Is mental dysfunction, such as manic-depression or depression (formerly known as melancholy) common among highly Creative people? It depends. Writers, painters and sculptors are more likely to suffer from “diseases of the mind” than say, neuroscientists or architects, whom we assume, work for stable companies and receive regular paychecks. Lack of societal recognition may be one reason for such mental instability. Another may prove more philosophical.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the New York Times Bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love, believes the problem does lie within philosophy. In classical Greece, Ancient Rome and Medieval Europe, Creators had a Genius. Gilbert says,
During the Renaissance, coupled with Humanism’s bent toward personal responsibility came the idea that a person was a Genius.
Could a philosophical tweaking of the definition of Genius save writers, painters and sculptors of the future from suicidal tendencies? Gilbert says, Maybe, yes.
For the most part, personal unhappiness, group conflict, gross incivility, shameless promiscuity, epidemic crime, or orgiastic violence are products not of a society that is mentally ill, but of a system that–through lack of visionary statesmanship and philosophical virtue–has allowed and encouraged society to become morally disordered.
The idea that personal or societal philosophy affects the human Mind is as old as the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, who said:
As for Diseases of the Mind, he said, against them Philosophy is provided of Remedies; being, in that respect, justly accounted the Medicine of the Mind.
Creativity and all its components, including Curiosity are seen in a much more positive light today than a century ago. If Gilbert, Marinoff and Epicurus are correct, Highly Creative people today are mentally healthier than ever in human history.
That, is good news.