April 23, 2013 Leave a Comment
As I watched John Ronson’s TED Talk, Strange Answers to the Psychopath Test, I began to wonder about the connection between creativity and psychopathy. Throughout history, there has been a high incidence of documented psychotic behavior among highly creative individuals. In the literary domain, writers like Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway were plagued by psychotic afflictions. While in the artistic domain, Vincent van Gogh is remembered as a tortured genius who cut off his own ear.
In our society’s desire to remove ambiguity and label individuals as psychotic, sane, creative, or ordinary, perhaps we’ve missed the point. Ronson may have been onto something when he talked about how the psychiatric profession could be taking a natural human behavior and labeling it as a mental disorder. In fact, when you compare the traits of highly creative people with those of psychotic individuals, emotional intelligence is the fine line that distinguishes between a creative genius and a psychotic madman.
Aristotle once said, “No great genius has ever been without some divine madness.” While research has revealed a relationship between creative genius and psychopathic behaviors, it does not necessarily mean highly creative people are psychotic. The ability for an individual to empathize with others, to understand others, and to act “human” can turn seemingly psychopathic behaviors into productive creative energy.