Monday, June 29, 2009
Creativity and Genius - Madness or Gayness
The Independent Pink List counts gays in public life, there was a time when gays were thought fit only for creative roles, "in the thee-arterr" to quote my long dead mother-in-law.
The Institute of Psychiatry Debate June 10th Maudsley Debate, organised by Jo Hurlow, in which I recently participated asked the question "Is Mental Illness the price we pay for exceptional creativity?" or "No Genius without Madness" depending on whether you read the title or the subtitle. This was surrounded by an Art Exhibition from "people with mental health problems"
This question makes me uneasy. The overwhelming evidence suggests that poor mental health is associated with Poverty, Inequality, Physical Ill Health and Stress. I based my response on that. Our side won, I like to think that makes us right. Poor mental health is not associated with genius or creativity, it is associated with stress and poverty. Being ahead of your time, and living in a world of stupid people is stressful, and it is difficult to make money when no one understands your ideas, even if the next generation is going to be rich as Croesus.
That we still have the debate reminds of the time when it was OK to ask whether Blacks had a sense of rhythm and whether Gayness was the cause or consequence of a theatrical lifestyle.
I suggest that the Institute of Psychiatry now asks
"Do people with a broken leg write better plays?", "Are Blacks more musical?" and "Are Gays more creative ?" The answers have more to do with tolerance and diversity than human tendencies.
While we misguidedly continue to associate creativity with mental illness we ignore those causes that we can deal with:
Poverty, Inequality, Physical Ill Health and Stress
As I said in the Debate - the reason you may see more people with mental health problems in creative careers, is because the hours are more flexible and because few of us can get proper jobs because of the stigma associated with our illnesses.