How does our emotional and mental health impact our creativity?
This is a selection of a few articles from many more on The Creative Mind network of sites, plus other sources.
“The work talks about what people don’t talk about – what people are afraid to say.”
That is a quote by Clara Lieu, a visual artist and professor at the Rhode Island School of Design; she is referring to her projects, especially “Falling” – a series of fifty self-portrait drawings that visually represent her personal experience with depression and anxiety.
Lieu said about her work:
“The most influential part of my past has been my personal experience with depression and anxiety, which fueled the creative drive behind the ‘Falling’ series.
“Being diagnosed and treated just a few years ago… It was startling to see myself clearly for the first time, free from the disease. Only at that point did I have the emotional distance that allowed me to to be in position to address this subject artistically. I knew at that point that I felt an uncontrollable drive and compulsion to make the work.”
See more in article: Creative Artists With Depression.
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’ ”
Read more in post: Are certain mental disorders are linked to creative genius?.
“I’ve suffered enough. When does my artwork improve?”
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“Suffering is justified as soon as it becomes the raw material of beauty.”Jean-Paul Sartre
The tortured artist mythology is an ancient and enduring notion: The idea that art depends on suffering, and artists are likely to be fraught with suffering and dark emotions, and even need their pain to create.
But a number of artists and psychologists say that is a wrong and hurtful idea.
For example, in his appearance as a guest on The Ellen Show, Colin Farrell said he was finding that he is more creative being sober and happy.
“I was terrified that whatever my capacity was as an actor would disappear when I got sober,” he admitted.
Read more – including quotes by other artists – in article Pain and suffering and developing creativity.
The Mad Hatter [played by Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s version of Alice In Wonderland]: “Have I gone mad?”
Alice Kingsley [Mia Wasikowska; she checks Hatter’s temperature]: “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
(Photo from “Alice In Wonderland”.)
Also see several videos in this post below, including one from World Science Festival: ‘Genius’ Dark Cousin‘ – “When talking about geniuses, the conversation inevitably strays towards topics of eccentricity, or even madness.
“One needs only to look at the lives of artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Mark Rothko, or to mathematician John Nash — whose battle with paranoid schizophrenia was made famous in the film A Beautiful Mind — as examples of the thin line between brilliance and insanity.
“But is there really anything to this idea of the “tortured genius”? Or is it just a romanticized notion exaggerated by film and literature?
“Philip Glass and Julie Taymor respond to striking data presented by Dean Keith Simonton, a psychologist who has studied the nature of genius for decades.”
See more in my post Madness and creativity: do we need to be crazy?
Some related articles
Are Depressed Poets More Creative? By Susan K. Perry.
“Do depressed poets risk their creativity by being treated for their miseries? Absolutely not. That’s a myth.”
She interviews Richard M. Berlin, M.D., a psychiatrist and poet, who is the editor of Poets on Prozac: Mental Illness, Treatment and the Creative Process.
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Actor, novelist, script consultant, screenwriter, and performance artist Carrie Fisher experienced depression including bipolar disorder, plus alcoholism, drug addiction, and other mental health challenges.
But she found bipolar had its positive sides: “The manic end is a lot of fun.”
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Traumatic Childhood, Creative Adult
Many people are drawn to creative expression as part of their way to heal from trauma, and regain self esteem and emotional control. See quotes by Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, J. K. Rowling and others.
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She declares, “The fact is that, despite the efforts of numerous investigators and decades of confident pronouncements by a few, there’s still no concrete, empirical proof that highly creative people are any more likely to be mood-disordered than any other group.”
She is author of The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius, which, she notes, “examines the fictional link between creativity and bipolar disorder.”
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This section of my book is not just about drug use and abuse – there are many forms of self-limiting addictive behavior that can interfere with realizing our creative and other talents.
Many creative people have had addiction or abuse problems – Beethoven reportedly drank wine about as often as he wrote music, and was an alcoholic or at least a problem-drinker.
Among the many other artists who have used drugs, alcohol or other substances are Aldous Huxley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edgar Allen Poe, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Allen Ginsberg, composer Modest Musorgski, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker…
By Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D.
“Creating art has always been a way to channel emotional intensity.
“In a world where destructive acting out is all too frequent (and meticulously documented and sensationalized on the news and TMZ), sublimating painful feelings by expressing them in the form of artistic expression allows the artist to choose to “act out” in a way that is constructive.
“Many creative people carry the belief that their pain is the locus of their creativity, and worry that they will lose their creativity if they work through their inner conflicts or let go of suffering.”
Photo: Actor Christian Bale has been known for throwing tantrums.
More resources –
Mental health posts (on the TalentDevelop site)
Mental health posts (on The Creative Mind site)
Emotional Health & Creative People (a collection of posts on Scoop.it)
Also see the site Anxiety Relief Solutions – Products and self help programs to relieve stress and anxiety.