Have you caught the science news? Psychologists have advanced a new theory linking neurotic unhappiness and creativity in the brain, giving over-worrying an evolutionary purpose. Bingo!
Normal worry, of course, has always had an evolutionary purpose. In the face of danger, freaking out helps us fight or flight. But neuroticism – freaking out when there is no perceived threat – has made no sense. And this no-sense-ness has left those of us in the over-worriers camp feeling even more freaked.
To be clear, I’ve previously been upfront about my neuroses. Feel free to gratuitously revel in them.
This new theory argues neurotic people are more prone to think about what might happen. This “mind wandering” can lead to high levels of creativity. We over worriers have highly active imaginations, and tend to be more creative problem-solvers. Fretting about stuff that hasn’t happened tends to necessitate it. Also, we tend to have a capacity to dwell on problems longer.
As Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
It should be noted Einstein was riddled with anxiety.
Of course, the study doesn’t explain the actual brain processes that connect over-active imaginations and creativity, per se. But I’ve been reading a lot of literature lately that adds up to a lot of correlation.
There’s also the inverse argument put forward by my favourite mis-lit writer, Soren Kierkegaard in his book, The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin:
“Because it is possible to create — creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self… — one has anxiety.”
“One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever.”
You might like this read about the number of creatives who have depression or anxiety and have turned to Prozac.
In my experience, my anxiety fuels my creativity. I almost have to be down and gritty to be able to enter the realness of true expression. It’s the grist to my mill. But more on this soon…
Do you consider yourself neurotic? How has it impacted on your life positively?