Is creativity boosted by depression or personality traits or both?
A Swedish study carried out in 2012 suggested depressed individuals might have the edge in the creativity stakes.
Great Poets such as Dickinson and Plath; seminal writers like Virginia Woolf and Hans Christian Anderson have been simultaneously lauded and devalued as being able to write better than most because of their poor mental health. A double edged sword perhaps.
The truth is creative writers are no more likely than the rest of the population to suffer from depression. The lived experience of depression is often a turning inwards on the self. It is a slowing of processes and a preoccupation. In a nutshell, a stuckness with one’s perception. This introspection and rumination can be a rich petrie dish environment in which to capture one’s deepest feelings, reflections and thoughts. If lucky these germs of creativity can develop into inspiring and poignant art, writing or poetry.
The cathartic outpouring or release from ‘the dark night of the soul’ can find its form in something of beauty. In others this outpouring of emotion can be destructive and ugly.
It is perhaps a journey down a different track to suggest that Dickinson’s ‘Hope is the thing with feathers on’, and Plath’s Daddy might each have been successfully birthed without a veil of depression. One might argue that both poet’s deep introspection and reflection added the extra quality of genius. Perhaps we come a little closer to reality when we explore another area of thought. Were these great contributors of literary legacy simply INFJ’s, (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Judgement?) INFJ’s who at different times experienced poor mental health.
For those unfamiliar with Jungian theories and the Myers Briggs Personality Types. Different personality types/traits confer a distinct predisposition to certain behaviours. You can try the test at www. humanmetrics.com.
The point is when we try to reduce things to an absolute conclusion, we limit the lens of possibility. All things look the same. We foreclose. In narrowing the lens of possibility we risk killing our own creativity and intelligence and that of those around us. A growing of intelligence calls for an ability to consistently update hypotheses. More now than at any other time.
Novelist Virginia Woolf committed suicide by drowning.
Poet Silvia Plath committed suicide.
Poet Emily Dickinson suffered from depression.
Fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote The
Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid battled depression.
US author and journalist Ernest Hemingway, who wrote for Whom the Bell Tolls, had depression and killed himself with a shotgun
Author and playwright Graham Greene, who wrote the novel Brighton Rock, had bipolar disorder