“There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” C.G. Jung
Carl Jung and many others have pointed out that we have hidden, unconscious or half-conscious depths of our psyches, with thoughts, feelings and impulses we think are “bad” or “unacceptable” – that we may be offended by and actively ignore, deny or try to cover up.
Making good use of all this isn’t a matter of freely acting on our urges or fantasies, of course. There are jails for people who do.
But this inner landscape can be a source of personal growth and creative expression.
Does creative inspiration come from our own teeming neurons, or is it a gift of a Muse?
A passion to create may feel like something from beyond us, or from a spirit being, but maybe that is what anything from the not quite known inner depths of our psyche feels like.
In his article Perspiration Meets Inspiration or, The Return of the Muse, Matt Cardin explains, “The muse model tells us that creativity can be pictured as an external force or presence that visits a person on its own timetable and inspires him or her — that is, ‘breathes into’ him or her — the idea and motivation to accomplish some sort of creative work.”
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.
As related in “A Beautiful Mind,” the bio by Sylvia Nasar (the photo is Russell Crowe as Nash in the movie version), Nash was asked how he could believe that he was “being recruited by aliens from outer space to save the world.”
Nash replied, “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously.”
“Several people warned me about Tim Burton. He is decidedly eccentric, they whispered, totally wrapped up in his wild imagination.”
Journalist Michael Dwyer went on to say, “Perhaps they were confusing the man with his movies, because they got it all wrong. Burton proved to be delightful, very talkative and bubbling with enthusiasm.” (The Irish Times, Dec.10, 1994.)
Albert Einstein said, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment.
“Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”
And it is precisely those kinds of opinions that may be creative ideas.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn – from his book Wherever You Go, There You Are.
Many others talk about mindfulness as a way to not only manage stress, but enhance personal development and creativity.
Nonjudgmental awareness may be a key element in divergent thinking – an aspect of creativity and innovation.
Creativity coach and therapist Eric Maisel, PhD notes mindfulness includes noticing our thoughts about creative expression.
In an interview about the guitars, Dunbar commented about her creative process:
“I am very private when I work and I work on many pieces at a time. I often light a beautiful candle, turn my music up loud and begin working until I can really connect with my inner self, my muse. I often work through the night where interruptions are infrequent.”
Being “very private” is an important strategy of creative work for many artists. And it may relate to being highly sensitive – see my post Solitude is not pathology for the high sensitivity personality.
Asked about being considered a child-prodigy painter, she said:
He refers to an earlier television show (“Oh, Grow Up”) as “an abject failure” – because it had been “totally manufactured to appeal to as many demographics as it possibly could.”
In an interview, he was asked about the religious right’s likely offense over both “True Blood” and “Towelhead.”
“I don’t really care what they think. You know what? Yeah, this stuff punches emotional buttons and some people are going to be able to see beyond that and some won’t.
“My approach is to try to do work that I would really be entertained and moved by, and that’s all I know how to do. I’ve been successful writing things that I have fun making.”
“The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one’s obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all.” John Updike, about J. D. Salinger.
But it isn’t a disorder.
In an overview on Psych Central of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Michael Demitri, M.D. notes it is considered an anxiety disorder when it’s “characterized by recurrent and disturbing thoughts and/or repetitive, ritualized behaviors that the person feels driven to perform. Obsessions can also take the form of intrusive images or unwanted impulses.”
In contrast, creative obsessions are not unwanted. We choose to be engaged with compelling and motivating creative ideas.
The image is a replica Dodo skeleton crafted by Adam Savage (co-host of the TV series “Mythbusters”).