“When we are happy, we are very superficial in our thinking.”
A clinical psychologist, professor and well-being researcher, Todd Kashdan addresses how happiness and “unwanted” emotions affect creative thinking and overall well-being in his book “The Upside of Your Dark Side” – an admittedly ‘provocative’ title that may bring to mind Darth Vader.
What some may label “negative” emotions and ideas are what psychologist Carl Jung and others identify as part of the Shadow Self, which may in varying degrees be shut away from our awareness by active suppression or repression and just not paying attention.
But as artists and others realize, our inner depths – this wealth of emotional and imaginational material – can provide material for creative expression.
“Swept up by the deeper states of play, one feels balanced, creative, focused…”
Diane Ackerman is a poet, essayist and naturalist who has taught at a number of universities, including Columbia and Cornell. In her book “Deep Play” she talks about being able to “play anywhere that is set off from reality, whether it be a playground, a field, a church or a garage.
“Deep play doesn’t have to do with an activity, like shallow play. It has to do with attitude or an extraordinarily intense state…”
This is, she notes, a way to experience flow, which enhances creative work:
Are you inspired to be creative in multiple ways? Many creative people are serial artists or entrepreneurs, multipassionate and multitalented.
Multitalented people often express stimulating perspectives on realizing their creative abilities and passions. Here are comments from three well-known artists.
Xavier Dolan has credits including: Actor, Writer, Producer, Costume designer, and at age 25 has directed five feature films.
He has said “I don’t know that I’m being prolific, I’m just responding, I’m being authentic and I’m just listening to my needs in terms of expression.” …
A full list of talented and creative people who suffer anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges, would, of course, be limitless; being creative, gifted and talented does not exempt any of us from those problems.
Novelist Patricia Cornwell is one example of an artist who has experienced mental health issues.
“I’ve had my own difficulties. My wiring’s not perfect and there are ways that you can stabilise that. I have certain things that run in my own ancestry.
“It’s not unusual for great artistic people to have bipolar disorder, for example…The diagnosis goes back and forth but I’m pretty sure that I am…I take a mood stabiliser.”
“In the creative process every human being is confronted with doubts and contradictions and flaws…”
Acclaimed for his films including “Amores Perros,” “Babel” and “21 Grams,” Alejandro González Iñárritu has earned a number of award nominations for directing and co-writing “Birdman.”
In a theatre, we can enjoy the results of sometimes hundreds of talented people collaborating on making a movie, but there may be many years of often messy and emotionally challenging creative process that goes into getting a film actually produced and released. Iñárritu has made a number of interesting comments about that process.
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.
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ― Albert Einstein
Stories, perhaps especially the more elaborate and potent examples of fantasy and fairytale, can do more than entertain: they can reveal how others, and ourselves, manage being human. And how we can do better at it.
British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing led a group of other brilliant codebreakers, including Joan Clarke, at Bletchley Park outside London during WWII to crack the German’s Enigma code.
One of his biographers, professor S. Barry Cooper, writes that Turing “was a strange man, who never felt at ease in any place…He randomly adopted some conventions of his class, but rejected with no regret and hesitation most of their habits and ideas.
Elyn Saks (photo at right in Part 1) is a law professor at USC; an adjunct professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego, where she does research about society’s rejection of the mentally ill and how high-functioning schizophrenics cope; and is a recipient of a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation.
An article notes “She kept her schizophrenia hidden while excelling in her academic studies, receiving a philosophy degree from Oxford University and a law degree from Yale University.”
She wrote of her experiences in her memoir, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.”
See more in post: Elyn Saks, Schizophrenia and Creativity.
She has commented, “Ironically, the more I accepted I had a mental illness, the less the illness defined me — at which point the riptide set me free.”