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Ernest Hemingway and the Artistic Personality Type

Ernest Hemingway and the Artistic Personality Type

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Posted by Dave Kelly on April 04, 2000 at 16:01:02:

It is generally accepted that Ernest Hemingway suffered from Manic-Depressive, or Bi-polar, Disorder. Two popular books Moodswings by Ronald Fieve and Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperment by Kay Redfield Jamison discuss Hemingway's illness. Jamison's theory is the basis of my identification of the cyclothymic temperament and personality organization with the artistic temperament, or type. From the book jacket:

The anguished, volatile intensity we associate with the artistic temperament, often described as "a fine madness," has been thought of as a defining aspect of much artistic genius. Now, Kay Jamison's brilliant work, based on years of studies as a clinical psychologist and prominent researcher in mood disorders, reveals that many artists who were subject to alternatingly exultant and then melancholic moods were, in fact, engaged in a lifelong struggle with manic-depressive illness.

Drawing on extraordinary recent advances in genetics, neuroscience, and psychopharmacology, Jamison presents the now incontrovertible proof of the biological foundations of this frequently misunderstood disease, and applies what is known about the illness, and its closely related temperaments, to the lives of some of the world's greatest artists--Byron, van Gogh, Shelley, Poe, Melville, Schumann, Coleridge, Virginia Woolf, Burns, and, many others. Byron's life, discussed in considerable detail, is used as a particularly fascinating example of the complex interaction among heredity, mood, temperament, and poetic work.

Jamison reviews the substantial, rapidly accumulating, and remarkably consistent findings from biographic and scientific studies that demonstrate a markedly increased rate of severe mood disorders and suicide in artists, writers, and composers. She then discusses reasons why this link between mania, depression, and artistic creativity might exist.

Manic-depressive illness, a surprisingly common disease, is genetically transmitted. For the first time, the extensive family histories of psychiatric illness and suicide in many writers, artists, and composers are presented. In some instances--for example, Tennyson and Byron--these psychiatric pedigrees are traced back more than 150 years. Jamison discusses the complex ethical and cultural consequences of recent research in genetics, especially as they apply to manic-depressive illness, a disease that almost certainly confers both individual and evolutionary advantage, but often kills and destroys as it does so.

Psychiatric treatment of artists remains a fiercely conrtroversial issue. Dr. Jamison discusses both the advantages and problems with current treatments, and advocates a humanistic, flexible, and yet firmly medical approach. However, she strongly cautions against simplistic attempts to cure this most human and tragic of all diseases at the expense of destroying the artistic personality.

Following the work of Ernest Hemingway's chief biographer, Carlos Baker, Ben Gusberg writes:

In some respects Hemingway was a study in contrasts. There is, first, the immensely competitive, ambitious young man who strove to excel in every thing he undertook; someone others looked up to, proud of his physical capabilities and his artistic prowess. He could be shy and diffident as well as an incorrigible braggart; a sentimentalist, quick to tears, or the stoic warrior, master of fear and pain; a generous friend or a ruthless overbearing enemy; a non-hero longing for heroic status; a man of action harnessed to the same wagon as the man of words; a non-intellectual contemplating the highest human concerns. There was the romantic liar for which the line between truth and fiction was never clearly defined. He was proud of his capacity for drink, his talents as a fisherman, map reader, wing shot, and poet. He was a persistent worrier, plagued all his adult life with insomnia and violent mood swings. There was the fierce individualist who shunned politics, economics, and fashion. He believed in art, in sport, and in nature. There is, at last, the temperamental manic-depressive, who once said he would have liked to be king and decided for himself, the right time to die ( Ben Gusberg's Paper: Ernest Hemingway).

This is the current PTypes description of the traits and characteristics of the Artistic Personality Type:

The basic trait of the Artistic personality type is a pattern of alternation between hypomanic, or irritable, and depressive moods, cognitions, and behaviors. The Artistic personality type:

has a decreased need for sleep alternating with hypersomnia;

has shaky self-esteem: naive grandiose overconfidence alternating with lack of self-confidence;

has periods of sharpened and creative thinking alternating with periods of mental confusion and apathy;

displays marked unevenness in the quantity and quality of productivity, often associated with unusual working hours;

engages in uninhibited people-seeking (that may lead to hyper-sexuality) alternating with introverted self-absorption;

becomes excessively involved in pleasurable activities with lack of concern for the high potential of painful consequences alternating with restriction of involvement in pleasurable activities and guilt over past activities;

alternates between over-optimism or exaggeration of past achievement and a pessimistic attitude toward the future, or brooding about past events;

is more talkative than usual, with inappropriate laughing, joking, and punning: and, then, less talkative, with tearfulness or crying;

frequently shifts line of work, study, interest, or future plans;

engages in occasional financial extravagance;

makes frequent changes in residence or geographical location;

has a tendency toward promiscuity, with repeated conjugal or romantic failure;

may use alcohol or drugs to control moods or to augment excitement.

Ernest Hemingway fit this description almost exactly - he's my epitome of the Artistic Personality Type, which corresponds to the R7w6 and the ISFP.


Dave Kelly

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