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Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jamison
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“Who would not want an illness that has among its symptoms elevated and expansive mood, inflated self-esteem, abundance of energy, less need for sleep, intensified sexuality, and- most germane to our argument here-"sharpened and unusually creative thinking" and "increased productivity"?”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“Depression affects not only mood but the nature and content of thought as well. Thinking processes almost always slow down, and decisiveness is replaced by indecision and rumination. The ability to concentrate is usually greatly impaired and willful action and thought become difficult if not impossible.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire
“Others, the subject of this book, are likewise privy to their unconscious streams of thought, but they must contend with unusually tumultuous and unpredictable emotions as well. The integration of these deeper, truly irrational sources with more logical processes can be a tortuous task, but, if successful, the resulting work often bears a unique stamp, a “touch of fire,” for what it has been through.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire
“Moods are by nature compelling, contagious, and profoundly interpersonal, and disorders of mood alter the perceptions and behaviors not only of those who have them but also of those who are related or closely associated. Manic-depressive illness—marked as it is by extraordinary and confusing fluctuations in mood, personality, thinking, and behavior—inevitably has powerful and often painful effects on relationships.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire
“That such a final, tragic, and awful thing is suicide can exist in the midst of remarkable beauty is one of the vastly contradictory and paradoxical aspects of life and art.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“When energy is profoundly dissipated, the ability to think is clearly eroded, and the capacity to actively engage in the efforts and pleasures of life is fundamentally altered, then depression becomes an illness rather than a temporary or existential state.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire
“During the Renaissance there was a renewed interest in the relationship between genius, melancholia, and madness. A stronger distinction was made between sane melancholies of high achievement and individuals whose insanity prevented them from using their ability. The eighteenth century witnessed a sharp change in attitude; balance and rational thought, rather than “inspiration” and emotional extremes, were seen as the primary components of genius.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire
“Two aspects of thinking in particular are pronounced in both creative and hypomanic thought: fluency, rapidity, and flexibility of thought on the one hand, and the ability to combine ideas or categories of thought in order to form new and original connections on the other. The importance of rapid, fluid, and divergent thought in the creative process has been described by most psychologists and writers who have studied human imagination. The increase in the speed of thinking may exert its influence in different ways. Speed per se, that is, the quantity of thoughts and associations produced in a given period of time, may be enhanced. The increased quantity and speed of thoughts may exert an effect on the qualitative aspects of thought as well; that is, the sheer volume of thought can produce unique ideas and associations. Indeed, Sir Walter Scott, when discussing Byron's mind, commented: "The wheels of a machine to play rapidly must not fit with the utmost exactness else the attrition diminishes the Impetus." The quickness and fire of Byron's mind were not lost on others who knew him. One friend wrote: "The mind of Lord Byron was like a volcano, full of fire and wealth, sometimes calm, often dazzling and playful, but ever threatening. It ran swift as the lightning from one subject to another, and occasionally burst forth in passionate throes of intellect, nearly allied to madness." Byron's mistress, Teresa Guiccoli, noted: "New and striking thoughts followed from him in rapid succession, and the flame of genius lighted up as if winged with wildfire.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“In fact, many features of hypomania--such as outgoingness, increased energy, intensified sexuality, increased risk-taking, persuasiveness, self-confidence, and heightened productivity--have been linked with increased achievement and accomplishment.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“The clinical hallmark of manic-depressive illness is its recurrent, episodic nature. Byron had this in an almost textbook manner, showing frequent and pronounced fluctuations in mood, energy, sleep patterns, sexual behavior, alcohol and other drug use, and weight (Byron also exhibited extremes in dieting, obsession with his weight, eccentric eating patterns, and excessive use of epsom salts). Although these changes in mood and behavior were dramatic and disruptive when they occurred, it is important to note that Byron was clinically normal most of the time; this, too, is highly characteristic of manic-depressive illness. An inordinate amount of confusion about whether someone does or does not have manic-depressive illness stems from the popular misconception that irrationality of mood and reason are stable rather than fluctuating features of the disease. Some assume that because an individual such as Byron was sane and in impressive control of his reason most of the time, that he could not have been "mad" or have suffered from a major mental illness. Lucidity and normal functioning are, however, perfectly consistent with-indeed, characteristic of-the phasic nature of manic-depressive illness. This is in contrast to schizophrenia, which is usually a chronic and relatively unrelenting illness characterized by, among other things, an inability to reason clearly.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“Psychologist J.P. Guilford, who carried out a long series of systematic psychological studies into the nature of creativity, found that several factors were involved in creative thinking; many of these, as we shall see, relate directly to the cognitive changes that take place during mild manias as well. Fluency of thinking, as defined by Guilford, is made up of several related and empirically derived concepts, measured by specific tasks: word fluency, the ability to produce words each, for example, containing a specific letter or combination of letters; associational fluency, the production of as many synonyms as possible for a given word in a limited amount of time; expressional fluency, the production and rapid juxtaposition of phrases or sentences; and ideational fluency, the ability to produce ideas to fulfill certain requirements in a limited amount of time. In addition to fluency of thinking, Guilford developed two other important concepts for the study of creative thought: spontaneous flexibility, the ability and disposition to produce a great variety of ideas, with freedom to switch from category to category; and adaptive flexibility, the ability to come up with unusual types of solutions to set problems.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“Guilford concluded that creative individuals were also far more likely to exhibit "divergent" rather than "convergent" thinking:

In tests of convergent thinking there is almost always one conclusion or answer that is regarded as unique, and thinking is to be channeled or controlled in the direction of that answer....In divergent thinking, on the other hand, there is much searching about or going off in various directions. This is most obviously seen when there is no unique conclusion. Divergent thinking...is characterized...as being less goal-bound. There is freedom to go off in different directions....Rejecting the old solution and striking out in some direction is necessary, and the resourceful organism will more probably succeed.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“The simultaneous existence and shared residence of such opposite moods and feelings is well-illustrated by Franz Schubert's assertion that whenever he sat down to write songs of love he wrote songs of pain, and whenever he sat down to write songs of pain he wrote songs of love.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“(It is of no little interest and irony that Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin and proponent of selective breeding in humans in order to obtain a "highly gifted race of man," was himself subject to "nervous breakdowns"; he was also appreciative of the "thin partitions" between greatness and psychopathology. Dr. Daniel Kevles, in his book In the Name of Eugenics, quotes Galton as saying that "men who leave their mark on the world are very often those who, being gifted and full of nervous power, are at the same time haunted and driven by a dominant idea, and are therefore within a measurable distance of insanity.")”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“Melancholic, although often sardonic, mixtures of emoitions-foreboding, aloneness, regret, and a dark sense of lost destiny and ill-used passions-are woven throughout Byron's most autobiographical poems, especially Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lara, and Manfred. Perturbed and constant motion, coupled with a brooding awareness of life's impermanence, also mark the transient and often bleak nature of Byron's work.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“The emphasis on shifting essences, uncertainty, and fiercely contrasting opposite states was, of course, neither new nor unique to Byron. He and the other Romantic poets, however, took the ideas and emotions to a particularly intense extreme. Shelley's belief that poetry "marries exultation and horror, grief and pleasure, eternity and change," and that it "subdues to union, under its light yoke, all irreconcilable things," was in sympathy not only with the views of Byron but those of Keats as well. "Negative capability," wrote Keats, exists "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching out after fact & reason." The "poetical Character," he said:

has no self-it is every thing and nothing-It has no character-it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated-It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the camelion Poet. It does no harm from its relish of the dark side of things any more than from its taste for the bright one; because they both end in speculation.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“The great imaginative artists have always sailed "in the wind's eye," and brought back with them words or sounds or images to "counterbalance human woes." That they themselves were subject to more than their fair share of these woes deserves our appreciation, understanding, and very careful thought.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“Circadian rhythms are implicated in some of the symptoms of depression, such as early awakening and diurnal variation in mood. The possible importance of the circadian system in its pathogenesis is suggested by the capacity of experimental alterations in the timing of sleep and wakefulness to alter clinical state." Biological rhythms range in frequency from milliseconds to months or years. Most rhythmic disturbances identified in the symptoms of manic-depressive illness occur over the course of a day-that is, they are circadian rhythms-and are most apparent in the daily rest-activity cycle. The episodic recurrences of the illness, on the other hand, are usually infradian, oscillating over periods of months or years. Episodic mania and depression may also reflect disturbances in ultradian rhythms, those that oscillate more than once a day, which are common at the cellular level and in hormone secretion, as well as in such autonomic functions as circulation, blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, and in the cycles of sleep.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“Mood disorders , in addition to exhibiting seasonal patterns, frequently show pronounced diurnal rhythms as well.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“The fates and character of the rhyming tribe often employ my thoughts when I am disposed to be melancholy. There is not, among all the martyrologies that ever were penned, so rueful a narrative as the lives of the poets.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“The review of studies of seasonal patterns for peak months of occurrence for episodes of mania and depression indicates that there is a consistency of findings despite the methodological problems intrinsic to such research.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“and increased energy)”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire
“I have plotted Lombroso's findings in figure 4-3, and it can be seen that he found peaks of productivity in the late spring and early fall.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
“Her version of Lowell was not theirs, even when they were discussing the same symptoms; what to her was “mad” was to them another mark of Lowell’s genius.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire
“The springtime peak of productivity that is shown in the works of many writers and artists, as well as by those in both Lombroso's study and my own, fits with popular conceptions about the blossoming forth of life during springtime. But how do these findings make sense in light of the striking peaks for severe depressive episodes, and suicide itself, during these same months? And why should so many artists and writers have another peak of productivity during the autumn months? (This is shown in the works of many writers, as well as in the findings from both Lombroso's and my studies. Interestingly, there is some evidence that major mathematical and scientific discoveries tend to occur during the spring and fall as well. Indeed, autumn has been seen by many artist as their most inspiring season.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament