blogathon: creativity and schizophrenia

(this is an entry for my participation in the 2008 blogathon, a 24-hour marathon of blogging. please support the cause and donate – however much, however little – to the canadian mental health association (vancouver/burnaby branch). to donate, use this URL: you should be able to get there by clicking the link;if not, just copy and paste the link into your browser. it will take you to the appropriate location at canada helps. thank you!

my stumbleupon friend andrea kuszewski has written a series of blog posts on the psychology of creativity, with a bit of an emphasis on mental health. here are a few excerpts, focusing particularly on the connection between creativity and schizophrenia:

for eons there has been dispute about the definition of creativity, but most individuals studying it today have come to agree on certain components of cognition that are present and necessary for creative thinking. these include divergent thinking, the ability to make remote associations between ideas, the ability to switch back and forth between conventional and unconventional ideation (flexibility in thinking), and perhaps most importantly, to generate original, novel ideas that are appropriate to the task at hand. other features of the creative personality include a willingness to take risks, and tendencies for deliberate, functional non-conformity …

it has been proposed in recent years that there is a strong genetic link between schizophrenia and creativity. the schizophrenic spectrum of traits includes delusional thinking (divergent, loose associations), jumping from idea to idea (flexibility), and over-inclusive thinking patterns (attention to irrelevant stimuli and detail, or lack of latent inhibition). what distinguishes these traits from creativity? to sum up a complex notion in simple terms: cognitive control.

as mentioned earlier, many famous creative individuals have had familial links to different types of psychopathology; one of the most heavily recognized in relation to creativity is schizophrenia. schizophrenia provides a good model for comparison when looking at creativity, because while the schizotypal personality embodies many of the essential elements to creative thinking, schizophrenia is lacking in one key area, which is cognitive control.

let’s have andrea’s words enter into a conversation with alex winstanley, from the summer 2008 edition of in a nutshell (i’ll tell you about that magazine in another post today), where he wrote a beautiful article entitled voices and creativity. here is an excerpt:

i use the dynamic energy of the voices to slingshot myself into poetic dimensions, as the voices are constantly breaking down the barriers between me and the imaginative world …

as i emerge from these bouts of imagination, life is so close to my confused sense i can hardly comprehend the crystalline beauty of what i am witnessing. i see the dance of the objective world with a clarity and intensity known only in the most extreme circumstances. the truth is, every day for me is an extreme circumstance, every moment a chance to renew and change my awareness.

by seeing the voices as a psychic space created to be understood, traversed, and conquered, i am evading the tendency for schizophrenics to pity themselves or play the victim.

and if we wanted to invite a third person, i think it might be jill bolte taylor and her mystical experiences after a stroke.

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