“Creating art has always been a way to channel emotional intensity.” Psychologist Cheryl Arutt
“Our impulse to be creative can be one of the most dynamic methods of meeting and redeeming one’s devils and demons.” Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond
Acting is one form of creative expression that artists can use to channel their intensity and strong emotions.
Kristin Bauer van Straten plays deliciously imperious and often intensely angry vampire Pam on the HBO series “True Blood.”
I don’t know her, but from a couple of interviews I’ve seen, she may be intense, but does not seem angry.
But then, anger is a feeling that most of us have to some degree, in some form – and talented actors are able to access a wide range of their feelings.
[By the way, in addition to acting, she studied fine arts at Washington University and Parsons The New School for Design, and paints in a variety of styles; some of her works are displayed on her site www.kristinbauer.com, and have also been presented in a gallery. Like many creative people, she is also an activist about environmental issues.]
Photo from my post Kristin Bauer on the Sanctuary of Creative Expression.
Jodie Foster once commented about Russell Crowe, “He’s a very light, funny guy. He has a little leprechaun side to him.”
But, she added, “He has that glacier intensity. He is truly intense.”
The photo is Crowe in the movie Robin Hood.
Intensity is one of the reasons we enjoy the performances of acclaimed actors and performers, and it is a key personality quality of many gifted and talented, creative people.
In her post Tips for Working With Emotional Intensity (she notes it is her contribution to SENG’s Blog Tour celebrating their National Parenting Gifted Children week), Christine Fonseca provides a summary:
“Intensity comes in the form of cognitive intensity – those aspects of thinking and processing information that all gifted individuals use to problem solve. It relates to the attributes of focus, sustained attention, creative problem solving, and advanced reasoning skills. Most people think of cognitive intensity as intellect, or ‘being smart’ – all good things.”
She continues, “But a gifted child’s intensity does not stop there. The emotional aspects of a gifted individual are also intense. Emotional intensity refers to the passion gifted people feel daily. It also refers to the extreme highs and lows many gifted people experience throughout their lifetime, causing them to question their own mental stability from time to time.”
She adds, “This type of intensity is a natural aspect of giftedness. However, in my experience, it is also one of the most misunderstood attributes – and it is the reason gifted kids sometimes struggle.”
A related book: Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults – by Susan Daniels and Michael M. Piechowski, Editors.
“Gifted children and adults are often misunderstood. Their excitement is viewed as excessive, their high energy as hyperactivity, their persistence as nagging, their imagination as not paying attention, their passion as being disruptive, their strong emotions and sensitivity as immaturity, their creativity and self-directedness as oppositional. This resource describes these overexcitabilities and strategies for dealing with children and adults who are experiencing them, and provides essential information about Dabrowski s Theory of Positive Disintegration. Learn practical methods for nurturing sensitivity, intensity, perfectionism, and much more.” [From Amazon summary]
Gifted kids do grow up – and as adults, we may still experience intensity and its challenges.
J.D. Salinger and peace
In her post Overexcitabilities and the gifted – Living With Intensity (on her raisingsmartgirls blog), author Casey notes that the editors of the book above “remarked that J.D. Salinger looked everywhere outside himself to find that peace he was searching for relentlessly.”
From my post What do you do with your intensity?
Of course, “peace” is not just a matter of developing a healthy relationship with intensity. But I suspect many of the ways we talk about “non-peace” – things like agitation, irritation, various sorts of upset and overwhelm – relate to emotional intensity or other forms.
Creative people and intensity
Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in creative artist issues, among other topics.
In her guest article Affect Regulation and the Creative Artist, she notes, “Creating art has always been a way to channel emotional intensity. In a world where destructive acting out is all too frequent…sublimating painful feelings by expressing them in the form of artistic expression allows the artist to choose to ‘act out’ in a way that is constructive.”
You can hear a recent podcast in which she talks about these topics: Dr. Cheryl Arutt on Celebrity Addiction, Rehab and Creativity.
TEDx video – Cheryl Arutt, PsyD – That Good Feeling of Control
‘This talk explores self-regulation as the basis for mental health, how trauma disrupts this, and ways new technology and discoveries are creating exciting opportunities to teach, learn and treasure what one self-regulation pioneer referred to as “that good feeling of control.”‘
[TEDx is part of the main TED site. “TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.”]
Uncommon and intense
Willem Kuipers is author of the book Enjoying the Gift of Being Uncommon: Extra Intelligent, Intense, and Effective.
In a section of the book – Is it a Gift to be Uncommon? – he writes about how people who are Xi [eXtra Intelligent or Intense] may view their exceptional abilities, and notes that “Giftedness refers literally to special talents, somehow provided at birth. Extra intelligence refers literally to an uncommon overdose, compared to standard availability.”
He adds that “many artists feel grateful that talents and inspiration have been bestowed upon them. They feel the urge to share the results with their environment, and their gift is reciprocated through public attention, admiration, official prizes, and, to some extent, through money…”
Daimonic and Demonic
In the forward to the book “Anger, Madness and the Daimonic” by Stephen A. Diamond, PhD, psychologist Rollo May defines the classic Greek conception of the ‘daimonic’, or darker side of our being, noting that “the ‘daimonic’, unlike the ‘demonic’, which is merely destructive, is as much concerned with creativity as with negative reactions.”
Diamond has said that “creativity can be simplistically defined as the constructive expression of the daimonic. When the artist gives voice to his or her darkest impulses, in his or her work, the destructive impact is minimized, and the daimonic energy positively informs the work.”
There have been a number of actors who’ve shown a dark and violent side both on- and off-screen, including Christian Bale starring as Batman among other roles, who was once arrested for assault.
Dr. Diamond has mentioned other actors like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Daniel Day Lewis.
In my interview with him, I asked How are they examples of anger and the ‘daimonic’? and Dr. Diamond replied: “Well, I don’t know any of these actors personally; let me start by saying that.
“But, clearly these are passionate people – passionate men in this case – who have access to their own rage.
“And, generally speaking, I have studied creative artists, and one of the things that I’ve found in looking at their lives, in almost every case – prominent artist Jackson Pollack, Beethoven, we’ll talk about a little bit more, novelist Richard Wright, Picasso – in almost every case, these are angry individuals.
“They have a great deal of anger and rage for various reasons based on the kinds of things that have happened to them in life, or didn’t happen to them in life.
“And yet, they were able to utilize their rage, and to some extent – and some more successfully than others – really channel it into their creative work. And, I think that’s what we see in the film actors that you just named.”
From article: On Anger and Creativity.
That is a transcript of our audio interview: Stephen A. Diamond, PhD on Anger and Creativity.
His book is Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity.
As he explains in his book, our impulse to be creative “can be understood to some degree as the subjective struggle to give form, structure and constructive expression to inner and outer chaos and conflict. It can also be one of the most dynamic methods of meeting and redeeming one’s devils and demons.”
From interview: The Psychology of Creativity: redeeming our inner demons.
Photo of Christian Bale from post: Creative potential – Anger and creativity.
See my Creative Mind post Too Much to Contain – Intensity and Creativity.
Also see multiple posts on my High Ability site in the Category: Intensity
Do you feel intensely? Do you use that intensity creatively?