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Orna Ross : You're Not Mad, You're Creative

You're Not Mad, You're Creative

By Orna Ross

Ever been told you are "too sensitive," "think too much" or are "too much of a perfectionist"?

In a society that doesn't appreciate them, creative abilities can be labelled and experienced as liabilities, says Mary Taylor, LCSW, of the Creative Intelligence Centre.

"Highly creative people often face a lifetime of hardship and psychological pain because they do not see themselves or their abilities clearly," says Taylor. "The abilities of highly creative people are frequently hidden under…emotional, occupational and relationship difficulties."

While the [creative] person is all too aware of their problems, they are often unaware of their abilities.

This, allied with the fact that they live in a society that prefers linear, rational thinking and behaviour, makes them try to fit into situations that don't suit them — and then blame themselves when that doesn't work out.

Hence: "I'm too sensitive"; "I'm too much of a perfectionist"; "I think too much".

These erroneous conclusions can do "major damage" to self image, says Taylor. "Attempts made at correcting a problem from this vantage point are frequently unsuccessful because the initial interpretation was in error."

Over time, self-blame and lack of understanding leads many bright, creative people into marginalized lives as adults — underemployed, dissatisfied and often in tremendous psychological pain.

Taylor calls this the "double-edged sword" experience of being a highly creative person.

Are You Highly Creative?

  1. Do you feel different from those around you or that you are on a different "path" than most?

  2. Have you been told you "think too much" or are "too much of a perfectionist"?

  3. Do/did your schoolteachers berate you for daydreaming or staring out the window?

  4. Were you told you were too "giddy" or "disruptive" at school?

  5. Do you experience a level of imaginative activity that few around you seem to understand?

  6. Do you believe you have "too many" interests?

  7. Have you been told you are "overly emotional"?

  8. Do you go from project to project?

  9. Do you carry a lot of unfinished projects in your mind?

  10. Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the numerous ideas and projects you generate?

  11. Are you more affected than others seem to be by environmental stimuli, e.g the weather, bright lights, loud music, other people's moods?

  12. Have you been told you are "too sensitive"?

  13. Do you feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled in many of your relationships?

  14. Do people frequently ask you for advice — while you feel there is no one who understands you?

  15. Do you believe you are not achieving what you could be in your work, despite a high degree of competence, ability and experience (and perhaps achievement too)?

If you answered "Yes" to more than 3 of these questions, you are indeed highly creative.

Creativity is a wonderful ability — but it is not always experienced that way. It can cause problems when you, or your nearest and dearest, do not understand what it means, in practical terms.

Creative ability needs to be recognised, nurtured, protected and given a meaningful outlet for it to be experienced as the great gift that it is.

When misunderstood, it can be a highly disruptive and chaotic — and experienced in very negative ways.

Use the questions above to examine more deeply how you have experienced this ability in your life, particularly when you have experienced it as a liability. What was going on in those times? Did you blame yourself?

If you look back through the lens of seeing yourself as a highly creative person, with an unrecognised gift, how does that change your perception of the event?

For best results, take a notebook and pen and F-R-E-E-Write your answers to those questions. •

(Many thanks to Mary Taylor, LCSW, of the Creative Intelligence Centre for some of these questions)

© 2009 Orna Ross. All rights reserved.

Orna RossOrna Ross is an Irish novelist and creative nonfiction writer. She has taught creative principles, writing and freewriting to many disparate groups — from addicts in recovery to MA students and has facilitated creative and publishing success for many writing students. More »

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