Friday, February 26, 2016

The creativity of neurosis...

A wise friend once gave me some  advice; always have a worrier with OCD as your PA as they will double check everything and never get anything wrong. Unfortunately I didn’t follow that advice. Instead I have Liz who is known as the FPA (faithful PA).  She can type very accurately indeed, makes a good cup of tea and considers herself as having no specific job description i.e. her job description is to do anything Caro says. Quickly. 

Some of you might remember me borrowing her children/slaves to drag suitcases of wine through central Glasgow. On more than one occasion she has posed with blood make up on her throat as if she has just been butchered by a serial killer. Or she has hidden in a ditch to prove an effective body deposition site, with various writers saying ‘Oh  for God’s sake Liz keep still!!’ She says that when she meets her friends for coffee they are quite intrigued by a working life that includes going to airports at three in the morning,  Staffie tummy rubbing duties and pretending to be dead.


It has to be said that both my PA and my business partner have absolutely no imagination. I  have far too much.  This means that when things go badly wrong I can stomp off in the style of Bette Davis and say that as a creative genius, I can’t be bothered with all this tedium  and minutiae and I need my headspace to create. This is usually countered by something sweary and uncouth. Although when a problem crops up I can see the way through it easier than they can. Because as I had no plan to start with, it is easier to change it!
They are organised.
 I am flexible.


I was interested to read a report by Doctor Adam Perkins of Kings College London who has actually made the link between neuroticism and being a creative genius.  It is not a new belief that people with neurotic thoughts are more creative than their calmer friends but now we have an explanation.
This explanation, should by definition make us less neurotic.


MRI studies in the past have shown that those who have that key marker of neuroticism ie the spontaneous negative thought, have an increased activity in a part of the brain called the medial pre frontal cortex.  This part of the brain is associated with threat perception – and that might also be the part of the brain responsible for the ability to pass or fail the lie detector test. When these spontaneous negative thoughts occur the amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional centre (the bit that psychopaths often have underdeveloped) goes into panic mode.  That combination of high activity and the internal neuro transmission means that neurotics are very adept at imagining threats when there are none present.  Indeed making up threats when none are present are stock in trade for a crime writer I would say.  So there seems to be a dynamic link between perceived threat and a highly active imagination.  
Dr Perkins makes an interesting point that for most people a life of neurotic thought is unpleasant, it can become a condition which adversely affects every life experience and the fear born of that neurosis can lead to a life never fulfilling its full potential. So while the fearful neurotic and the creative neurotic will both lie awake at three o’clock in the morning fretting over a problem, tumbling it around in their head there is a great difference in what happens next. Does one write it down on a piece of paper and go back to sleep whilst the other continues to fret? Or does the creative one have the ability to channel it into an endorphin gaining experience and imagine the ex-husband/bank manager/editor crushed under the wheels of a snow plough/forced to listen to Justin Beiber/handcuffed with a ferret down their trousers... or any fifty variations on that theme. Indeed looking back at all those people that I admire for their creative genius, their neurosis has always pushed them to the edge of their sanity.  I am sure every one of us has looked at Munch’s Scream and thought I know exactly how the old dear feels.

Certainly I yearn to put my hands over my ears whenever the Kardashian Klan roll into town. Now, where did that ferret go?

And what was it my  old psychology professor used to say. A psychotic believes that 2 and 2 equals 5 and will not be persuaded otherwise. A neurotic knows that 2 and 2 equals four but cannot accept it. maybe we should add,  they might not accept it but they can write an entire plotline based on the struggle.

Caro Ramsay  26/02/2016


  1. As a mathematician, I can tell you with certainty that 2 and 2 is 22!

  2. Are you sure? Definitely sure? Or do you just think that?

  3. Oh, yes, I'm absolutely certain! Well, I'm really pretty sure. Well, um, maybe it needs a little more thought. I think that's right, but...

  4. If I agree with Michael's certainty of 22, does that make me vicariously neurotic? Or maybe not, or...

  5. Are you calling me neurotic??? What have I done to you to justify such treatment? Is this what I can expect for the rest of my existence as a human being? Am I a human being? Maybe I'm just a clever computer program? Have you reported me to the police? Oh, shit, have you called the psych ward on me? When are you just going to LEAVE ME ALONE??? Who's in cahoots with you? Is it Jeff? Stan? No, no, not AmA??? Oh, god, oh, god, did I put on clean underwear this morning? If they take me to the pysch ward, will they give me clean underwear? Will they give me underwear at all??? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME????

    Ohhhh, where's my chewy toy? Where's my featherduster?

  6. I think the ferret showed sound judgment in fleeing. The KK is known to devour them whole.