Creativity and madness – Rollo May and Emily Dickinson

The topic of mental health and creative people is endlessly intriguing to many people, myself included, and is addressed in many articles on the Talent Development Resources series of sites. Here are a couple of related items, plus links to more:

“Creative people, as I see them, are distinguished by the fact that they can live with anxiety, even though a high price may be paid in terms of insecurity, sensitivity, and defenselessness for the gift of ‘divine madness,’ to borrow the term used by the classical Greeks.

“They do not run away from non-being, but by encountering and wrestling with it, force it to produce being. They knock on silence for an answering music; they pursue meaninglessness until they can force it to mean.”

Rollo May, in his book The Courage to Create.

Emily DickinsonFrom poem Much Madness by Emily Dickinson (Complete Poems, 1924):

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
‘Tis the majority
In this, as all, prevails
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur, –you’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.


“Psychologists believe that a number of famous creative luminaries, including Vincent Van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson and Isaac Newton, had schizotypal personalities.”

From the post Schizotypal personalities and creative achievement.

Related article: Creativity, the Arts, and Madness, by Maureen Neihart, Psy.D.


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