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Genius or Madness? The Connection between Psychosis and Creativity

Posted Sep 12 2008 4:03am

Part Two – Just Where Do You Come From?

As mentioned previously, psychosis and mania are not always bad experiences for people. Many people actually welcome these experiences, feeling that they are a source of inspiration.

Of course, feeling inspired by psychosis can mean different things to different people. For some it will literally mean that they feel that their hallucinations are informative in some way; for example, they may feel that their hallucinations are a form of apparition or vision; a religious experience. They may feel that they are being instructed on how to carry out a certain task. Others feel that their psychosis merely provides a “subject” for their creativity.

Hallucination or Vision?

"The Vision of Time" by Doctor Goober Modesty


Where does this creativity really come from?

Since hallucinations are a product of the persons own mind, the knowledge and the abilities must be their own. Mr Man believed that the voices instructed him on how to play Chess, compose music and how to solve programming dilemmas, but a hallucination can’t tell a person how to do something they don’t already know how to do, because it doesn’t really exist. To suggest otherwise would be to suggest that the voice is from a real outside source and not a hallucination after all. Although auditory hallucinations appear to the hearer to be from an outside source, it is merely a symptom of psychosis.

Some artists use their experiences of psychosis as a subject for creativity, and this can be a beneficial form of therapy

"Medication" by Philippa King


So what role, if any, does psychosis play in creativity?

Psychosis can aid creativity in two ways. As previously mentioned, psychosis can often provide a subject for creativity. The subject is compelling, and as Philippa explains regarding her own art “I could be creative without psychosis but it would not have the same edge to it”. Conversely, creativity itself can be an important outlet for those suffering from psychosis, and can be a beneficial form of therapy.

Also, delusional thinking often gives people confidence. The person could genuinely be a genius, and their delusional thinking could give them the confidence that they would usually lack to believe in themselves; or they could be lacking in talent, and suffering from delusions of grandeur which gives them false confidence. Either way, whether the ability in itself is real or imagined the delusional aspect of phychosis can aid self belief.

“I don’t know if my writing is any good at all and in normal circumstances I don’t believe it is, but I miss that manic self-belief.” - Seaneen

As mentioned previously, Mr Man also gained confidence through his psychosis, and felt that the voices were helping him with various tasks. It’s been a slow process, but Mr Man is starting to believe in himself now, and to find his own identity. I’ve already mentioned how he is becoming more involved in Table Tennis, and that he will be redesigning the website for his club. Having access to the internet means that he can share the computer programs he has written with others, and he has quite a little “fan club” of users who regularly ask him for the latest updates, so he is learning that his abilities are appreciated by real people. His music is something that has taken him a little longer to get back to, but recently he has started experimenting with that also.

But is it necessary to challenge the delusions of an individual? Is it necessary to treat someone experiencing psychosis? Why do some people have a pleasant experience with psychosis while others do not? These questions will be discussed in part three.

Next: Part Three
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