The “artistic temperament” link to bipolar was popularized by Kay Redfield Jamison in her groundbreaking book, Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the recommended treatment was near-toxic doses of lithium. The first words out of my mouth were, “How will it affect my creativity?”
“Why do they always ask that?” my psychiatrist muttered.
The artist is the instrument of expression and connects creativity with spirit. We all have it. The artist can’t live without it.
To find examples of artistic temperament and environments where this personality can thrive we need look no further than the MBTI. The Myers Brigg Type Indicator is a popular personality profile tool. As a career coach, I’ve found it to be a helpful tool for many of my clients.
Myers-Brigg tests can be found with a quick Google search. It analyzes the individual’s preferences in four different categories:
1. Preference for a focus on the inner world (Introversion, “I”), or the outer world (Extroversion, “E”).
2. Focus on basic information as it’s taken in (Sensing, “S”), or on interpreting and adding meaning to the information (Intuition, “N).
3. Preference for logic in decision-making (Thinking, “T), or on people and special circumstances (Feeling, “F”).
4. Preference for getting things decided (Judging, “J”), or being open to new information (Perceiving, “P”). HINT: The J’s love making plans; the P's love spontaneity and an open calendar.
Four of the 16 personality types in the MBTI represent artistic personality styles. Intuitives (I) have highly abstract thinking and often communicate best through symbolism. Perceivers (P) thrive on new information and highly fluid thought processes.
The four types with Intuitive and Perceiving characteristics are: INFP, ENFP, INTP and ENTP. These types are the idea people and work best when they can start a project and delegate the follow-through and detail work to others.
INFP (Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving)
Mediators are creative, empathic, and inquisitive. They’re natural helpers and are deeply caring. They tend to have excellent communication skills, so they make great writers, and they thrive in other artistic positions as well such as musicians, graphic designers, and in language arts. Mediators work well alone; however, they need frequent, meaningful, supportive interaction with people they admire.
ENFP (Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving)
Individuals with this personality type are imaginative, creative, insightful, and caring. They’re very service-oriented and have great communication skills. They do best in careers where they are helping others and/or being creative, so they’re great as counselors, fitness trainers, and therapists, as well as artists, actors, dancers, and musicians. Campaigners feel that freedom to follow their inspirations and participate in exciting projects with a diverse group of people is the most important aspect of job satisfaction.
INTP (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving)
Logicians love to master new skills and knowledge. They prefer to focus on creative, theoretical, logical processes, and long-range thinking rather than an end product. Logicians do best in these careers: financial analyst, investigator, and inventor. Logicians prefer to work independently and need plenty of quiet, private time and thrive in a flexible, unstructured environment. They prefer to interact with a small group of highly regarded associates.
ENTP (Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving)
This personality type tends to be energetic, analytical, enthusiastic, and theoretical. They are adept at solving problems creatively. Because they work so well with others, they make great leaders and are entrepreneurial. They thrive as executives and can function well in a variety of different fields, including business, the arts, and even sports and media. Debaters thrive on spontaneity and high-energy in the workplace within a casual and unstructured setting.
If you have NP in your MBTI profile, you probably have an artistic temperament and may need to deal with bipolar disorder. No worries! There is plenty of room within the spectrum for you to thrive.
Ann Christensen was diagnosed Bipolar Type 1 over 30 years ago and sees the artistic temperament as an asset. She is an INFP Mediator. Ann is author of Bipolar Almanac: Create a Life Worth Living and speaks and writes about bipolar issues, artistic temperament and creativity.