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Giovacchini, P.L. (1971). Characterological Factors and the Creative Personality. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 19:524-542.

(1971). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 19:524-542

Characterological Factors and the Creative Personality

Peter L. Giovacchini, M.D.


Creative activity is valued by many, and those fortunate enough to have creative talent invariably derive considerable esteem from the process of creating. The ego systems referring to the identity sense (the self representation) and the ego ideal seem to be particularly instrumental in determining how one reacts to either creative activity, per se, or how much one values the act and subject of creativity.

The perceptual system of the creative scientist, in some instances, has a broader range of functioning than that of other people. Examples pertaining to the auditory and visual perceptual systems are given. In one instance, a scientist had what phenomenologically appeared to be auditory hallucinations, but the "voices" were benign and helped him solve the problem he was struggling with. In similar fashion, another scientist had the ability to conjure up clear visual pictures, eidetic images, which were also helpful.

Whereas there seem to be some similarities between the psychic structure and behavior of creative persons and those of disturbed noncreative patients, the similarities seem to be mainly phenomenological, and there are important fundamental differences. Although the scientist may regress to states characterized by unstructured, helpless, and vulnerable self representations, he has greater resiliency than the ordinary disturbed patient. His self representation fuses with the ego ideal, but not in a defensive fashion. It effects a fusion to achieve higher states of integration rather than from a need to be magically rescued from immersion in self-hatred and chaotic dissolution.

The self representation of those who value creative activity may, at times, appear to be unstructured, a state designated here as pseudoemptiness. The identity sense has a different kind of structure, a fluid and incorporating one with considerable capacity to tolerate ambiguity.

Finally, although one cannot at this time do more than speculate, it seems likely that the group which ranks creativity high in its value system, even though it may not itself be particularly creative, has characterological features similar to those described for the creator.

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