Creativity and Psychotic States in Exceptional People

The work of Murray Jackson

By Murray Jackson

Edited by Jeanne Magagna

© 2015 – Routledge

154 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415703864
pub: 2015-02-05
US Dollars$52.95
Hardback: 9780415703857
pub: 2015-02-09
US Dollars$160.00

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About the Book

Creativity and Psychotic States in Exceptional People tells the story of the lives of four exceptionally gifted individuals: Vincent van Gogh, Vaslav Nijinsky, José Saramago and John Nash. Previously unpublished chapters by Murray Jackson are set in a contextual framework by Jeanne Magagna, revealing the wellspring of creativity in the subjects’ emotional experiences and delving into the nature of psychotic states which influence and impede the creative process.

Jackson and Magagna aim to illustrate how psychoanalytic thinking can be relevant to people suffering from psychotic states of mind and provide understanding of the personalities of four exceptionally talented creative individuals. Present in the text are themes of loving and losing, mourning and manic states, creating as a process of repairing a sense of internal damage and the use of creativity to understand or run away from oneself. The book concludes with a glossary of useful psychoanalytic concepts.

Creativity and Psychotic States in Exceptional People will be fascinating reading for psychiatrists, psychotherapists and psychoanalysts, other psychoanalytically informed professionals, students and anyone interested in the relationship between creativity and psychosis.


‘Is there a link between creativity and psychosis or is it a middle class delusion that one’s son or daughter has some cross to bear for being sensitive and intelligent? Do people become mentally ill spontaneously or are they upset about something? Should we treat mental illness medicinally or, with the patient, try to understand it? Creativity and Psychosis provides many clues and is a great starting point if you are interested in learning about psychoanalytic approaches to psychosis from scratch.’Dr Clive Hathaway Travis, patron of Talking 2 Minds, UK and author of Looking for Prince Charles’s Dog (Wymer Publishing, 2013), from the foreword.

‘The beauty of this book is that it is written in a style accessible to the lay public as well as to psychoanalytically informed professionals. Murray Jackson in collaboration with Jeanne Magagna investigates how unconscious mental processes underlying both creative and psychotic phenomena can lead to a lessened capacity to distinguish between the two. He traces the development of psychotic phenomena in the external and internal complex "histories" of well-known artists, and he extracts from these explorations of the minds of exceptional lives a world of wisdom that is useful not only for professionals but also for those interested in a deeper understanding of the human mind when it goes astray.’Bent Rosenbaum, Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, and Leading Senior Researcher at the Clinic of Psychotherapy, Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen, Denmark.

Van Gogh, Njinsky, Nash and Saramago. Murray Jackson, the late distinguished psychoanalyst, investigates their formative lives in depth giving much needed insights into the roots of adult creativity and of psychosis. A book for a very wide readership.’ - Brian Martindale, Chair of ISPS.

‘This book is a very serious contribution to this area of study and will be of lasting interest to a broad readership - obviously all working in the field of mental health will find themselves drawn into thinking deeply about this field and will see the relevance broadly both within their work and in terms of the theoretical/conceptual issues it raises – they will also gain a great deal from the discussion of theoretical and technical issues as regards psychotherapeutic treatment of this kind of disturbance, in the latter part of the book. But the work presented here will be of much broader interest - that is to anyone who can allow themselves to be fascinated by serious psychological disturbance and who has a serious interest in understanding exceptional creativity.’ - Dr. David Bell, Former President of the British Psychoanalytic Society, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation, Visiting Professoral Fellow, Birkbeck College London.

"All of the four histories of these creative men are placed in personal and social context. The psychoanalytic perspective provides meaning, and it enables a depth of understanding of these men's lives. […[ This book is successful in following [Freud's] tradition of lending a deeper understanding to the lives and creative of the four men who are its subject matter. Jackson's style is thorough and engaging. He is dedicated to making sense of his subjects' lives. […] What is refreshing about this book, though, is that it does try to look beyond the notion of psychosis as a brain disorder. It still attempts to utilize psychoanalytic notions […] This book reminds us of the value of a psychosocial understanding of mental illness and the importance of reflective practice in facilitating recovery from psychosis. […] [As] this book demonstrates, a psychodynamic perspective can enliven and support creativity. Murray Jackson should be remembered for his application of psychoanalytic concepts to the treatment and understanding of psychosis. Clinicians need to recognize the deep anxieties and conflicts of patients and the therapeutic importance of understanding. This book reminds us that making sense of very disturbed behavior should still be central to modern psychiatry. Its clarity makes it of interest to anyone interest in the relationship between psychosis and creativity." -Duncan Double, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and University of East Anglia, UK, PsycCRITIQUES 2015

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements. About the Contributors. Paul Williams, Foreword. Clive Travis, Commentary. Introduction. John Nash: Reason’s Approach to an Alternative Reality. Vaslav Nijinsky: Living for the Eyes of the Other. José Saramago: Sanity and Overcoming Adversity. Vincent van Gogh: Enduring Unrequited Love. Conclusion. Glossary. Appendix.

About the Author/Editor

Murray Jackson was a psychoanalyst with the British Institute of Psychoanalysis. He is well known as a teacher and writer who has applied psychoanalytic understanding to adults suffering from psychotic states. In 1994 he was given the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis (ISPS) Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia. He died in 2011.

Jeanne Magagna is a child, adult and family psychotherapist. She was formerly Head of Psychotherapy Services at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and for many years she headed the child psychotherapy training at Centro Studi Martha Harris in Florence and Venice, Italy. She teaches and publishes internationally.

About the Series

The International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis Book Series

ISPS (The International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis) has a history stretching back more than fifty years during which it has witnessed the relentless pursuit of biological explanations for psychosis. The tide has been turning in recent years and there is a welcome international resurgence of interest in a range of psychological factors that have considerable explanatory power and therapeutic possibilities. Governments, professional groups, people with personal experience of psychosis and family members are increasingly expecting interventions that involve more talking and listening. Many now regard practitioners skilled in psychological therapies as an essential component of the care of people with psychosis.

ISPS is a global society. It aims to promote psychological and social approaches both to understanding and to treating psychosis. It also aims to bring together different perspectives on these issues. ISPS is composed of individuals, networks and institutional members from a wide range of backgrounds and is especially concerned that those with personal experience of psychosis and their family members are fully involved in our activities alongside practitioners and researchers, and that all benefit from this. Our members recognise the potential humanitarian and therapeutic potential of skilled psychological understanding and therapy in the field of psychosis. ISPS embraces a wide spectrum of approaches from psychodynamic, systemic, cognitive, and arts therapies to need-adapted and dialogical approaches, family and group therapies and residential therapeutic communities.

We are also most interested in establishing meaningful dialogue with those practitioners and researchers who are more familiar with biological-based approaches. There is increasing empirical evidence for the interaction of genes and biology with the emotional and social environment, and there are important examples of the impact of life experiences in the fields of trauma, attachment, social relationships and therapy.

ISPS activities include regular international and national conferences, newsletters and email discussion groups. Routledge has recognised the importance of our field in publishing both the book series and the ISPS journal: Psychosis - Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches with the two complementing one another. The series started in 2004 and by 2015 it contained 19 books and 2 monographs, with further publications in preparation. A wide range of topics are covered and we hope this reflects some success in our aim of bringing together a rich range of perspectives.

The book series is intended as a resource for a broad range of mental health professionals, as well as those developing and implementing policy and people whose interest in psychosis is at a personal level. We aim for rigorous academic standards and at the same time accessibility to a wide range of readers, and for the books to promote the ideas of clinicians and researchers who may be well known in some countries, but not so familiar in others. Our overall intention is to encourage the dissemination of existing knowledge and ideas, promote productive debate, and encourage more research in a most important field whose secrets certainly do not all reside in the neurosciences.

This series also includes a monograph strand, which consists of high-level academic texts aimed at researchers, academics and postgraduate students. Within the monograph strand the focus tends to be somewhat more conceptual, and less directly clinical, than in the main strand.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychopathology / Schizophrenia
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Creative Ability
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health