Highly sensitive people are considered by many to be exceptionally creative as a group.
Psychologist Elaine Aron even declares “I know ALL HSPs are creative, by definition.”
The personality trait (technically referred to as sensory processing sensitivity, SPS) may show up in curious ways for some of us who are highly sensitive.
As devastating as schizophrenia can be, a number of people with the mental illness lead active and creative lives. Some research even indicates the type of thinking that characterizes the disorder can facilitate creativity.
“Imagination…discovers the real.”
Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace, was a daughter of poet Lord Byron, and worked with polymath Charles Babbage, who called her The Enchantress of Numbers.
The computer language ADA was named after her, in recognition of her work that helped originate software and computers.
Ada Lovelace talked about her passions for creative imagination and math:
“Imagination is the Discovering Faculty, pre-eminently … It is that which feels & discovers what is, the REAL which we see not, which exists not for our senses.
“The very impulse to write, I think, springs from an inner chaos crying for order, for meaning, and that meaning must be discovered in the process of writing or the work lies dead as it is finished.” Arthur Miller
Creative people and writers about the creative process often say creative work is a way to release or make use of inner chaos; what is this turmoil?
Psychologist Stephen Diamond declares in his book that our impulse to be creative “can be understood to some degree as the subjective struggle to give form, structure and constructive expression to inner and outer chaos and conflict.”
“For me, fashion is incredibly emotional. I go to shows in Paris and try not to cry.” Actor Jessica Chastain
Qualities such as emotionality and empathy can help highly sensitive people be especially creative.
The self-test Are You Highly Sensitive? by Elaine N. Aron, PhD includes the items:
“I have a rich, complex inner life” and
“I am deeply moved by the arts or music.”
A number of psychologists note that many personality traits connected with ADD and ADHD are also associated with highly creative people.
This is a topic I have addressed in previous Creative Mind posts, but here are some new perspectives, inspired by a documentary by Lisa Ling who was diagnosed with ADD during the course of her research for the project.
She commented, “As a journalist, when I’m immersed in a story, then I feel like I can laser-focus. But if I’m not working, my mind goes in every direction but where it’s supposed to go. I’ve been like that since I was a kid.”
One of the themes of creativity research, and many psychologists and creativity coaches, is how crucial beliefs and attitudes are in developing our creative abilities.
Psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson talks in the audio clip below about the prevalent idea of ‘genius’ for whether someone can be creative – or even aspire to be.
She also writes about focus and creating, and that “to be a successful creative, you need to not only be a good generator, but also a good evaluator. The problem is that in practice, it’s remarkably hard to be both.
With more and more brain imaging studies in the media, relating to different areas of human behavior including being creative, it is worth noting there are critiques of the validity and meaning of imaging technology.
The image is from an article whose authors comment, “The brain is said to be the final scientific frontier, and rightly so in our view.
“Yet, in many quarters, brain-based explanations appear to be granted a kind of inherent superiority over all other ways of accounting for human behaviour.
“We call this assumption ‘neurocentrism’ – the view that human experience and behaviour can be best explained from the predominant or even exclusive perspective of the brain.”
In Part 1 of this article Eric Maisel talks about moving from an everyday mindset of “getting things right” to a creative mindset “where huge mistakes and messes are permitted and even welcomed.”
But many of us tend to be perfectionistic – which can help drive excellence, but may also support anxiety and creative constriction.
Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond notes “Were it not for perfectionism, we would be in short supply of all those myriad human activities we deem extraordinary, excellent, outstanding or great in quality.”
But in his Psych Central article “Perfectionism: Adaptation or Pathology?”, Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. notes, “Somewhere on a continuum between normality and pathology there is a point at which the behavior results in functional impairment.” Read more in my post Too Much Perfectionism.
Coach and author Barbara Sher has a helpful perspective on this.
[Continued from Asperger’s and Creativity Part 2]
Quirks and creativity
Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist at NYU interested in intelligence and creativity development, commented in a post of his:
“I think a lot of things that we call ‘quirks’, or maybe even some things we call ‘disabilities’, can turn out to be some of the determinants of high levels of creativity that we never could plan ahead of time.”
From Conversations on Creativity with Darold Treffert, Part I: Defining Autism, Savantism, and Genius.
[Photo from his video “Creativity” – see a clip in my post Don’t You Have To Be “Gifted and Talented” To Be Creative?]
In his book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Kaufman writes about many aspects of the syndrome, and notes that people with Asperger’s tend to do “exceptionally well on perceptual tests of fluid reasoning, such as the Raven’s progressive matrices test.”