Sign In

Remember Me

The Essential Psychopathology Of Creativity

If we could identify a gene for creativity, let’s call it the “creativity gene”, you would be hard pressed to find very many people who would consider it a “negative gene” or a hazard to possess or carry.  But what if, purely hypothetically, we could identify a gene for Schizophrenia?  Or Bipolar Disorder?  Or Depressive Disorder?  Or ADHD?  Would you select for those traits if you could genetically engineer your offspring at will?  If you wanted to give birth to a creative child, the answer should be yes.

The very traits that make someone creative, passionate, and likely to achieve a high degree of success in their domain, are the same traits that define psychological disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and ADHD.  So what is the difference between creativity and psychopathology?  Where do we draw the line between functional excess of extreme traits and the point at which they define a psychological disorder?  Is there a discriminating characteristic that separates these two groups?  Yes, there is, and it’s called cognitive control, or high executive function.  We’ll discuss this more in a bit.

An article in the NY Times titled, “Just Manic Enough: Seeking Perfect Entrepreneurs“, described individuals that were unnaturally creative, passionate, energetic, charismatic, and those most sought-after by venture capitalists as “hypomanic”.  They go on to describe how these individuals, while successful and gifted at what they do, meet the criteria in the DSM as suffering from Hypomanic Episodes (one of the defining features of Bipolar Disorder).  From the DSM:

DSM IV Criteria for Hypomanic Episode:

A) Distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting throughout at least 4 days that is clearly different from the usual nondepressed mood.

B) During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (four if the mood is only irritable) and have been present to a significant degree:

  1. Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  2. Decreased need for sleep (e.g. feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
  3. More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
  4. Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  5. Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
  6. Increase in goal-directed activity (at work, at school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
  7. Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g. engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

C) The episode is associated with an unequivocal change in functioning that is uncharacteristic of the person when not symptomatic.

D) The disturbance in mood and the change in functioning are observable by others.

E) The mood disturbance not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning, or to necessitate hospitalization, and there are no psychotic features.

F) The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication or other treatment) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism)

Now, I don’t know how many of you creative-types out there began to panic when you started reading this list of defining criteria, but I know I did.  In fact, of all the creative people I know in various fields of work and study (and I know a lot), I don’t know too many who don’t meet these criteria.  It’s called being In The Zone, or Flow, as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  This is usually that happy-productive-place that we all love to be in, and don’t seem to get enough of.  However, according to the DSM criteria, it appears if you are too intensely creative, you might very well be suffering from Hypomanic Episodes.

Is there a difference between being hypomanic and being extremely creative?  Yes, there is.  While being an intensely creative person may imply you are meeting most of those criteria a lot of the time when you are in that state of flow, that doesn’t mean you are dysfunctional.  This list also doesn’t specify a degree or intensity of the symptoms.  There is a big difference between “people notice the change in your behavior” and “people are freaked out by the change in your behavior“.  One seems a little bit more problematic than the other.

Having untreated Bipolar Disorder or Hypomanic Episodes can be severely debilitating; let’s see how debilitating it is to be in a creative flow.  Do you get hyper-focused on your task?  Yes.  Stay up all night working on it?  Sure, at times.  Do other people notice a change in your behavior?  Well, I’d hope my colleagues and friends can tell the difference between me sitting around mindlessly working and me in my creative flow.  Definite change in attitude- yes, we get happy when those creative moments hit.

In fact, writing this very article, I have now stayed up all night, have been focused intensely on my work, yet easily distracted, AND I’m in a pretty noticeably good mood.  Oh, damn!  Someone call the psychiatrist!  Andi is having “an episode”!!!

This list from the DSM also doesn’t account for the balancing out of those traits by regulatory mechanisms that are present in successfully creative people.  You can have intense personality traits, while still maintaining control over them.  This is a mere checklist, which is one of the big problems I have with the DSM in its current form.

To be honest, the Times article was pretty positive, and real “Yeah, you go, you crazy kids!” regarding this type of creative individual, but there was this disconcerting labeling of extremely creative people as having a “disorder”.  This bothers me, because I don’t think most people understand the bigger picture of genetics, balancing of traits, and the definition of a “disorder”.  We see items adding up on the handy-dandy DSM checklist, and we are quick to classify people as having a disorder.  Stigma ensues.

Yet another story, similar in message, has been circulating the last few days about Narcissists and their ability to convince people of their (not so) creative ideas.  I have many problems with that story for reasons I won’t get into right now (like the criteria for labeling subjects as Narcissists, for one), but the main point was that individuals identified as having a personality disorder were actually the most successful at the task that was being measured – one that involved coming up with creative solutions, then convincing a group of people of the value of those ideas.  These are good traits to have – don’t we define disorders partially by their degree of maladjustment and failure to function in society?  So why did the “pathological” individuals show more skill and have a higher rate of success?

Bigger question I have for you: Why is everyone so surprised at this?

The Essential Truth of Creativity

The truth is, in order to be truly exceptional at something creative in nature, whatever domain it may be, you need to have those extreme traits that get you labeled by the DSM as meeting the criteria for some kind of a personality disorder.  However (and this is the catch), in order to have those extreme, intense traits and not suffer from a disorder, you also need to have some sort of regulatory mechanism that helps to control those traits.

The psychologist interviewed for the Times article, John Gartner, and author of the book The Hypomanic Edge, essentially describes this type of excessively-creative-yet somehow-able-to-function-normally individual.  He says that the “attributes that make a good entrepreneur are common in certain manias, but are harnessed in ways that are hugely productive.”  That harnessing, or cognitive control, is the one thing that really separates extreme, yet functional traits from dysfunction and psychopathology.

Let’s look at one more example involving the link between Schizophrenia and creativity.

The traits that define schizotypy: divergent thinking, mental flexibility, and over-inclusive thinking style (lack of latent inhibition, or attending to irrelevant details and stimuli), are also traits that are necessary (yet necessarily regulated) in order to have the most success in creative achievement.

Dr Liane Gabora, creativity researcher, described the phenomenon of having schizotypal traits while being functionally and successfully creative in her Beer Can Theory of Creativity.  A person with schizotypal traits with no cognitive control was like having all the cans of beer in the 6-pack, but no plastic thingy to hold them all together.  Divergence of thought without cognitive control doesn’t give you that ability to discern if your wild ideas are delusional, real, appropriate, or even good ideas to pursue.  That plastic thingy makes all the difference between those same schizotypal traits manifesting as a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, or as successful creativity.  Thus, we can think of creativity here as “optimally functional schizotypy”.

Creativity Across Different Domains

However, this distinction of functionality based on the presence or absence of cognitive control isn’t limited to just Schizophrenia, or Bipolar Disorder.  It applies to other DSM disorder classifications as well – Depressive Disorder (features high emotional sensitivity), Narcissism (features high confidence and charisma), ADHD (features lots and lots of ideas coming in at all times) even Autism Spectrum Disorders (features very focused attention to detail).  Taking into account the traits involved in those disorders, and looking at different types of creativity, we could define it as “domain-specific-optimal-versions-of-pathological-traits”, given the person has a high level of cognitive control.

We Need Psychopathology If We Want Geniuses

The point here is this: Were it not for those “disordered” genes, you wouldn’t have extremely creative, successful people.  Being in the absolute middle of every trait spectrum, not too extreme in any one direction, makes you balanced, but rather boring.  The tails of the spectrum, or the fringe, is where all the exciting stuff happens.  Some of the exciting stuff goes uncontrolled and ends up being a psychological disorder, but some of those people with the traits that define Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, ADHD, and other psychological conditions, have the fortunate gift of high cognitive control paired with those traits, and end up being the creative geniuses that we admire, aspire to be like, and desperately need in this world.

So now, after this discussion, let’s go back to that original question.  If we were to be able to identify the genes for Schizophrenia, or for Bipolar Disorder, or for ADHD… would we want to eliminate them?  If we were making a “designer baby”, would you choose those genes to be added into your child’s genome?

I say yes.

The more crucial variable that we should be trying to manipulate is the neural mechanisms for cognitive control, in order to take the most advantage of the gifts associated with those extreme and intense traits, or to allow someone with a debilitating disorder to gain control over it.  In this way, I don’t look at psychopathology as “disorders”, but rather an inability to maintain control over the set of traits you have.  Some people with more extreme traits need more control, others can do with less.  But if we want to continue to have exceptional, creative geniuses, those pathological traits are an absolute necessity.

References:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/business/19entre.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/09/is-narcissism-good-for-business.html

Gabora, L. (2000). The beer can theory of creativity. In: (P. Bently&D. Corne, Eds.) Creative
Evolutionary Systems. Morgan Kauffman

Kuszewski, Andrea Marie, The Genetics of Creativity: A Serendipitous
Assemblage of Madness (March 1, 2009). METODO Working Papers, No. 58.
Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1393603

Andrea Kuszewski, an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET, works as a researcher and manager with Scientific Vortex Inc, a transdisciplinary research org, investigating the neuro-cognitive factors behind human behavior; this includes topics such as creativity, intelligence, sociopathy, and x-altruism. She has published papers on the neuroscience of creativity, intelligence, and the analysis of illegal behavior and the creative rule-breaking process. As well as being a researcher of creativity, she is herself a fine artist and has been trained in various visual communication medium, ranging from traditional drawing to digital painting, graphic design, and 3D modeling and animation for the medical and behavioral sciences.

Andrea is also a Behavior Therapist and Consultant, treating both children on the Autism spectrum and their families, specializing in Aspergers Syndrome. She teaches a wide range of skills such as: communication, play, academics, creativity, and social skills, using multimodal methods, in the natural environment.

She recently joined Syntience, an AI startup in the Bay Area, as a Robopsychologist, working on technology to model human intuition and creative cognition in machines, called Artificial Intuition. Andrea is also a popular and widely published science writer and a science communication activist. Her blog, The Rogue Neuron, addresses a variety of current science topics, but is mainly focused on cognitive neuroscience, psychology, autism, and education.

34 Comments

  1. Another interesting idea in Gartner’s book, The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America, is the idea that “hypomanic” genes may be particularly common in the Americas and Australia, countries full of immigrants who had a powerful drive to do amazing things and moved to an entirely different continent to do so (whether from Asia tens of thousands of years ago or from Europe in the last several hundred).

  2. The points you bring up about the usefulness of hypomania and bipolar disorder are very interesting. Is there any research into how medication affects the creativity and work ethic granted by hypomania?

  3. This article is based on the premise that the symptoms of a hypomanic episode are the same as the characteristics of Flow as described by Csikszentmihalyi. Actually though, the two experiences are nearly exact opposites. Where hypomania has inflated self-esteem, flow has a loss of self-consciousness. Mania: distractibility; Flow: extreme, narrow concentration. Mania: pursuing activities without considering consequences; Flow: personal control.

    If Flow=creativity then a hypomanic episode is an impediment to creativity rather than the key. And it seems to me the entire argument that a tendency towards mental illness is an essential ingredient in creativity falls apart when this false connection is taken away.

  4. This doesn’t sit right. For instance, high enthusiasm is not manic, determination is not obsession, divergent thinking is not hearing voices in your head.
    The notion that there is ‘executive control’ is meaningless, it implies a controller separate from the rest of the brain. Current neuroscience has done away with that bit of silliness. Your brain operates you, you don’t operate it. The only control we have is the control our brains let us think we have.
    My reading of ‘flow,’ and my experience of it, is nothing like control, rather just the opposite. Being in the flow is releasing the idea of consciousness control and letting your brain and body operate. There is no time for conscious thought, it would only interfere. Like trying to hit a fastball by consciously thinking about it.

  5. Having these psycho-pathological symptoms (and the necessary cognitive controls) doesn’t always imply that one will turn out to be creative. It’s possible to have someone who exhibits all the symptoms of DSM and be an absolute uncreative bore.

    The author seems to imply that the symptoms are sufficient for being creative, which is false:

    “But if we want to continue to have exceptional, creative geniuses, those pathological traits are an absolute necessity.”

    “The truth is, in order to be truly exceptional at something creative in nature, whatever domain it may be, you need to have those extreme traits that get you labeled by the DSM as meeting the criteria for some kind of a personality disorder. “

  6. Excellent. I have major depression, used to be alcoholic, still write but the times I write very soul ripping pieces is rarer now. In my 20’s, the time of dozens of attempted suicides and bleak months that blended into one, year after year, I wrote, when not depressed at a dizzying speed. I wrote to become famous and in the process forgave my father, a demi-totalitairan and my mother a mother who watched her drinks more than her kids. I also grew thru my writing. I never became famous–but, thats my fault. While I killed past demons, one remained alive:fear of success.

  7. Being a creative person with bi-polar is like standing one foot on joyful creativity and the other on blackly dismal depression. There is little or no middle.
    Lucky for me there are medicines that help me to maintain presence in the world. Creativity does not automatically disappear when there is intervention.
    Interesting article, Ms Kuszewski.

  8. the article writer (Andrea) wrote that being in a creative mindset/period one gets happy. What if creativity is about finding out new info, but if it hits dead and or a lot of questions and options, uncertain which to be chosen? Would that result in negative emotions?

  9. THERE IS A WAY TO ASSESS NON VIOLENTLY IF INBORN (GENETICS + WOMB ENVIRONMENT) FACTORS PLAY A HUGE ROLE IN METAL CREATIVITY OR NOT.

    Here is a description of reasons and a method of rising kids [if you find the sentences ununderstandable, then please not it, so i know]:

    disclaimer (i look up references later, not many read them anyway).
    aims in short:

    -make better people/better society modell
    -minimise competition against eachother
    -minimise fear conditioning
    -maximimse cretive/learning will
    -maximise objectiveness

    -why not competition against eachother: since it creates not just will to overcome, but will to destroy or slow others (which apparently doesnt make us faster).

    -why minimise fear conditioning? since fear itself creates a will for fast response and less analysis, potentially leading to problems (and also contradictions, which can be observed frequently; or hypocrisy). Also, if many things and behaviour is fear conditioned, then the overall time of kids (for example) spent in a mindset responding to stimulus connected with fearconditioned behaviour, will make them do less analysis, or synthesis, so overall, a worse quality of “thinking” can be expected.

    -maximise creative/learning will: thats easy, everyone want to strive for it at times (except when they respond to fearconditioned behaviour). So that would be the major point, since it can achieve better performance then outside world, there is more chance to convince outsiders (yes, we are running out of time here, since artificial intelligance algorithms are progressing quite neatly).

    -maximise objectiveness: that just follows from having less fearconditioning (since more analisys more objectivness can occur). Some might think: well, what if its objectively better for all to have some person destroyed. No it is not, because that would leave chance for fear conditioning again.

    This is an experiment: A couple of uncertain things which it will answer
    -is there realy an innate predisposition towards violence? (some babies might display such behaviour besides not having shown to them, but having their needs satisfied regurarly)
    -how much role in babies has inoperation of brain areas responsible for simbolic operations and conductive thinking, in determinging later capabilities in creativity, ability to improve stuff, solve problems or do research. (An experiment showing reduction in gray matter in the neocortex on the occipital lobe when eyes were covered for longer periods, suggests that one can expect less using of other neocortical areas would lead to less “intelligance” or creativity, since much of neocortex is similar in neural composition (some lacks a layer, maybe the third i dont remember).
    -what is the role of language structure in abstract thinking or otherwise? (the babies would have one mother tongue, a language being designed, aiming for some cognitive optimisation as well as unambiguity).
    -what if persons have their needs satisfied during development, and no fear occures? Maybe those areas responsible for the fear response, might be less developed, since less activation.
    -is there a fear in them innately? (like not shown fearfull stuff to them but they might dream about fearfull situations)
    -is there realy (and every time) a “golden cut” or something like that, meaing predisposition towards liking people/animals with certain looks?

    Implementation:

    Basics:
    since we use non altered humans, have to base everyhing on human basics. So, these are the well known physiologycal needs (eat,drink,excrete,breath,temperature regulation, higiene(learned),physical activity), then the need for touch (non touched babies had problems in incubators) and need for optimal brain activation. Some needs of Maslow are based on brain activation need, usually the higher needs. The brain activation need is called this way, because its not necessary for the individual to satisfy it only with very new things. So many individuals actually satisfy it with sports or games which might not offer much fundamental difference in each play, but still satisfies the person brain activation needs [demanding some processing of info from brain, so more areas are activated] (so the person wont look for things to learn, or create, but will satisfy it with some complex enough but not in a sense repetitive activty). But usually it is in some way Diversity which satisfies the need. For the above mentioned goal, its obvious that even small children should satisfy their brain activation needs with either creative activities or learning. So this also have to be achieved as non violonetly as possible. There are so called social needs, but i think these might be emmergent needs, not basic ones. I think, that social needs build possibly on need for touch and sexual needs, as well as on the cognitive ability to connect somehow some situations with the possibility/feeling of meeting those sexual and touch needs (like “if im around people i will get touched, so i should want to be around people”). Also, social needs can be weakly connected to brain activation needs too. I might think, that maybe even needs for touch is an emmergent need – based on movements felt while the mother was walking about and these satisfied brain acitavtion need (in the womb). But i dont think we have to check it in this experiment, since its possible that some coordination skills or otherwise would be less precise as less activation of touch receptors would cause less use of sensing of touch, IF this diversity is withdrawn from the in utero invironment [only realy possible with artificial wombs anyway] -> this would be potentially harmfull, so no need to check if touch is an emmergent need or not.

    So no competition, more cooperation:

    competition goes mainly for satisfing needs (or the thought, that “im more safely satisfied if im winner in competition”). So all the needs are satisfied for the kids without conditions. Physical are obvoious, touch is satisfied partly by teachers, and more with eachother between small groups of kids. Kids (doesnt matter if relatives or not) would be together, and many kind of “teachers/nurses” would care for them; from their perspectives, they see more kind of “teachers” then kids at first, later it changes. This way chances increase that interactions would be more frequent with those who are more knowledged (previous generation/teachers).. It’s possible, that if too many kids are together [at first], they might go about satisfing their brain activation needs by simply altering the person (another kid) whith which they interact, so that way it would be more likely that they interact more with kids (undeveloped uninformed persons) rather then teachers. If that has some strong effect on motivations, then it should be avoided. For this inital period small number of infants/babies would live in a living compartnement (maybe with a few rooms, but at least two). im not quite sure about it, im guessing 5-8 kids should be together, but it could be corrected based on observations of behaviour of children in childcare centers or kindergarten). This is a somewhat long but temporary period (not sure at all but its temporary).

    Minimise fear conditioning:

    that is by trying to shape their motives with limiting their environment and stimulus they receive, instead of playing out an authority figure who bans interest(s) of wrong kind. Everything which they might want to reach in their environment (at infancy) should be within close enough reach, so that their slow movement doesnt cause too much stress; So check babies reactions, as to what objects they aim to reach within what distance. The limitation can be achieved by closed environement at the first period (windows on the roof), and using artifical simulated environments (where they can explore and stuff).

    Maximise creative interests:

    Toys should be minimal, all wich satisfactorily helps in sensory motoric development. Also, toys should be present which facilitaty development of observation, and “problem” solving (compared to the fact that most toys today are based on figures and roleplay). Maybe virtual “toys” could offer a wider variety of stimulus (controllers should be simbolic but based on movements, virtual googles would be best, projectors cheapest as an output source, at least buying them operation projectors would probably be less cheap).

    The above also described the first developmental period too.

    Next developmental period:
    As they can speak, and walk comfortably, and seems they have interests towards learning new things or creating things (that can be expected somewhat early) then they can be moved to join the other kids who are already past the previous developmental stage (however the whole group should only move together into the larger community at this early stage). Here in the new environment their education accelerates more. So at this point, they will start to have solid beliefs of the world surrounding them, so this is here where its optimal to show them how much their senses are limited (their believes are incorrect), so that they will know about some more
    “places” where they can look for new stuff (for satisfiing brain activation needs) – this probably happens early in development too. Obvious, here can be used some inventions like microscope or other stuff able to sense things different from what humans can sense but similar, so it can be understood by them. For example, one could show them objects, which they could touch and based on touch they would have to guess patterns which might be visible on it (is it more bumpy or less), then show them magnification of the image, and show that they could not tell all the real features of it just by looking at it or touching. More samples however should have correlation between some of their looks and other percepts (sound, touch or whatever connectable with other senses). First they should have connections of such, so they grow a habbit, that they might interlink sensual memories more, and they might subject differing kinds of percepts to analysis with one another, not just analise withing the percept category but in between categories as well. Only after that should be shown that however, its not always correct (in reality, there is correlation, however, its not always possible to tell by looking at it with naked eye [or listening, or whatever]). Actually, here if some of them can tell beforehand that they are unable to guess with complete certainty (the features), then they might be better at abstract thinking tasks, (since they were able to find out about the existance of properties and work/reason with them, reducing to a possiblity that things migh be even smaller beyond their perception. that is abstract thinking). Also, at this developmental stages (at any point in this stage) they might be thought to meditate/concentrate, or train their imagination (but maybe that would be more appropriate on later stages, when their abstract thinking and knowledge about themselves is higher, since at just that earlier stage they might be not interested about such things).

    Then one more thing, at this time its possible to teach them physics, chemistry or biology but differnetly, only the qualitative part can be thought to them (since all of them can be explained through motions [of particles, or objects], whith they are already familiar with). Of course as above mentioned the language they learn is an artificial language only. They will learn later a few other languages, by inviting other kids (that is after puberty of the first generation, since only then it is obvious if social bahaviours would turn out as peacefull as expected). Its also possible to teach them programming (also qualitative, with simple quantitativeness). They later on learn the quantitative part based on the creation of specific things. So obviously there is a need for some material stuff on the experimental community. Most people are more interested or motivated if they can see what they can do with the knowledge (some have good imagination though).

    In the previous stage and from that on, reducing competition is obvious, since the very first stage would show if innate violence or fear is present or not in many, so therefore just one principle have to be true: They dont get simbolically valued, they just get their needs met and as the first stage already managed to shape their way of satisfing brain actiavtion need with learning or exploration, their motivation should work on its own, if you simply present them with new information they might be ready to take it up, or learn about it.

    Next developmental phase comes with emmergence of new needs (actually strengthening of sexual needs). How to aproach it is somewhat questionable to me. Anyway, normally, if no cultural behaviour is thought to them (only their motivations are shaped as described) its highly likely, that until and after they explore their bodies, they would explore other kids bodies as well. That comes even before puberty, only they probably care less about it until then as long as they can satisfy their brain activation needs and otherwise, having no fear about whatever in them (even small kids from time to time use sexual stimulation as a relief from anxiety (but not only as a relief from anxiety)). So because of that, i think they should get education about sex even before puberty (because they would explore eachother very early anyway). The other idea is just teach them higene and let them do what they want later on (only to caution them if it might be dangerous or unpleasent in some way). One other thing which would realy suggest having them thought about sexuality earlier then puberty, is if some of the kids become more “popular” because of some random thing, or the presence of some innate predisposition towards liking some specific shape in people more then others (or sound or whatever in behaviour). If there is such a thing, then after puberty there might still be some predisposition towards whom more persons will get attracted. That might be clearly visible earlier then puberty, so if thats the case, i think its wiser to educate the center of attention person differently, and teach them about sexuality earlier and human behaviour (AS SOON AS they acquired the personality that they want to understand stuff generally). Another option would be a slight “violence” that is separating the center of attention persons/kids to be around mainly such persons as themselves, BUT only if it showes up very early in development (when the smaller groups of kids are still separately rised); but this is unlikely, though possible. However, Since at that stage they cant speak much or understand much, and that separation might cause some distress in those remaining or the separated (but maybe just momentarily). So i think the former option is better then later. Overall, they either should have prepuberty sex ed,training or shape motives of popular persons differently.

    There is one more thing which can arise, and it is innate violence. That means, that even though kids live in abundance, some would use violence to get something from the other (but that to be decided, have to watch very closely to see that there were no conflicts or some sort of disease). For those violent kids, separation have to occur, so they can only be with such persons, against whom they cant use violence, and eventually they will realise that they dont realy have to use violence. (of course they have to be examined by non invasive means available, because there might be just a diesease present if nothing related to born brain abnormalities is present).

    Back to the last unfinished point: if there are more attractive persons, then somehow have to solve it so that everyones need gets met sufficiently and for that i think that earlier then puberty education might be better before needs are more urgent. However, because of the way their personality would be shaped, they might solve it by themselves (one can decide it whether have seen much helping movements towards others or not by kids/infants, more helping to others, more likely they solve such problems themselves). But anyway at some point when they are able to talk have to explain to them some basics of human psychology if they are open to it.

    About agressive kids: when some of the non agressive kids are already turning towards interests in understanding behaviour of humans and animals, such kids are able to more safely be close to agressive ones (others who dont understand such behaviours or dont have motivation to understand human/animal behaviour would have just fear, and thats contrary to non-fear conditioning).

    After quite some of the kids have some knowledge about development of humans, then maybe some new young kids (preferably newborns) can be brought/born into the community, so it can be checked, if the already developed kids can also bend the behaviour or developing kids satisfactorily/nonviolently. When/if that is so, outsider kids can be brought into the community. Of course the inborn kids should have remaining potential for their own development.

    Before going into other details ( because its just one part, since it should be an experimental community, with more or less independence, there are quite some material parts which have to be considered in a little more detail, i detail them later), i summarise some conclusions and necessary actions based on the outcome of the experiment. Requirements for the community include detailsabout kind of other researches, and the fact that what kind of sciences would be presented more to the kids.

    So There is a point, when the second generation have been rised in the manner as the first one, partially by the first one. Lets consider some outcomes at this point:
    ifs:
    -much higher creativity and objective problem solving ability is estabilished, then its a win situation, others should take note and see the results and ways it has been achieved or (because they are creative) they finish some university in outside world and split and create some more new communities.
    -if no much high creatvity, althought the persons were predisposed towards wanting to learn more or create more, then its conclusive: genetics or womb environment had a strong impact on mental abilities, and the would be reduction of the neurons in less used brainparts would have less effect. In this case, cloning might be already available, so then clone those who were more able, if that is not available or not even in sight (which i doubt) then use some more thought out eugenics.
    -many cases of innate agression have been detected: consider eugenics/cloning. also share result, since it might be the same on the general population (or very similar at least)
    -almost no cases of innate agression: tell people that agression is not natural in humans, only in bad environments (it seems).
    -innate attraction towards some kind of “forms” have been discovered: depending on how easy was it to solve/prevent conflicts it should be noted, or if hard, also cloning/eugenics
    -no innate attraction realy: then “beauty” is much just cultural construction.
    -if that was possible to reduce their fear towards (otherwise) apparently dangerous things in “adulthood” without using fearfull stuff as desensitisation. Then, fear controll areas is also likely subject to much rewiring (or the positive part at least).

    Here should be some metodological details.. (quite some to come)

  10. As someone who has been diagnosed with BiPolar disorder only in the last 4yrs, this article expressed an idea that I’ve been playing with for a while.
    I have long seen other people who seem to have many of the same mental and emotional… urges that I do (its not hard to spot them), and yet somehow manage to be in control of themselves, a feat I am slowly learning myself.

    It has caused me endless frustration over the years before I was diagnosed that I kept on “screwing up”, but a greater understanding, both of myself as a person, and the condition, is helping me to grow.
    I am now undergoing self sought out psychotherapy (not that easy in the UK!), to get at the root of some issues which have been compounded with BiPolar, but also symptoms, including self medication with illegal street drugs, subsequent addiction issues, low self esteem, and abusive relationships.

    I believe that there are people who have genes and chemical imbalances in all aspects (but not all extremes) of the mental health spectrum who are what I refer to as “higher functioning”.

    I had several tragedies at key parts of my emotional development that stunted my growth, my ability to function on that level, made me afraid to face or deal with certain emotional stimuli, and I believe that this can be a deciding factor.
    It is only now, as an intentionally single young man, ex-con, and ex-addict in my early thirties am I now trying to root them out, put them under a microscope, and finally learn to deal with life, stresses, insecurities, and responsibilities, in a functional manner.
    After so many years, I finally feel like I am starting to take control again, and I will beat this.

    I am also a very creative person, but not in an artistic sense so much (although I do have a strong aesthetic eye), but more in the fields of engineering and design – problem solving.
    I adore being given a problem and then being allowed to run with ideas to see how far they’ll take me!
    I’m also a physically skilled person (electrician by trade) and a perfectionist, and have put my hands to virtually everything I could, and usually managed to make it work.
    These two aspects mean I get bored easily, but love projects, and become intensely involved, to the point that most others either can’t keep up or get swept away by my irritation at their lake of insight!
    This is also a side of me which has been often suppressed and I am now taking steps to re-acquaint myself with again on a more personal level, and am finding immense satisfaction from.

    It is a shame that two years into a degree in architecture, I had a pretty major episode, but I was still undiagnosed at the time and so have had to give up that dream (and 2nd career!), as it is one of the most stressful and demanding degrees and careers.

    Thank you for this article, it is partially a confirmation, but also a goal to strive for as I attempt to learn to channel my emotional energies in a constructive and creative manner, as I try to become a higher functioning extreme, a controlled dysfunctional.

  11. Please take a lot at the site link. An advice? Anyone? There has been too much strangeness . . . some truth would be helpful . . .

  12. Stay up all night for too many nights in a row and you, too can have a manic episode! It’s not that hard, really.

  13. Such a life can also be pretty difficult. Human pathology and misery and precursor to success? Pretty ruthless.

    • You are right. It can be VERY difficult. I know from personal experience. And my family runs the spectrum of functional and gifted to extremely dysfunctional. It’s a delicate balance, but the highest potential reward comes with the highest risk.

  14. Oh my, was this article written in 80’s or what? Someone saying that “divergent thinking” is a sign of a psyhiatric disorder..

    Please read about anti-psychiatry movement and how “mental illnesses” are created culturally. And how fake DSM is. Any person on earth can be diagnosed with a disorder with that manuel and that is the aim of it. http://www.cchr.org/quick-facts/real-disease-vs-mental-disorder.html

    Also, please learn about the famous Rosenhan experiment.

    Psychiatrist Daniel Carlat in his book Unhinged talks about how the symptoms of depression are created. He asks one of the members of the DSM committee why there are 5 symptoms of depression and the reply is “6 would be too many, and 4 seemed to me too few.” The criteria you are taking so seriously is just arbitrary sentences put together.

    Being a genius does not necessitate showing signs of “psychopathology”, it’s just you’d be very different from the crowd, which is something psychiatry loves to label.

    What IS pathetic about this website is that it reflects all the mainstream cultural fallacies of the western mind. And you think you are critical of things?

    • *sigh* I’m going to assume you didn’t read the article and are merely trolling the website for the ideologies represented. Thanks for playing!

    • By the way, you should read more carefully; Schizotypy is not the same as schizophrenia. Schizotypy is a description of types of traits (that are present in everyone to some degree) and schizophrenia is the disorder.

      • i guess you call my comment ideological because of the word “western mind” , but it has nothing to do with my personal view because in all Cultural Studies departments of all universities you learn the destructive side of Western culture. This is particularly so because Western culture has the upper hand presently. And western and eastern views of the world are almost completely different.

        Just a few months ago on this website I read a post written by someone who talks so enthusiastic about colonizing other planets. The post was weird to me. More weird was the fact that it had found its way on this website. If i was the editor, I’d never allow it. To me, dreaming of colonizing other planets is a sick thought. It might well be called evil and psychopathic too. Obviously, the editor of this website did not think so.

        Now, what are we going to do with this thought? I say it is sick, someone else says it’s fine. Whoever has the power can well condemn the other.

        That you refer to DSM and then reject a little of it is frankly meaningless to me. You are not intellectually critical of it, because you present your causes for rejection in a personal way. As if you do not approve the idea. Whereas there are books on it, there is a whole movement about it and obviously you have never heard about them.

        As for schizophrenia, and other psychiatric diseases, you can label or “diagnose” any person schizophrenic. Anyone different or inherently introvert or with a wild imagination can be called schizophrenic. I remember very clearly, at high school, some of the students who were different and way smarter than the others were diagnosed schizophrenic. They WERE not schizophrenic, they were CALLED schizophrenic.

        Homosexuality was a mental disease in the DSM until the end of 70’s and this was purely cultural. There was nothing scientific about it. Then with the influence of hippies and women’s liberation movement in the 60’s, it was voted out of the DSM. There was nothing scientific about that too. Cultural changes bring along changes in what is perceived as “mental illness”.

        To conclude, we here have an author presenting the most absurd view that if mental illness genes are found, it should be added to the babies so that they can be creative. Have you ever thought that “creativity or geniues gene” can exist alone? Too much interest in psychiatric formulas of human mind and soul makes one dull it seems. Mental illness=creativity=genius is essentially a flawed idea or belief, which is based on your ignorance of what psychiatry and mental illnesses actually are. So we do not need psychopathology if we want geniuses. There is absolutely nothing called the “essential” psychopathology of creativity whatsoever, which is the very title of your dull article which can well be assigned to 80’s.

        Also, if you are a genius and just enjoy your time in solitude and some psychiatrist comes and calls you schizophrenic because he/she disapproves of the way you live your life, which is just a very subjective opinion and nothing else, well that can be the cause of the madness of that genius rather than a gene. And that was why Erich Fromm called psychiatry “modern fascism”: fascism of the cultural norms. So, the stronger psychiatry gets in a society, the more those fascinating and legendary mentally ill geniuses exist. I’m happy for you! (Dull people always are fascinated with such “outcast” people.)

        I still recommend you to read books or web pages about anti-psychiatry. You really need it.

        • Thanks for the rant. It reminds me that as a therapist, I have job security.

        • Hmmm… I’m the Chief Editor of this webzine, and I’m a big fan of the colonization of other planets. Why the heck not?

          I’m also very familiar with the anti-psychiatry movement and its texts, and am generally sympathetic with them. I don’t actually see any big contradictions between Andrea’s views in this article and the conclusions of the anti-psychiatry movement. Though as you say, the latter are more thoroughgoing.

          As for H+ Magazine reflecting the weaknesses of Western culture — well, hmmm…. I’m based in Hong Kong and have become pretty personally familiar with Eastern culture as well. I’ve also studied anthropology a fair bit including Stone Age cultures. Of course H+ Magazine is heavily based in Western culture, because it’s largely focused on modern technology and science which most proximally emerged from Western culture. Ultimately, though H+ is about transcending all current human cultures, and all current restrictive human thought-patterns, and seeking new ways of thinking, feeling, relating and being.

          Is the desire to transcend humanity, itself, part of Western culture? In a sense, yes. Eastern culture is focused more on stasis than on progress. In that sense, yeah, transhumanism is Western-culture biased. But so what? Transhumanism is also capable of incorporating ideas and influences from other cultures, and I hope it will do so more thoroughly in future…. That was part of my motivation for organizing the Humanity+ @ Hong Kong conference last year.

          Does Western culture have destructive aspects? Sure. So has every other human culture. Confucianism can be rather oppressive, and Stone Age culture can come down rather harshly on various sorts of “deviants” also.

          Destruction and creation tend to go hand in hand. And this conclusion long predates Western culture!

          By the way if you’d like to submit a review article on anti-psychiatry and its relevance to the future of humanity, I’d certainly seriously consider it for publication here. Of course the article would have to have a somewhat different tone from your comment, though…

          • BTW the above reply was obviously intended for esra rather than Andi ;p … ben g

          • i think it’d be a waste of time to prepare an article on anti-psychiatry and human development for this website because this website reflects and addresses mainstream western rationalism and culture. Which advocates psychiatry.

            and no, the article and my comments do not have the same conlcusion because the author accepts that there are “disorders” such as ADHD and bipolar disorder and goes further and says there might be genes out there for these disorders; whereas anti-psychiatry rejects the idea that there are such disorders in the first place. These are invented “disorders”. It’s only different people labeled and some anti-psychiatrists argue that such labels in fact are used to turn different or smarter kids into a more ordinary mindset. So nobody’s ever going to find genes for bipolar disorder and adhd, because there are no such things- anti-psychiatry argues. And adhd and bipolar disorder are the most popular “disorders” nowadays.

            http://www.cchr.org/videos/making-a-killing/disease-mongering.html (if you have time, please watch all parts of “Making A Killing” series.)

            And one question: you accept that transhumanism itself is western. And why are the articles here always talk about all humanity? You know, singularity, immortality for everyone etc. Just in a recent article, you wrote “if immmortality pills were available, almost nobody would choose death”. That is a very wrong assumption. If immortality was available not even 50% of humanity would choose to have it. (because, for instance, the eastern perspective sees existence as cyclical, and not as linear progression. I could be anything else apart from my present self; so it can well be argued immortality is in fact something limiting me to my present self and existence.)

            • I agree with Ben, and would be interested in any new perspectives esra could contribute to h+ that I (and others) have not considered. He must have much more than a dislike of psychiatry.. which has had a very hard time since cognition, consciousness and intelligence are so poorly understood by the minds that utilize them.. for psychiatry.

              On Mars:
              The survival instinct is a necessity for life that we have inherited from every precursor of human evolution. None of it knew of the long term consequences of its short individual existence. Likewise, even if we cannot accurately envision h+ we have an obligation to all life that preceded us, and in some way to the laws of physics themselves that drive all this, to ensure life’s survival into the future. This is possibly the most pragmatic meaning-of-life one can find. That means all life, not just human. And Mars is the first step.

            • Esra: As someone who suffers from cyclothymia and ADHD, and has watched slowly as it destroyed their lives while they could stand by and do NOTHING because they had NO control, I’ll thank you to take your neurotypical privilege and shove off. You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about – east, west, north, or south.

  15. Absolutely terrific piece. And I think this quote from you is key: “While being an intensely creative person may imply you are meeting most of those criteria a lot of the time when you are in that state of flow, that doesn’t mean you are dysfunctional.”

    Also, having control. I am a writer and used to spend too much time grinding to improve a single line. I learned about satisficing (“the perfect is the enemy of the done,” as I put it), and will sometimes pull myself up by the scruff of the neck and make myself move on to the next paragraph. (I will go back and fix the line — I’m no hack — but sometimes it’s just not productive to let my “hyperfocus” on a problem run wild.)

  16. “variable that we should be trying to manipulate is the neural mechanisms for cognitive control”

    “I have many problems with that story for reasons I won’t get into right now (like the criteria for labeling subjects as Narcissists, for one)”

    “That plastic thingy makes all the difference…”

    I really enjoyed this article.

  17. Convergence. Andi (as she calls herself) brings ideas, from what might at first seem disparate fields, together quite well. I enjoy reading her thoughts on science in general. This article seems part of a progression in her work, not far afield from her x-altruism papers. In particular, I appreciate the big distinction of cognitive control. As a self proclaimed Dreamer, I can relate to the need to “rein it in” sometimes. Good read.