I came across this most interesting article while doing some research and I would like to share it. There are many things that "drive a poet to write", and this article is just one person's opinion, but it did make me take a deeper look into my motivation for writing.
The Link between Psychopathy and Poetry
After an unremitting bout with depression and mania, Sylvia Plath placed her head inside of a functioning gas oven in a successful attempt of suicide. Sylvia Plath was only thirty years old. She was not the first and, unfortunately, would not be the last poet to decide there was to be no alternative against certain death when subject to the side effects that one accumulates in poetry. However, it was she who the condition would be named after whenever the link between mental illness and creativity was labeled as the “Sylvia Plath Effect.” The reality of the condition is overlooked but imperative. Studies show that while 35% of the population has a form of mental illness, poets have a strikingly higher rate that is over doubled. Not only is this remarkably higher than any profession involving math or science, but it is also higher than those in fields of fiction novels, journalism, and non fiction writing. What has become the Sylvia Plath Effect has been dissected and studied since the 1830’s, yet the causes of such a condition are still debatable. Be that as it may, there are more prominent arguments in what generates this inclination to mental illnesses involving inevitable hypersensitivity and lack of self-capability. The first factor, being the hypersensitivity included in poetry is first introduced with the introspection the poet usually considers necessary for production. While novelists may often find that interpersonal situations and emotions impede upon their vocation, it is known that poetry subsists by such vulnerability. The task of the poet is to tap into the subconscious and observe not only the behavior of themselves, but the behavior of others. This process not only induces an unbearable degree of stress upon the poet who is forced to analyze and craft what he/see discovers in their self-examination, but also invest these findings in their product. As Mark Runco investigated in his studies on the subject, “writing is a risky profession, and a risky area in which to invest, and this may be particularly true to poetry, since the response may be the most unpredictable” (Runco). With art being one of the professions with the highest rejection rates, poets find their work being intolerably depreciated. In turn, this makes their investments the same. Whenever a creator’s investment in the creation is themselves, is it their art that is deemed unworthy, or perhaps themselves? And whenever poetry is unintentionally, yet most often, praised whenever the poet offers the excruciating exposure of their unbalance and feeling, the consequence is the unhealthful cycle of depression and art. Art has always commended eating disorders, mood disorders, and psychotic disorders substantially more than any other craft; those subjective to such disorders are only rewarded by the level he/she undergoes them. The hypersensitivity prevalent in poets for themselves and environement is also ruminated with the social conditions necessary for poetry. While those involved in medical fields, government jobs, and science require human interaction, writing requires very little. That is, if it allows it at all. Creativity in poetry, as mentioned before, is most often found most conductive through thought and the metaphorical breakdown of the self; everything else is merely decoration. This leaves the poet in what would be the otherwise uncommon susceptibly to not only high levels of loneliness and depression but the lesser chance of being able to express their conditions to a confidant who could possibly alleviate the condition. The result is more introspection and riskier investments into the poetry itself and whenever “poets - especially female poets - are already inclined toward depression, then perhaps the actual writing poems may add to their mental instability” (Kaufman and Baer). The increase of the mental instability is most evident as the postliminary poetry is only rumination of the depression caused by the poetry initially and produces potential social anxiety disorders as well as panic disorders in a social medium. During this predicament of hypersensitivity, age liability is an often over passed component yet plays as a considerable contribution to the hypersensitivity. The general person is more likely to acquire a mental illness such as bi-polar disorder or similar mood disorders during their late adolescence or early adulthood - whenever they are in the process of self-development. Throughout this process, the general person is less likely to sustain a stronger sense of well-being due to the flux of hormones and life-changing predicaments necessary with the delivery of adulthood; this causes the disorders to be most effective and hypersensitivity heightened. With this, “poets are most likely to produce their greatest output during their young adulthood, also in their 20’s, then the connection between poetry and mental illness may be strengthened by the poet’s age” (Kaufman and Baer). Whenever the poet is undergoing the introspection, this peak in output leaves them far more susceptible to mental illness than those in fields of math and sciences, which peak whenever the disorders are notably less effective. The second factor, being the lack of self-capability, is introduced as other professions give significant credit to themselves for their product, poets, or artists in general, most often accredit their product to their inspiration. While accountants, doctors, and mathematicians assign themselves the generator of that which is generated, “many people in the arts, because of the very ‘mystical nature’ of how a person creates may (even unconsciously) credit ‘divine inspiration’ for their work” (Kaufman and Baer). Because of this, the self-efficacy of the poet diminishes as well as what he/she considers talent so whenever their product is given the praise appropriate, the poet may not take it as a compliment towards themselves, but towards their muse. The effect of this lack of self-capability is equal to the lack of self-control experienced by the poet which can even be linked to physical health as hazardous impulse control. With the lack of internal control felt for their vocation, poets may find themselves seeking a source of external control elsewhere such as with weight, contributing to the likely chance of eating disorders involving anorexia and bulimia, and such as substance abuse and sexual addiction - hazardous comrades to the already dangerous condition of depression. This is also evident as other writers, such as those who produce editorials and reviews and assign credit to themselves for their work, have a significantly smaller chance of developing any of these disorders. Along with the absence of self-examination in their work, this leaves nonfiction writers and journalists with a mental illness rate of 47% (Welch) - 30% lower than poets, yet still 12% higher than other professions, as all fields in creativity are. Yet, why would the poet feel it essential to find self-capability through a healthy lifestyle when society has made commercial that mental illness is inevitable for the young, promising poetry? It is not considered that mental illness directly influences both mental and physical health; it is only considered that the suffering artist is recompensed for their sickness. If it is immoral to praise the tax attorney for obtaining pancreatic cancer, why is there nothing wrong with praising the poet who carries with him schizophrenia? If drug addiction and gambling are not encouraged in lawyers, why is it encouraged in writers? Most importantly, how can the poet feel that help for their condition is needed whenever their vocation, commercially and creatively, benefits from it? Society does not ask for the verse of a stable man. They wish to read the verse of the man who cannot control himself - and the poet knows this. The causes for mental illness in poetry more so than other profession are cruel and often unrecognized. Would Sylvia Plath have undergone that pervasive feeling of hopelessness if it were not for her hypersensitivity? Would she have taken control of ending her own life if she had found herself capable of controlling it, alive? And would Sylvia Plath had found herself subjective to relentless blows of depression if she had engaged instead in fields of logic at the stable age of thirty instead of immersing herself in writing, in what could be and what had been, beginning in vulnerable childhood? While we cannot ask Sylvia Plath these questions, nor can we ask the never ending extent of others writers who did the same, we can believe that they would have found a substitution for suicide. We can believe that without these causes, they may never have had to consider it all.
Works Cited Kaufman, James C., and John Baer. "I Bask in Dreams of Suicide: Mental Illness, Poetry, and Women." Review of General Psychology 6.3 (2002): 271-86. Print. Runco, Mark A. "SUICIDE AND CREATIVITY: THE CASE OF SYLVIA PLATH." Death Studies 22.7 (1998). Print. Welch, Toby. "The Realities of Writers and Mental Illness." Suite101. 6 Nov. 2010. Web. 3 Dec. 2010.
A good read and link BUT People with mental problems these days are encouraged to write poetry to get abstract ideas out in the open. Yes some very creative people, artist, musicians,poets were crazy. Maybe its a case of chicken and egg thingy BUT saying that I have come across a few Psychopaths in poetry sites. Now I self analyze myself :lola:
"While recognizing the inherent impossibility of confirming retrospective diagnoses on historical figures, Dr. Kogan observed that many of the great composers of the classical music pantheon were prolific letter writers and kept meticulous diaries, thereby affording a window into their mental state for nearly every day of their adult lives. Dr. Kogan has done numerous benefit performances on these composers (playing their masterpieces and explaining their psychic distress) for organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with psychiatric illness. He notes that “it seems perverse to stigmatize a group whose members include individuals who have made such extraordinary contributions to civilization.”
The link between creative genius and mental illness has been recognized since ancient times, and modern research suggests that the incidence of psychiatric illness is greater in populations of writers, artists, and musicians than in the general population. An important question for clinicians is whether treatment of a psychiatric disorder will enhance or diminish creativity. Dr. Kogan cautions that “it is important not to over-romanticize mental illness and its impact on the creative process . . . most depressed individuals are too paralyzed to compose a symphony and most psychotic individuals are too disorganized to create anything that is coherent.”
But Dr. Kogan expressed concern that presenting programs on Schumann, Tchaikovsky, and other composers with florid psychopathology who had monumental creative accomplishment while living in an era without effective psychiatric treatment might be contributing to this tendency toward over-romanticization. Hence his current focus on the case of the great Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. In recent performances including “The Psychiatrist at the Keyboard” for the BBC in London and as soloist with conductor Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Dr. Kogan explored how Rachmaninoff’s most beloved music “owes its very existence to a timely intervention by a mental health professional.” Psychiatric Times Sept.'16
In generosity and helping others be like a river. RUMI