Psychologists at Kings College London found that creative thinkers tend to be neurotic worriers. It’s thought such individuals have a brain that’s more sensitive to perceive threats than those of other people.
It’s good news — for a change — for those of us whose psyche is often described by a long list of negative emotions, such as anxiety, fear, worry, frustration and loneliness.
‘We’re still a long way off from fully explaining neuroticism, and we’re not offering all of the answers, but we hope that our new theory will help people make sense of their own experiences, and show that although being highly neurotic is by definition unpleasant, it also has creative benefits.” (Dr Adam Perkins, Personality expert, King’s College London.)
Support for the idea that neuroticism is associated with creativity has come from brain scan studies highlighting neural circuits that regulate self-generated thought.
A key emotional center in the brain, a ‘panic button’, located in the amygdala. It is believed to switch on an inappropriate fear response after perceived threats are conjured up in the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex.
‘High scorers on neuroticism have a highly active imagination, which acts as a built-in threat generator,’ Dr Perkins said.
Activity in the medial prefrontal cortex not only produces fear in the neurotic, but is also a powerful creative force, according to the researchers, who explain their theory in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
I found quite comprehensive list of famous neurotics whose talents graced the humankind in the article by Charles Shahar.
“Many of the great authors, poets, artists, philosophers, entertainers and other prominent figures of the centuries have reflected some neurosis in their work, or in their thinking. From Salvador Dali, to Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Dostoevsky, and Sigmund Freud, the reflections of neurotic people have fascinated and informed us about ourselves. There are countless examples of people who enriched the world simply by expressing their neuroses in creative ways.
“Many famous artists who lived in the past strongly displayed symptoms of depression, with some of the more well known of these cases being Vincent van Gogh and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There are many other artists that that were depressives, including: Edgar Allen Poe, Lord Byron, William Blake, John Keats, TS Elliot, Mark Twain, Noel Coward, George Frederic Handel, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. In terms of politicians, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill are known to have been depressives.
Among the best-known obsessive-compulsive personalities were Michelangelo, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Howard Hughes and Stanley Kubrick.
In a word, unhappiness and creativity go hand-in-hand. Long before the latest scientific findings, the correlation between “genius” and “neurotic” was noted and recorded. Thus, a word of advice for neurotics everywhere: Stop worrying about whatever you are currently obsessing about and, if you aren’t a genius already, start worrying why the hell not. You have a lot going for you — press your panic button and let your amygdala push you out of your comfort zone. Do something new. Something bigger or better. Something truly amazing. Worriers, science tell us, are better warriors.