid, there was always this saying floating around, that mad men went mad from reading too much. It used to sound strange to me. I was curious to know why someone would go mad from reading too much, but I didn't want to read too much to find out why because I didn't want to risk going mad myself. I got that answer a couple of years ago. I had just come home from youth service, the year was 2008, and I was a curious cat. I would read articles on my Samsung Corby phone for hours, till my mom would beg me to go outside. One day, I had just finished reading an article and i searched up another related article, but it didn't open. Instead, I got a message that read- 'We are sorry, you can't read any more articles. You have read too much articles for a normal human being.' Till this day, I don't know if it was the website, my service provider, or my phone that sent me that message. It was just odd.

Fast-forward 2 years; I had done enough reading and fact-finding to be considered a professor. My thinking had gone through a drastic change. I thought it was time to socialize with people again, so I started going out a lot. Then, I realized why people that read a lot have been known to go crazy, or act crazy. It is not the reading, nor is it that their brain couldn't handle what they had read. It is because they now know so much, and are surrounded by people that know so little about life...I'm talking people that are ignorant, but talk with so much authority like they are 100% sure of their claims. Trust me, interacting with people like that when you know a lot can drive you crazy. I guess this really explains the saying- 'Ignorance is bliss.'

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