What if creativity gave our lives meaning?


Today’s “Day of the Thinker” will be devoted to Jean Cottraux, whose latest book To each one’s creativity. Einstein, Mozart, Picasso…and us (in French: “A chacun sa créativité. Einstein, Mozart, Picasso…and us”).  Special thanks to Brune Diricq (@BruneD on Twitter) who brought this fascinating book to my attention.

Jean Cottraux, born in 1942, is a psychiatrist, a professor in the city of Lyon and a founding member of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy in Philadelphia.  He is also the scientific director of the Francophone Institute of Research and Cognitive Therapy.  He has published many different works (all in French) including: The Force of Onself, The Repetition of Life Scenarios, and Interior Enemies.  He is a renowned specialist of anxiety problems and has been famous for his criticisms of psychoanalysis.  In his last book, the neuro-psychiatrist believes that everyone has a bit of creativity, and can be creative, at any one moment of one’s life, or throughout one’s life in industries that we rarely associate with creative practices.  This can be used if one is a chef or a housewife, an artist or a creator of social ties.

In To Each One’s Creativity, Jean Cottraux offers, through many different examples of famous designers, an analysis of creative personalities, styles of thought and psychological traits that favor creativity (paranoia, optimism, rebellious narcissism and conformist narcissism…) and tries to isolate a creative cognitive schema: “the designer is simply someone who has left rank and file and has jostled complacent spectators of the human comedy who have become too conformist by giving them something out of the ordinary”.  For Jean Cottraux, the figure of the “mad genius” is a myth of the same stripe as the mad-doctor: clinical psychology shows that creativity has essentially a link with affective disorders: no Balzac without thwarted love, no Chopin without exile!  Although biological factors are necessary conditions for creativity, they’re not sufficient to explain it entirely.  Other factors, like the search for recognition are also important.  For example, in 1779, General Choderlos de Laclos was disappointed by his assignment to fortify the Île de Ré instead of liberating the American colonies, thus he decided to write a piece of literature that would “stand alone…and will stay on the earth”.  Thus Dangerous Liasons was born.

According to Cottraux, developing one’s creativity is a way to feel better, leave the daily routine and fight ennui.  Jean Cottraux wishes to show us that open mindedness, hard work and perseverance, count more than talent and giftedness do. Creativity gives sense to people’s lives as well as to society.  Creativity, defined as the capacity to produce an innovation that makes sense, exists as soon it advances the culture.  The creative process can produce not only timeless works, but it can also produce a better life.

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