Monday, August 02, 2010

Translogical Thinking: Creatives and Psychotics

In the year 1992 I sent several letters per week to my sister, apprising her of ongoing issues concerning my job termination by Akin Gump in October 1991 and other matters. I forwarded most of the letters to the U.S. Social Security Administration in June 1993 in support of my disability claim. There were a few additional letters that I did not forward to Social Security because I had misplaced them and was not aware of their existence. This is one of those letters.

I wrote the following letter in late November 1992.  The letter is a parable or metaphor and illustrates an ego process termed "homospatial thinking" by Albert Rothenberg, M.D., a researcher in the creative process.  In 1992 there was a controversy in Israel about the unofficial ban on performances of the music of German composer Richard Wagner.  I superimposed that idea on top of a metaphor about the development of atomic energy.

Homospatial thinking and Janusian thinking are special thought processes; they are the features that distinguish creative people from the rest of us. Although very complicated in structure and in psychological function, there is little doubt that these particular processes are crucial to outstanding creative attainment.

Specifically, Rothenberg's research concludes that translogical types of thinking characterize both psychotics and highly creatives. Translogical thinking, he explains, is a type of conceptualizing in which the thinking processes transcend the common modes of ordinary logical thinking.

Janusian thinking is a conscious process of combining paradoxical or antagonistic objects into a single entity. Homospatial process is the essence of good metaphor. It means to superimpose or bring together multiple, discrete objects.

Rothenberg states that Janusian thinking tends to occur in the beginning stages of creative work when ideas are generated, and homospatial thinking characterizes the development of the creative ideas. He acknowledges that there are similarities between the primary process thinking of psychotics and translogical thinking, and that there are some subtle distinctions.

"There is thus a thin but definite borderline between the most advanced and healthy type of thinking -- creative thinking -- and the most impoverished and pathological types of thinking - psychotic processes."

As I have stated before, once a creative individual is designated psychotic, it will be difficult to get him off disability.  Like the psychotic, the creative individual's thinking is translogical -- but it is not psychotic.  The inexpert psychiatrist can be baffled by the translogical thinking of the creative patient; my experiences over the last 20 years support that view.

transmittal for Mrs. Estelle Jacobson c/o Mr. Edward Jacobson

Dear Stell,

Check out this parable.

Let us say that in the 1930's a group of scientists is gathered together under a physicist named Wagner to develop nuclear fission.  It is the aim of Wagner to develop nuclear fission for the purpose of ultimately developing a nuclear reactor to generate electric power.  The development program has a socially beneficial aim and a peaceful purpose.  The program is successful, nuclear fission is achieved, and nuclear reactors are built in various countries around the world.  The reactors are viewed as a boon, providing a ready source of cheap electric power.  At the same time,  however, there are those who question the safety of nuclear reactors.  These individuals cite the fact that nuclear reactors use radioactive fuel, a lethally toxic substance, and also generate nuclear waste, which also is toxic.  They claim that nuclear reactors are intrinsically dangerous and threatening.  Popular thinking, however, does not associate nuclear reactors with nuclear weapons and the possible devastation of entire cities, since nuclear weapons have not yet been developed.  The horror of nuclear war is not part of the mythology of nuclear fission in the  popular mind, though some individuals do view nuclear fission as an evil.  Years later there is a war.  As part of the war effort, the technology of nuclear fission is used to develop nuclear weapons.  The physicist Wagner had no part in this latter effort, though his original work on nuclear fission is the essential sine qua non of the technology used to develop nuclear weapons.  During the war, two nuclear weapons are dropped on two Japanese cities.  The cities are devastated.  Something new enters into the mythology of nuclear fission.  Nuclear power plants are viewed now in an entirely different light; they are viewed as a public danger in a way that they had not been viewed before.  After they war, in Japan, nuclear power plants are banned after a public outcry.  And that is the parable of how Wagner came to be banned in Japan.


(Check this out: A structural aspect of a virus is expressed in the antibody--"an intrinsic feature is expressed extrinsically."  This may be more than a chance comparison.  Note how retroviruses alter the structure of the cell to create a suitable environment--thus, simultaneously autoplastic and alloplastic.  (Or do I have this all wrong?)  Suggests that at some level, all these ideas interconnect.  I just hope whatever I have isn't catching!)

On August 9, 1995 -- the 50th anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki -- I attended a continuing legal education course in Washington, D.C. at which former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh was in attendance.  Dick Thornburgh was Governor of Pennsylvania in March 1979 at the time of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant incident.  These events were coincidence.  What was not coincidence was the fact that my seeing Governor Thornburgh on August 9, 1995 would trigger an emotionally powerful dream that night: The Dream of Milton's Successor.  The above parable that I wrote in 1992 suggests the importance of these themes for me.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

Note my reference in 1992 to the idea of my having a contagious disease. As a three-year-old I contracted scarlet fever. The Philadelphia health Department imposed a quarantine on my parents' house.

In recent blog posts I have joked about schizophrenia being a contagious disease. The D.C. Dept. of Human Rights -- a city agency -- in 1993 affirmed that I suffered from a (psychiatric) illness that might be associated with a risk of violence (a threat to public health and safety).