I’ve been talking to a friend tonight and came up with the following: “the tension between sensitivity and the desire to be numb is what makes a person creative.” I was quite impressed with myself, gotta say. But I also think it’s true.
I don’t think that my mental health problems make me necessarily more empathic or creative. In fact I would say that they have acted as a direct hindrance to both at one time or another. But I do think that the tension between extreme feelings and the desire to numb them out leads to a liminal space- as my friend put it, an “emotional limbo”- in which creativity becomes possible. If I were purely sensitive, or purely numb, I would lack the drive or the desire to express. In the state between those feelings, there is a space in which to be creative becomes not only possible, but also necessary, even inevitable. A sensitive person doesn’t truly desire numbness- if I truly had to make the choice between the hurt of sensitivity and the lures of numbness, I think I would choose the hurt. But the ache to know numbness, to be taken from that sensitive space into another, leaves a person searching. And to search is a creative task.
I’m not saying, by the way, that everything I create is good. As my poetry blog demonstrates, a lot of it involves rummaging for gems in the dirt. But gems in dirt are better than no gems at all.