In another outstanding post, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman includes a wide range of material on creativity and mental health. Here is an excerpt:
During the course of fully immersing herself in the role, she experiences visual hallucinations, lesbian sexual fantasies that she thinks are real, and paranoid delusions.
Many of the hallucinations involve images of her self, as she represents her self.
As Dr. Steve Lamberti notes, Nina experiences a number of risk factors that may have tipped her over the edge, especially if she already had a genetic vulnerability to psychosis (which it appears she had).
Lamberti is right. Nina Sayers does experience many risk factors, including the intense pressure of competition, a controlling mother, a fellow dancer who appears to be after her, and a flirtatious, aggresive director who encourages her to embrace her dark side and lose her self-control.
Add that in with a bit of ecstasy, and you have the recipe for psychosis.
As Nina drifts further and further away from reality, she is dipping deeper and deeper into her default network, unable to differentiate her self representations from actual others, and reality from fantasy.
She has become fragmented, losing touch with her protective mental functions.
The dangers of the creativity-madness conversation
When I added a link to the above post on my Facebook profile, performing arts educator Vivian Giourousis responded with these thoughtful comments about the main Scott Barry Kaufman article [used here with her permission]:
“This is an interesting article. But I am somewhat tired with the common pysch-oriented conversations which seem to express that creativity must be linked to madness. This idea (that genius and madness are one) can influence artists in a negative way.
“Linking artistic genius to madness over and over again, can have the potential of making artists believe they are inherently defective for being creatively gifted.
“Or on the other hand, an artist might feel they must some how push themselves over the edge (for example, through a destructive lifestyle) in order to create something of value. The artist, in whatever medium, is in his best form to create his absolute best work, when mind, body and soul are functioning harmoniously.
“If history provides examples of many madmen and madwomen who created genius works, we can only imagine the heights of artistic achievement they may have reached if their “madness” had been healed and health nurtured.
“I teach acting. Most of my students are very young. I do not instill this idea of “madness” in them – this idea that the greatest force of creative intensity comes through that channel. After viewing “Black Swan” in the theater, this is what I said to them: “Don’t be a black swan. Don’t be a white swan. Just don’t be a swan at all.” Great art comes when body, soul, and mind are unified and functioning at its healthiest peak.”
Romanticizing illness is dangerous
In part of their review of the book Strong Imagination: Madness, Creativity and Human Nature (by Daniel Nettle), “Twilly” comments:
“I’m a writer with manic depression who is bothered by the way mental illness is romanticized within the writing community. So many people I know believe that writers with manic depression should not take medication because it will ‘kill’ their creativity.
“I find this attitude really offensive — not just because it is false — but also because it puts manic-depressive writers and artists in danger. I have found very few resources that adequately address this issue, very few books that explain why allowing full blown psychosis to develop is a bad idea, not just for the health of the person in question, but for his or her creativity as well. Daniel Nettle really hit this one on the head as far as I’m concerned.”
Follow the link above to the Amazon page for more interesting reviews and comments.
See a number of related posts on here on the TalentDevelop site, in the Mental Health category, under the Psychology tab in the menu at the top.