Dr. Judith Schlesinger Column: The "mad genius" and other follies

In nearly four decades as a psychologist, Judith Schlesinger has worked in schools, inpatient hospitals, outpatient clinics, university classrooms, and private practice.  Common threads: her fascination with the creative mind, and her passion for music and writing.

Author ofThe Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius(Shrinktunes Media, 2012), Judith wrote a biography of Humphrey Bogart (Metro, 1997) and contributed the psychology chapter to the interdisciplinary Stephen Sondheim: A Casebook (Garland, 2000). Judith has also written for The American Psychologist, The Counseling Psychologist, The National Psychologist, Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, the British Journal of Psychiatry, and The Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.

A long-term member of the Association for Psychological Science and the National Association of Science Writers, Judith likes to explore the lines between sizzle and steak. This is evident in her many essays on psychology and education for The Baltimore Sun, her humorist role at Topia, the magazine about art and artists, her ongoing columns and reviews at http://www.allaboutjazz.com and p,retty much her view of the world in general.

A musician herself, Judith has lately been producing acclaimed CDs for jazz, R&B, and Brazilian artists.  In her different incarnations she has known great talents who are both productive and content, rather than hobbled by psychological dysfunction as the “mad genius” cliche would have it. 

Such personal experience, combined with decades of research, clinical discovery, and that steak/sizzle thing, inspired The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of mad genius (2012).  It remains the only scholarly book that explains the origin, history, rationale, and psychosocial function of insisting that creative people are particularly vulnerable to “mental illness.”

As a result of her work, Judith was invited to contribute to the September 2014 “state of the field” textbook, Creativity and Mental Illness (Cambridge U Press), for which she wrote “Building Connections on Sand: The Cautionary Chapter.”  Her views are also getting attention from popular media like USA Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Skeptical Inquirer: The magazine for science and reason, and the Huffington Post (pre-AOL).

Finally, after realizing that there’s about as much empirical evidence for the healthy genius as the disturbed one (i.e., virtually none), Judith has begun working on a new book tentatively titled Mad to Glad: A Radical New Look at Genius. It takes up where The Insanity Hoax leaves off, identifies some startling changes in the diagnostic landscape, and provides first-person testimony to further encourage a positive shift in focus from mad to glad - or at least to inject some reality into the pursuit by talking to living, working artists about their creative process and moods. 

 

Find out more at http://www.theinsanityhoax.com; http://www.madtogladgenius.com

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