Monday, February 1, 2010

I may be creative, but nobody likes me

There is a lot of blogging right in response to Gianna Kali's excellent post musing about how teachers say they value creativity, but this is not the classroom behavior they reward. True enough.

Ron Unger in his post suggests that "instead of stigmatizing them or labeling them as forever ill, we might better collaborate with them in helping them figure out where they might have gone wrong while also staying open to the possibility they have a lot to teach us." Or, as I wrote in an earlier post, teach them to swim.

There is a difference between being dragged down by who you are and having who you are work for you while minimizing the rough edges. It's called self-awareness. The onus is on you, however, to ask for help and be willing to change. I am thinking of a woman I know, who I am pretty sure would warrant the label bipolar had she ever done time in the bin. To my knowlege, she hasn't, but maybe some time in there would have made her realize some fundamentals. She is a highly talented person in her field, but she has trouble holding jobs. This is no surprise to anyone who knows her. She simply bulldozes her way over people.

Her daughter I also know. Her daugher is as bright as the mother, but has a habit of getting ejected from every school she has attended. She cannot be in the same room with other people (peers and adults) without insisting that everybody pay attention to the specialness that is her. She is a royal pain in the ass. When you look into the girl's eyes, the light is never off. She is hard-wired to the "on" position. Her energy is way too intense and it gets her in trouble, lots of trouble. The mother thinks it's everybody else's fault, of course. The teachers obviously don't value her creativity.

Had this woman more insight, she and her daughter could be on top of the world because they would be making their natural talents of leadership work for them, not against them. But she has paid a price, because people avoid her like the plague. Their leadership style needs a trim. Nobody trusts mother or daughter. I am assuming that what I refer to as their leadership is really creativity in both cases because creativity often looks uncontrolled. "Artists" are often ostracized. Mother and daughter's in your face leadership, is, in a way, art. It's definitely high drama.

I was put off one day when the mother confided to me that her sister had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia, knowing that my son had also been bestowed with this distinction. "That explains her," she said, rather triumphantly. Schizophrenic, she's a write-off, was the message I got. To me, one could speculate that both sisters are working off the same energy imbalance, but the one who gets the current diagnosis of schizophrenia is the one who couldn't carry on the charade any more, whereas the woman in question has cut a wide swath through human relationships with her keel still upright, always one storm away from tipping over.

I am relating this cautionary tale, mainly to underscore that unacknowledged and/or untreated schizophrenia/bipolar has social costs, but they also mark personality traits that are valued in society. Rather than feel ashamed of a diagnosis it is much more liberating to think, "right, there is obviously a problem here, which I can work on through a variety of means, but I don't want to lose sight of the energy and creative flair that has made me who I am." It may be that you have to crash first before this insight comes.

In the meantime, nobody, except maybe your mother, is going to like you very much.


  1. If my mean side were on, I would ask:

    "And what explains you?"

    Thank you, Rossa, for showing the importance of self-awareness.

    When I think of creative and difficult I think of one of my Enid Blyton books, Second Form at St Clares.

  2. I'll keep that book in mind when I rummage through the second hand book sales.


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