How does our emotional and mental health relate to being creative? How valid is the mythology of the “crazy artist”?
Many prominent artists throughout history have had mental health issues, and many are cited as some kind of “proof” that those issues somehow inspire creativity.
In his paper The Abnormal Psychology of Creativity, Steven James Bartlett writes….
Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, who was hospitalized several times for psychiatric illness, remarked:
“A German once said to me: ‘But if you could rid yourself of many of your troubles.’
“To which I replied: ‘They are part of me and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and it would destroy my art. I want to keep those sufferings’ ”
Photo at top: The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska) in Tim Burton’s 2010 movie version of Alice In Wonderland.
In one scene, Alice says to the Hatter: “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
Saying ‘the best people are bonkers’ may be a charming and even reassuring sentiment – but, of course, actual mental illness can disrupt lives and interfere with creativity.
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Video excerpt from HuffPost Live program:
A Brilliant Sacrifice – Mental Disorders Enhancing Creativity
Hosted by Janet Varney. (Originally aired on October 24, 2012. Although somewhat dated, this program still brings up important topics, and experts with knowledge of mental health and creativity.)
From program description:
“A study confirms that certain mental disorders are linked to creative genius.
“Can this change the treatment of patients and our perception of brilliance?”
[And is this even a valid study? See comments below.]
Michael Kimber (Toronto, Canada) Journalist, Colony-of-Losers.com @colonyoflosers
How My Mental Illness Gave Me a Career – Key article by HuffPost blogger and guest for this segment, Michael Kimber.
Judith Schlesinger, PhD notes the widely-circulated Swedish study [by researcher Simon Kyaga, a Karolinska Institutet doctoral student] mentioned in the video has significant issues in terms of scientific validity.
She is author of the book The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the Myth of the Mad Genius.
Dr. Schlesinger has also commented: “A careful look at the so-called “landmark” studies in the field — the work by psychiatrists Nancy Andreasen and Arnold Ludwig, and psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison — reveals gaping holes in their design, methodologies, and conclusions.”
Read more quotes of hers in my post Madness and creativity: do we need to be crazy?
Dr. James Reichmuth (San Francisco, CA) Psychiatrist
Dr. Cheryl Arutt (Los Angeles, CA) Clinical Psychologist Specializing in Creative Artist Issues, & Media Consultant. She is a frequent guest on CNN, HLN and other networks.
See her TEDx video Exploring Self-Regulation, Trauma and Creativity in the post: Creating is a way to channel our emotional intensity.
Also hear part of our audio interview in the post Creative People and Mental Health.
Dr. Arutt refers to her TEDx video – “That Good Feeling of Control” – and notes the title comes from TV host Fred Rogers who wanted to teach kids how to deal with the “mad” they felt inside, and be able to decide what to do with these kinds of strong feelings, and that what he was talking about was self-regulation and affect regulation that can help us as adults, too.
“Most forms of mental illness can be traced to some form of dysregulation, either over-control or under-control.”
More related articles:
Creativity and Madness: Are They Inherently Linked? by Michael Friedman, L.M.S.W. [HuffPost]
Also see article: Madness and creativity: do we need to be crazy?
See more posts on this site on Mental Wellness.
Related TalentDevelop site posts on Mental Health.
There is no “magic pill” solution to our mental health challenges but there are “paths to wellness using effective forms of integrative, holistic care that tap into the natural strength of your mind, body and spirit.”
From article: The Mental Wellness Summit 2017.