I’ve always had an interest in psychology; more specifically, abnormal psychology. Schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, manic depression, you name it, and I’ve either read about it, or in the case of schizophrenia, had a chance to research it in college. After recently being diagnosed with bipolar II, confirming my fiancé’s and my suspicions, I’ve taken an even greater interest in the topic.
One particularly interesting connection I’ve examined is the relationship between bipolar disorder and creative genius. Though I’m not claiming to be a creative genius, this link, which is sustained by several studies, does support an idea I’ve kicked around for a few years. It is a combination of Newton’s third law of motion and the Chinese concept of yin and yang as it relates to human ability.
Like the 2 opposing forces of yin and yang, every person possesses a set of abilities, and a set of challenges. Each of these is of equal magnitude. In other words, those with extreme abilities, have equally extreme and opposing life challenges to accompany them. Those with lesser abilities, have lesser challenges.
Consider the example of a high school student. Though not always true, it is widely held that those who excel in math have a harder time in English. According to the premise above, the better a student is at math, the more difficulty they’ll have with English. For those struggling with bipolar disorder, their episodes of inordinate creative productivity is matched with those of deep, fruitless depression.
I would assert that this relationship holds true for any conceivable human ability.
Is this hypothesis ground breaking? Not really, but I personally feel that it gives a little more insight into what we don’t always hear about “great” people. We know about the great works of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Francis Ford Coppola, but seldom hear about their inner struggles that they overcame to produce them. More importantly, this idea reminds us that being “great” doesn’t mean life comes easy. In fact, the “greater” we are, the harder life is.
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