If human beings were meant to be entirely stable entities, then “stabilizing” them would be an entirely good thing, a target for mental health treatment that all could agree on. But it’s way more complex than that: healthy humans are constantly moving and changing, they have a complex mix of stability and instability that is hard to pin down.
All this relates to one of my favorite subjects, the intersection of creativity and madness.
It is a curious fact that people seen as “psychotic” or “schizophrenic” may show sometimes more creativity, and sometimes less creativity, than “normals.”
A good example of this was a test done to see how
people “guess” which of two alternatives (e.g., “left” or “right”) will occur next, when in fact the order of outcomes is random. We can analyze the sequence of guesses and quantify their entropy (unpredictability). Healthy people tend to have a Gaussian distribution of sequential guesses, with most responses at intermediate levels of entropy, and fewer very redundant or very entropic responses. In contrast, people with schizophrenia tended to show both more redundant (predictable) and more entropic (unpredictable) responses; longer periods of predictable behavior were interrupted by very unpredictable behavior.
That comes from an interesting little article, Creative cognition and systems biology on the edge of chaos .
What the guessing game test, and other research tends to show, is that people diagnosed with psychosis are often both too “unstable” at times, but also overly stable at other times (actually more of the time.) This corresponds to the way people experiencing “psychosis” can be both very flexible and innovative in the way they understand things, and also often very rigid and uncreative in other ways or at other times.
When I was a young guy going through a somewhat “mad” period, I identified as being very creative, while I saw “normals” as being more like robots or insects or something. The truth at the time was that I myself was often too much like the robot or whatever – I would fall into ruts or various sorts of “false selves” that weren’t very connected with anything alive within me, and then here and there I would be very weird or random in efforts to break free of those ruts. [click to continue…]