The latest research says that neurotics tend to think way too much. They also show signs of genius.
Many of the greatest individuals on the planet were half-mad. Take the example of Sir Isaac Newton. The man was given to dark thoughts and fits of pondering. Even as a little boy he often worried about his imagined transgressions.
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But this sickness was also responsible for his creativity. And it literally sparkled like a 100 watt light bulb. Newton came up with so many ideas. They went on to form the basis of his theories about the forces connecting the universe.
Seldom has such a tortured genius emerged and changed the very course of history. As the couplet goes: “Nature and Nature’s secrets lay hid in the night/God said let Newton be and all was light!”
Psychologists have published a new study in Trends in Cognitive Sciences on August 27. They confirm that the link between neuroticism and genius is a deep one alright. Most neurotics show a great deal of ability to think things through.
But they also tend to overthink and thus end up as worry warts. The accompanying misery is a fate that is worse than hell. The problem is essentially the negative thoughts that get generated alongside the creative ideas. And the price of genius is sometimes too much.
Neurotic individuals seem to have a heightened perception of threat. So what is basically a pin prick feels to them like a gaping wound. The level of sensitivity may prove a Godsend in picking up signals from the environment.
But it also leads to a lot of self-consciousness. The sort of drugs psychiatry approves for neurotics are anti-anxiety medications. And these do tend to make the neurotics happier and loosen their inhibitions. But this is not a broad spectrum explanation for their behavior. That is because many neurotics feel miserable even in the absence of any stimuli.
Self-reflexive thoughts also makes for conscious threats to the delicate psyche of neurotics. The medial prefrontal cortex of a neurotic patient lit up under MRI scans. That is when any perception of threatening stimuli seemed to intrude.
There were individual differences between different neurotics though. The switchover from an anxious state of idea generation to one of overwhelming panic is sudden. It is in turn dependent on the amygdala.
A wild and woolly imagination also meant that you were left vulnerable. That is to feelings that others simply didn’t identify with. Yet that is the law of compensation. What Nature takes away with one hand, it compensates for with a gift.
How we perceive the beauty and horror of the surrounding universe dictates several things. One of these is whether we will conceive new systems of thought or be standard run-of-the-mill individuals.