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 Previously unpublished chapters by Murray Jackson are set in a contextual framework by Jeanne Magagna, revealing the wellspring of creativity in the subjects’ emotional experiences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.

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

The ISPS (the International Society for the 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 is now turning again. There is a welcome international resurgence of interest in a range of psychological factors in psychosis that have considerable explanatory power and also distinct therapeutic possibilities. Governments, professional groups, users and carers are increasingly expecting interventions that involve more talking and listening. Many now regard skilled practitioners in the main psychotherapeutic modalities as important components of the care of the seriously mentally ill.

The ISPS is a global society. It is composed of an increasing number of groups of professionals, family members, those with vulnerability to psychosis and others, who are organised at national, regional and more local levels around the world. Such persons recognise the potential humanitarian and therapeutic potential of skilled psychological understanding and therapy in the field of psychosis. Our members cover a wide spectrum of approaches from psychodynamic, systemic, cognitive, and arts therapies to the need-adaptive approaches, group therapies and therapeutic institutions. We are most interested in establishing meaningful dialogue with those practitioners and researchers who are more familiar with biological based approaches. Our activities include regular international and national conferences, newsletters and email discussion groups in many countries across the world.

One of our activities is in the field of publication. Routledge have recognised the importance of our field, publishing Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches. The journal complements Routledge's publishing of the ISPS book series which started in 2004. The books aim to cover many topics within the spectrum of the psychological therapies of psychosis and their application in a variety of settings. The series is intended to inform and further educate a wide range of mental health professionals as well as those developing and implementing policy.

Some of the books will be controversial and certainly our aim is to develop and change current practice in some countries. Other books will also promote the ideas of clinicians and researchers well known in some countries but not familiar to others. Our overall intention is to encourage the dissemination of existing knowledge and ideas, promote healthy debate, and encourage more research in a most important field whose secrets almost certainly do not all reside in the neurosciences.

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Subject Categories

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