Whether you are smart(?) or stupid(?) your thought processes are limited by your language and experience, or the symbols you have associated with your history. None of which have any value(?) beyond the value given to them.  The smarter you are, or the more you take in and analyze and associate with previous analysis, the more you are filled with subjective constructs based on nothing but what you make up, or have agreed to believe what someone else made up. This makes things seem empty and valueless whenever you stop and try and take it in and associate a meaningful feeling like success or love to the variables within day to day life or your overall perception of life. This is made worse by the information overload that is occurring as we move through the beginning of the information age.

Reading this a couple years after I wrote it I think that all I was talking about was a sort of nihilism that seems more likely to occur with people who bother to analyze the creation of meaning. This was not supposed to link chemical imbalance to cognitive ability.

This is a reasonable hypothesis, although I'm not sure whether it relates to "I often wonder if I am closer to reality simply for being poorer". Since I personally have never considered intelligence to be 'given' - only aquired, like muscles; it is reasonable to assume that swimming in the ocean of thought is a different thing from paddling at the shore. I prefer deep sea diving, so I can imagine the dangers....

Sanity is defined by the average - much like IQ - and anyone outside this invisible boundary is 'crackers' (technical term:). However, there are two ways to be outside the norm; 'eccentric genius' or 'autistic'. Mental illness is not confined to the physiologically stupid (IE, those that have no choice in the matter), but can extend even to the zany professor. You may laugh at the eccentric's inability to tie their shoelaces or remember their doorkey but this is just as serious a mental distraction as damage to broca's area. Faliure to interact normally with the rest of the world can produce a feedback effect, where the less you talk to people, the less you feel able to do so. I call this the 'plastic bag / maths genius theory' - since all serious maths geniuses carry their important papers around in small plastic bags. And wear sandals.

I am emphatically not saying that insane = intelligent or that 'you don't have to be mad to be a rocket scientist, but it helps'. The mind is a curious thing, and cannot be generalised.

There have been many studies done, and some artistic endeavors (the dramatic play The Curious Savage, a few television series, the movie Phenomenon, etc.) that put forth similar theories. There certainly seems to be a link between heightened mental capacity and what could be referred to as mental instability.

Perhaps one reason for this could be tied to the theory of paradigms. Sanity is not entirely quantifiable, but it can be generalized in definition; such that it is apparent to the majority of the "sane" populace that a person is not thinking under the same set of paradigms that define "sanity". However, this same ability to think "outside the box" that would make society dub someone insane, can also give clues as to the nature of this person's mental flexibility.

There have been many brilliant people that have shown no sign of insanity, and there are plenty of legitimately insane people who do not or cannot demonstrate any high level of intelligence. However, there is enough of a relationship that it is unwise to discount the postulate that intelligence does, at times, work hand in hand with mental instability.

Besides, some of the most brilliant people I have ever met were definitely borderline. One guy I knew talked to machinery. Not just mumbling or making odd comments, I mean having deep conversations with machinery.

The mind is a vast and tumbled plane...

This is a very interesting line of thought. Sometimes genius is considered insanity by some cultures. When Galileo first postulated that the earth was not the center of the universe, he was considered either mad or a heretic because it did not fit into the Church's point of view. Mozart was also considered 'odd'; sometimes the folks in other countries and cultures just associated genius with an unusual way of thinking and interfacing with others.

There was a study done in New York City by Yellow Cab (if memory serves), wherein they compared folks with a high IQ with folks with sub-average IQs. The study concluded that the high-IQ people were frustrated, unhappy and tended to get more complaints and into more accidents. They basically had higher hopes and aspirations, and their minds were working a mile a minute while robotically driving around the city. The sub-average folks were more contented and concentrated more on the moment than the future.

Dr. Hervey Cleckley is a psychiatrist who has studied extensively a certain group of people known as psychopaths. Coincidentally, his research defines the psychopathic personality as a gross antisocial condition.

His research points towards psychopaths being particularly intelligent and charismatic. They have a tendency to circumvent conventional punishment, often hopping back and forth between the legal institutions where they plead insanity and the mental institutions where they are proclaimed sane, often due to their excessive charm and glibness.

In his book, The Mask of Sanity, Cleckley documents many incidences of this conditions and proposes many hypotheses on identification and treatment. He includes stories of brilliant scientists of exceptional talent that, although generally respected and adjusted, have sometimes been prone to unconventional behavior, like baricading themselves in dog kennels screaming at their superiors such colorful lines as "You always did say I'd go to the dogs, professor!" The psychopath is known for lack of higher emotions, inability to respect the consequences of their actions, and near-diabolic talents of persuasion. I think this fits the description of eccentric genius.

New and improved node formatting thanks to tutelage from GangstaFeelsGood

Sorry, Lord Bear; while I can fully tolerate a man like that, I already married one!

What Trippin calls a psychopath was known as sociopath in the DSM-IIIR and antisocial personality in the DSM-IV. For a good example, look at Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or consider such serial killers as Ted Bundy.

There is so much insanity and similar problems in the world that it is difficult to say that all of it correlates with intelligence. Certainly schizophrenia (which is NOT multiple personality disorder) does seem to correlate. It is theorized that artist Paul Cezanne was schizophrenic. Usually these folk are thinking of all sorts of amazing things; the problem is they often have difficulty relating to the rest of the world on its terms.

Perhaps that's the thing we consider insane, simply not being part of the world around you. This could be as small as being a little airheaded like Einstein, or as big as not being able to talk to people because you can't hear them over the roaring in your own head. So if that's the case, then it does correlate with intelligence as the cab survey suggests: smarter people are too busy thinking of other things to be fully in the moment.

I have schizophrenia. Here are some of my ideas to break the trend of observation without attention to sufferers' of this, the main form of "madness", own comments.

I used to think that the illness gives you genius, inspired ideas etc, but now I just believe you tend to get wacky, but not particularly deep ideas, like that someone's cast a spell on you with voodoo, or that you are being watched by intelligence agents. There are a million ideas of this kind that schizophrenics get, but the most common single theme is the supernatural. Of course you could say "maybe there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy Horatio..." and suggest that all these delusions are based in fact. I thought this when I first got ill, that I was being spiritually enlightened, I've now softened my stance on that and think that we can all try to get spiritual, but that I'm not (as I thought) the new messiah or anything like that.

If I can think complex or powerful thoughts it's definitely in my capacity as a part-time well person, or using the unharmed functional processes of my brain, because the illness thoughts are just a load of rubbish usually. Also I'd like to say that since genius is nine tenths perspiration, many schizoprenics are out of the running because the illness makes you (seem) lazy. While not genius there can be a beautiful child-like Zen fluidity in art that sufferers of the illness create, sometimes it can be discordant and harsh.

I first got ill when I was doing a Physics/Maths joint honours degree at Bristol Uni (UK), I started to believe the calculus lectures were a secret psychic spy training school, and that people in my student house were talking about me a lot behind my back. I've written 100 pages of a book about my experiences, and have found through this that the most subjective of my strange thoughts are impossible to describe adequately. It's a shame because I want(ed) to communicate my revelations... Still, too bad.

I scored good exam results at school, so you could call me intelligent if you wanted, but I'm less intelligent now because major tranquilisers actually lower your IQ. Quite a lot of my old School and Uni friends thought I had it coming because I thought too deeply, or was just too intelligent, this made me feel quite crap - I am me, I do what I do. Other friends think I am just an eccentric, or a psychological dissenter who believes human nature is different to how mainstream society sees it.

If anyone wants to ask me about my illness I'm happy to talk. (I'm fairly lucid and self-aware most of the time.)

On of the reasons that the idea that highly intelligent people are more likely to go insane has to do with how we define intelligence. Generally, intelligence implies some sort of ability to come up with new ways of seeing the world. If the new way of seeing the world falls too far out of our idea of what is reasonable we call the person crazy. So, it is more likely that people who go against the grain might do this. I think that a better definition of insanity would relate to a person's desire to harm themselves or others, not the wackiness of their ideas. If more people thought of insanity in these terms I think we might find that more of the so-called-normal people who stand by while their state murders people or cheerfully join the army and go off to kill (I know that's not the only reason people join the army, so don't jump on me all you ROTC's) we would find that many more of us are insane than we ever expected and it's not the guy shouting about aliens on the street corner who is the problem.

A large part of intelligence and creativity is the ability of your brain to map out complex relationships between ideas. Simply knowing a lot of data doesn't make you smart or creative -- it's the structured connections you can make between all of those little discrete packets of data.

The brain is constantly toying with the information you absorb - trying out random connections, and seeing how they fit in. Little neurons firing, misfiring, whatever it is. Creative "eureka" moments come from making a random connection that no one else has made before, and all of the pieces suddenly fall into place.

So how does genius connect with mental instability? The average person makes a certain amount of random connections, and most of them get filtered out automatically because they don't fit into the limited mental maps that person has constructed. The "genius" has a lot more random connections, and they seriously consider a much larger proportion of them. They start new maps more often. They don't filter out ideas just because no one else has tried them before -- and sometimes something great is created.... but sometimes they have so many unfiltered random connections that they can't get through everyday life.

"Madness" could be a number of things in this model -- no filters on random connections, overactive filters (where almost all connections are filtered out as irrelevant), too many random connections, or too few.


Note: some of the ideas here (about mental maps vs. flat information) are taken from reciprocality.org.

Intelligent people are introverted by nature for two reasons. First, the things going on inside their brain are usually more demanding or entertaining then average. Secondly, in their youth and teenage years, and to varying degrees later in life, they do not have people to identify strongly with. This is the purpose for the creation of Mensa; smart people are usually lonely.

Intelligent people are generally more cynical, as well. I'd like to say this is because the world is obviously fucked up and that smarter people realize this more intensely. A more reasonable answer, though, is because of the introverted nature of intelligent people.

Introversion leads a person to make fewer friends, as does the well-known nerd archetype that many geniuses carry with them.

Not being a member of society breeds resentment, fear, and anger towards society in general. This causes further introversion and subjectivity, which pushes society farther away from them, creating a vicious circle wherein the intelligent person holes up inside their own mind.

Geniuses are likely to feel rejected because they are smart, and social rejects are likely to think outside of the box just to spite society. The two are not inclusive, but go hand in hand in a lot of cases. The genius and the madman both create their own world, but who is remembered as a genius and who goes down as a madman depends on how many people they can convince to believe in their world.

Jesus was a genius and a madman, but people believed him and a paradigm was created. Same way with Einstein, Galileo, and, to a much less fantastic degree, one could even say Kurt Cobain. On the other hand, the part society does not like to examine, people like Charlie Manson have created fanatical cults and men like L. Ron Hubbard have created more reserved, but no less sinister, organizations behind a ridiculous conspiracy theory.

I do not believe intelligence is correlated with insanity. The statement itself is a semantic mine field because neither trait is very objective. For the purpose of an argument, I would define insanity as being detached from common physical experience to the point that one is unable to communicate and function within standard societal constructs. Intelligence I would define as the capacity to take ideas and form new relationships and abstractions between them.

My understanding is that studies to date have shown no correlation between high IQ and high rates of mental illness. That is to say, smart kids seem to be just as mentally stable as any other kind of kid. Admittedly I have only taken 2 undergraduate courses in psychology, but that is one fact that they mentioned.

The correlation of intelligence to insanity seems to make a lot of sense intuitively, but I think it is based on stereotypes and superficial understanding rather than any objective analysis. If you think about it, there are several obvious facts that could contribute to this view:

Highly intelligent people are more likely to be historically noted. Not because they were intelligent per se, but because more advances and inventions are made by intelligent people than dumb people. So when we think of famous insane people, they probably tend to be of above-average intelligence just to have done something to get into history books to begin with.

Insane people and highly intelligent people both say incomprehensible things. A well-reasoned statement might seem insane to an individual simply because they lack the facilities to comprehend it. Therefore someone who is insane might appear to act much like someone who is contemplating things that are beyond your current level of understanding and vice versa.

You are more likely to notice someone's intelligence if they behave strangely. Many of the smartest people realize that showing your intelligence can be off-putting, so in order to relate better with others they tailor their conversation to the individual. Insane people presumably have no concept of how their words and actions influence others, so they would make no such attempts (at least not successfully). It's similar to the stereotype that 'nerds' in school are smarter than other people when in fact intelligence has very little correlation to social status. What makes someone a nerd is difficulty or disinterest in playing the complicated social games that define children's society. In other words, it has to do more with where they devote their mental facilities rather than how powerful they are.

I can accept that intelligence is correlated with insanity in so much as insanity is defined in the eyes of the beholder. But in terms of intelligence opening up dangerous mental doors that lead off a precipice into 'madness' where the sufferer loses contact with reality, I emphatically reject that hypothesis. If I had to correlate insanity with something, I would say it has more to do with social difficulties than intelligence.

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