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Personality Research articles on personality

29Apr/112

Intellectuals vs. Artists (Black Swan vs. White Swan)

swan

I grew up with someone with anorexia (who probably still has it to some degree as it tends to stick with you based on what I've read). I remember being morbidly fascinated by those livejournal anorexia / anna-support forums for a brief period in my twenties (http://anorexicqueen.livejournal.com/). I just found how those people think (and reinforce each others' thinking) so incredibly strange/absurd/twisted.

In any case, I've recently become very interested in the topic of control (which is considered a big issue with anorexia) and the pros/cons of the intellectual and artistic approaches to life.

Some Background

I've always gravitated to intellectual and artistic interests, but with a preference for people on the intellectual side who I find more honest, self deprecating, objective. I have, historically, somewhat of an aversion to people on the artistic side who I find more dishonest, overly concerned with their image/them-self, subjective, inherently schizophrenic (two-faced people). I have the most romantic chemistry with women on the more artistic side and have some very good friends too on that side. But, I find those people to be, more often, bitchy, hypersensitive, delusional about who they think they are versus who they actually are, and selectively very nice or very mean. The level of their delusion is worse if they have few or no friends and/or they have friends who are all or mostly artistic. I feel like the two camps (intellectual and artistic) meet in the middle / are striving for the same goal (and so, in a sense, are pursuing equally valid paths to the same end). The intellectual camp is preoccupied with figuring out the formula of greatness, developing a personal understanding of it, whereas the artistic side is preoccupied with becoming/embodying greatness in the eyes of others and/or themselves. Some artists want everyone to like them, some just want to please/like themselves, the rest reside somewhere in between.

Artistic types therefore want to control the attention of others/themselves into perceiving them/them-self as great which requires that they control who they are (and how others/they see them). This is a recipe for self deception and external deception, which is why artistic types tend to be fundamentally dishonest. This is where this topic relates to anorexia. Anorexics, I think, exist on a spectrum.  On one side of the spectrum, the highly selfish anorexic wants to control who they are to match their individual delusional ideal mental picture of them-self, regardless of what anyone else thinks. On the other side of the spectrum, the more selfless anorexic wants to control who they are to match what others they value (boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, subculture, society, what's trendy, etc.) will think is most attractive. The fact that 90% of anorexics are women suggests that the artistic strategy is inherently a female behavioral preference. The high percentage of gay and bi-sexual male artists would seem to confirm that as well.

Black Swan / White Swan

I found the Black Swan to be a visually well made but absurdly affected and over the top in tone (so for me it was mostly comic). I noticed that people that were more artistic really love the film though. I think I might know why. I think the film (and the story it's based on) is a metaphor for the artistic strategy of life. The black swan is the artistic strategy of entirely pursuing your own subjective ideal. The white swan approach is the artistic strategy of entirely pursuing what you think other people want.  (Every annoyingly superficial successful pop musician is an example of the white swan approach.) Many artists possess and struggle with both inclinations (please myself or please others), which is why artists are frequently schizophrenic, two-faced. In the case of the film, the white swan approach was about pleasing the mother, the instructor, dancing tradition, etc.. Natalie Portman's white swan character had perfect technique but no internal sense-of-style/personal-identity. Mila Kunis' character is not technically perfect but by being more motivated by self interest, being more black swan, she has the advantage of personal-style/being-more-natural. The film ends with Natalie Portman's character finally becoming the black swan, but the complete transformation requires/results-in her death. A successful black swan is at greater risk for early death. The total embrace of the subjectivity/self-interest is, too often, toxic/fatal. Karen Carpenter, Nick Drake, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, John Keats are just a few of the many victims of the black swan approach.  Every anorexic that dies is a black swan. The black swan adheres to their own subjective ideal, and to the degree that ideal diverges from the physical laws of nature/organic-health, they perish.

Flaws in Both The Intellectual and Artistic Strategy

The intellectual attempts to decode/determine the formula for greatness, but to the degree none of their ideas or perceived discoveries bear any realizable/provable advantage to them-self and/or the world (or are even empirically reproducible), their efforts are no less futile than the artist who in seeking to be great to others or them-self ends up succeeding at neither, or does not maintain sustainable greatness.

I will probably always be the most attracted to someone who values/pursues the artistic strategy (because I think that is the feminine nature). But, I will probably only be compatible with someone that is self aware that being artistic is simply a strategy (with flaws) and that the intellectual strategy (which also has flaws) is equally valid. To the degree  someone is not self aware of their motivations, they tend to be compulsive, narrow-minded, less autonomous individuals, inflexible instinctual zombies instead of flexible, aware, dynamic human beings. My experience is that many people will only date or be friends with people that pursue their same behavioral/value strategy. They are basically dating/friends-with alternate versions of themselves (which is the height of narcissism). This simply reinforces all their delusions (which is so rampant on those anna-support websites). I experienced this madness when I was young visiting/spending-time in the anorexia section of the hospital. By having anorexics around each other you often make them worse as they learn-from/reinforce each others' bad habits and mental delusions. The same issue exists in prison, where putting convicts together often intensifies their anti-social perspectives and behaviors/skill-sets.

I think you inherently have more sustainable physical chemistry with and can sustainably learn more (i.e. mental chemistry) from people who pursue the same goal, but from the opposite perspective (a dynamic which challenges you and them). But, only a self aware person would see this, the rest will blindly stick with the comfort of birds of their feather. If most of your friends/romantic-partners are more artistic or if most of your friends/romantic-partners are more intellectual (or are mostly however you identify yourself), you are a narcissist who values reinforcement / validation (the delusion of greatness/being-right) over real truth (actual greatness). If you are the former, your friends and romantic partners are sycophants, not real friends or romantic partners, they like you only in so far as you gratify them (just as you probably only like them for gratifying you). If you wonder which group you are in, start disagreeing with your friends and/or romantic partner (when you honestly disagree), and see how the relationships will begin to suffer, fall apart. Real friendships and relationships thrive on disagreement/differences (which sometimes you resolve and sometimes you don't), fake/sycophantic ones crumble on them. The tv show 30 Rock covered this topic somewhat at least as it relates to romantic relationships in the episode titled Double Edged Sword (season 5, episode 14).

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Your review of the movie is reasonable. However, I know your hypothesis of creative vs. intellectual personalities is way too simplistic; or the way it is written is confusing, sounds overly simplistic/critical. are you saying that:
    a) Creatives are all about what they create; they are the ultimate medium – even though they may use paint, clay or their bodies. So, the glorification of their vision requires a huge ego – to stand up for the new and unusual? REALIZATION of VISION. The downside is that they can get stuck pleasing others thus can’t realize their true potential which will eventually kill the part that creates?
    b) Intellectuals are about why, how, proof and law and the application of it. They are contemplation, reason and deduction; the other people, other ideas, other actions. They seek WHY & TRUTH no matter what it is. They glorify the mind. The intellectual trap is that they may believe what they think.
    Is that about right?

  2. Black and White swan part as far as i am concerned with the movie “Black Swan” was quite well described here. but at the black swan part i think its not about the pleasing one-self. i think its about being what one is, what one truly feels from inside, and striving to bring it out, waiting to be heard and accepted what really truly one is. adding along m more of the artistic type(as mentioned by author above).
    overall a nice article. :)


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