madness redefined: creativity, intelligence and the dark side of the mind

Panel discussion at the World Science Fair 2012 – hosted by Cynthia McFadden.


Panel of professors:
Kay Redfield Jamison (psych) (bipolar)
James Fallon (neuroscience) (ocd, bipolar, sociopath)
Elyn Saks (psych and law) (schizophrenic, hypochondriac)

The intro is poems and stuff, at the end there’s a performance by Irish singer Susan McKeown. If you’re cool with lines like balls on the floor and smells like cabbage in a serious sense, you’ll probably enjoy those sections more than I did. The panel discussion, however, was really good.

It isn’t only about bipolar at all, schizophrenia, depression, psychosis, psychopathy and sociopathy are there too. At just over 90mins long, it sustained the pace and held my interest well. I’m not going to run through the whole thing here, I’ll just give you some tidbits and observations.

The first if these is that KRJ really doesn’t do eye contact. Is that a bipolar thing?
I want to read Elyn Saks’ books. She has an odd laugh; she actually does go ha ha ha ha ha.
Cynthia McFadden’s hair has a life of its own.
James Fallon resembles a teddy bear – not only physically (though his PET scan suggests that he is a serial killer).
It’s a pity we don’t use the word maladroit more. Such a cool sounding word.

Bipolar has the highest correlation with creativity and it shows in the spatial something or other in paintings.
Bipolar people refuse meds in fear of losing their creativity, with schizophrenics it’s more the ‘narcissistic injury’ of having something wrong with them.
You can sustain brain damage and end up better off.
You are not exclusively your brain.
No matter what your genes say, a positive and loving environment gives a far better chance of being fine.
We have an uncivilised healthcare system and not enough hospital time available.
Psychosis is not like an on/off switch, it’s a dimmer.
Stubbornness can be good.
Routine and a support system are essential.
Are the illnesses dimensional or categorical?

All in all it’s a lively discussion, with some excellent laughs – it’s well worth watching. (YouTube again.) I heard consistently as Sicily quite a lot, which made some things a bit surreal (my brain does that when I read sometimes too – if it happens a lot it seems to predict a little doom).

I’d always been optimistic that when and if the mystery of me was solved, it could be fixed; now I was being told that whatever had gone wrong inside my head was permanent and, from all indications, unfixable.
Elyn R. Saks – The Center Cannot Hold

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battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

11 thoughts on “madness redefined: creativity, intelligence and the dark side of the mind”

  1. Looking forward to watching this. I didn’t refuse meds for fear of losing my creativity. However, I remember having a discussion with my CBT therapist, in which I sought reassurance that having CBT wouldn’t result in my not being able to write. He said it wouldn’t. ; )

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  2. Just viewed the entire video – connected so much with the experiences they were describing. It was really an eye-opening piece on the science behind the madness and I felt a surge of reassurance that it is possible to have this mental illness and still be successful and still maintain a full life, especially after the closing thoughts. Glad I watched this and thank you for sharing.

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  3. Have you read KRJ’s book(s)? Specifically An Unquiet Mind, which explains so much about why she is the way she is, and Touched with Fire which talks about the creative/bipolar correlation throughout history? Both books hit on a lot of the bullet points and are pretty eye-opening to the bipolar experience in general. Several of my friends read Unquiet Mind and said, “I’m SO glad I read this – I understand you so much better now – and how to help you help yourself.” Pretty cool.

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