Why creativity, sensitivity, and unhappiness go hand-in-hand

Many creative people are familiar with the idea that they are more sensitive to the hardships of reality than others who wear life as a loose garment.  Here is some research that connects a sensitive, artistic consciousness to increased suffering. Behavioral scientists call this propensity toward negative thinking and rumination “neuroticism.”  All people exhibit a greater or lesser degree of neuroticism.  As a group, however, creative people possess more neuroticism than the average bear.  Apparently the negative thinking and ruminating worry correlate with an ability to focus.  When creative people stay focused on a problem despite their internal discomfort and negativity, they eventually create something new, and we all benefit.

A key takeaway from this research: “The creativity of Isaac Newton and other neurotics may simply be the result of their tendency to dwell on problems far longer than average people.”

As Newton once commented about his problem-solving method:

‘I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light.’


About Elizabeth Sudler

As a senior manager in two national behavioral health insurance companies, I had P&L responsibility for large clinical and call centers. Predominantly my work has involved turnarounds and operational expansion to meet growth targets. I have consulted in vendor roles with multiple Fortune 500 companies on behavioral change management, and led hundreds of seminars on resilience and self-management topics using psychological principles from my training as a licensed psychotherapist.

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Elizabeth Sudler LCSW-R, ACC

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