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Could we have art, without some psychotic process?

On the Beautiful Minds blog, the latest entry is titled Is Psychosis a Prerequisite for Art?  The author states his opinion that ” If the mental processes associated with psychosis were evaporated entirely from this world, art would suck. But so would a lot of other things that require imagination.”  He then backs this idea up in a number of ways, including linking to a more detailed earlier article he wrote called Schizotypy, Flow, and the Artist’s Experience.  This article goes into detail exploring how many processes we see going to extremes in psychosis can be highly valuable when utilized with a bit more control in people who are good at being creative.

Anyway, this all supports the thesis I have proposed before, that competent mental health treatment should not attempt to suppress everything that is on this “psychotic” dimension, but instead help people learn how to temper it so it is not overwhelming and destructive.

7 comments… add one
  • I learned during my time as a mental health client. That a mental dis-order such as schizophrenia or any other mental dis-order. Is nothing to be anymore ashamed of, than if you had one arm or one leg or the multitude of other disabilities in the world. Many great minds, that have contributed significantly to this world, have been “mentally ill” by normal standards. But then again that brings to question, what exactly is normal? What is normal for some is not normal for everyone. I know “society” sets the standard for what is normal, but in todays society I would not want to be judged “normal” by thier standards, or the lack thereof.
    But I digress, allow me to get back on point. I believe that regardless of your “dis-ability” your disability is not what defines you. What defines you is what you can accompolish regardless of your “dis-ability”. A man with one arm can learn to swim, a man with one leg can learn to walk and even to run. So why is it surprising that a person with a mental dis-order can be creative, intellegent or anything else they may set thier hearts and minds to be? FM

  • psychosis is a recently invented word. Is a person psychotic or imaginative? If they are not following authorities orders they are psychotic, if they follow orders (or have the power to give orders) they are imaginative.
    Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. (September 24, 1905 – April 5, 1976)
    Because he refused to leave the hotel and to avoid further conflicts with the owners of the hotel, Hughes bought the Desert Inn in early 1967.

    • Hi Mark,

      While psychosis is a more recent word, it covers much of the same phenomena as “madness” which is a much older word. So the phenomena has been around for a long time.

      And I think psychosis often involves a broader range of problems than what you imply. Sometimes the problems are with authorities, but sometimes the problems are in getting along with anyone at all, and often people can’t get along with themselves and are seeking help because they are just freaked out. Of course, each case can be different.

      Sometimes it is hard to figure out who is really the source of the problem, is it the too dysfunctional and/or rigid society, family, authorities, conscious self, or it it the too chaotic or unruly “psychosis?” The same sort of question comes up when kids rebel at school – is it that the school is unnecessarily repressive, or that the children are undisciplined and need to learn how to accept structure? I think it can go either way, often there is no black or white answer. These are things we need to “wrestle with.”

      See below for a video you might enjoy that really celebrates “not fitting in:”

      “ATTENTION: All you rule-breakers, you misfits & troublemakers, all you free-spirits & pioneers… Everything the establishment has told you is wrong with you – is actually what’s right with you… Go here:

  • Historically, what we label as psychosis today has also been viewed as shamanic and has bene valued in some historical cultures and societies.

    I would agree with an evaluation that suggests that the genius of creativity lies somewhere near, or within, the psychotic state. John Forbes Nash is a great recent example. Van Gogh is another from the not too distant past.

  • RE”“madness” which is a much older word.”
    Homosexuality used to be mentally ill.
    Epilepsy used to be mentally ill.
    Syphilis used to be mentally ill.

    RE”often there is no black or white answer.”
    I disagree. There is no brain chemical imbalance that Pharma sells. There is no psychotic molecule for a antipsychotic to attack. “It is like insulin for diabetes.”

  • My apologies. I just saw the video link you posted. You want to help people, but I don’t believe you can help people who are “psychotic”. Only the person can find their own personal way out, there own balance.

    • Hi Mark,

      I agree with a lot of what you say. For example, I fully agree that psychosis is not caused by any simple “biochemical imbalance,” that there is no single molecule or simple biological mechanism to address, and so it is a lie to say that giving an antipsychotic for psychosis is “just like giving insulin for diabetes.” I also agree with you that the absolutely essential heart of recovery is a person finding his or her own way out, his or her own balance.

      But I don’t agree that others can be of no help. I think we humans have always been capable of helping each other with such experiences, from the days when it was seen as shamanic to today when programs like the Open Dialogue just see it as a way of communicating that for which no words have yet been found: see my prior post,