History is full of neurotic people that became famous in spite – or because – of their inclination toward negative psychological states. An opinion article in the scientific journal Trends in Cognitive Science ponders on the possibility that dealing with neuroticism might actually have a silver lining in the form of creativity.
The team of neuroscientists led by psychologist Adam M. Perkins of the King’s College defined the neurotic in very specific terms: people whose brains work overtime in focusing on made-up threats and dangers – even in the most blissful times of their lives. If strife and insult do happen to exist, the neurotic cannot help but embellish and explain them.
Some would pity them, but the new study has discovered that the brain primed to constantly generate scenarios of brooding misery even if the sun is shinning could also be inclined to think outside the box, refusing to conform to everyday realities. A strange kind of creativity that’s able to conjure up inexistent threats and imagine answers for the vague sense of general unhappiness and fear a neurotic feels.
Perkins and his team believe the quirks of the neurotic brain might be responsible for what we call ‘creative genius.’ Existing research is backing up their hypothesis – even though it is yet to be proved in the lab – suggesting that there is indeed a neural link between creativity and neurosis.
People who position higher on the scale of neurotic personality traits generally present more changing moods, and are more anxious than those who score higher on other personality traits, such as extraversion, openness, agreeableness, or conscientiousness. Changing circumstances usually have no impact on these traits, as they tend to stay the same throughout life.
While neurotics are more likely to avoid a career that would require sustained attention, in creative occupations, on the other hand, are highly represented. But it all comes down to the way our brains react to and regulate emotions, and the main differences are visible in the activity of the brain region known as the default mode network.
Similar patterns can be found in both creative people and highly neurotic people when their brains are observed during a specific cognitive task. Daydreaming is one of the processes that both groups find hard to shut down, resulting in a lot more time to engage in purposeful mental activity.
It’s extremely easy for the creative and the neurotic alike to be able to reimagine current information in new ways – imagined threats that can turn in nightmares in a blink of an eye. That’s why nightmare sufferers are in such high ranks among neurotics.
Even though neurosis is, by definition, a fixed personality trait, doctors and therapists have been recommending mindfulness meditation as a practice that would take neurotics out of their dark cloud, alongside antidepressants. However, these might “do more harm than good,” as they could be draining the creativity that predisposes them to genius.
Image Source: CNN