Creativity, alcohol and drug abuse: the pop icon Jim Morrison

Psychopathology. 2014;47(3):167-73. doi: 10.1159/000354617. Epub 2013 Sep 18.

Abstract

Background: Alcohol and drug abuse is frequent among performers and pop musicians. Many of them hope that alcohol and drugs will enhance their creativity. Scientific studies are scarce and conclusions limited for methodological reasons. Furthermore, extraordinary creativity can hardly be grasped by empirical-statistical methods. Thus, ideographic studies are necessary to learn from extraordinarily creative persons about the relationship of creativity with alcohol and drugs. The pop icon Jim Morrison can serve as an exemplary case to investigate the interrelation between alcohol and drug abuse and creativity.

Methods: Morrison's self-assessments in his works and letters as well as the descriptions by others are analyzed under the perspective of creativity research.

Results: In the lyrics of Jim Morrison and in biographical descriptions, we can see how Jim Morrison tried to cope with traumatic events, depressive moods and uncontrolled impulses through creative activities. His talent, skill and motivation to write creatively were independent from taking alcohol and drugs. He used alcohol and drugs to transgress restrictive social norms, to broaden his perceptions and to reinforce his struggle for self-actualization. In short, his motivation to create something new and authentic was reinforced by alcohol and drugs. More important was the influence of a supportive group that enabled Morrison's talents to flourish. However, soon the frequent use of high doses of alcohol and drugs weakened his capacity to realize creative motivation.

Conclusions: Jim Morrison is an exemplary case showing that heavy drinking and the abuse of LSD, mescaline and amphetamines damages the capacity to realize creative motivation. Jim Morrison is typical of creative personalities like Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Jimmy Hendrix who burn their creativity in early adulthood through alcohol and drugs. We suppose that the sacrificial ritual of their decay offers some benefits for the excited spectators. One of these is the illusion that alcohol and drugs can lead to authenticity and creativity.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / history
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Aptitude*
  • Creativity*
  • Depression
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Poetry as Topic* / history
  • Self-Assessment
  • Substance-Related Disorders / history
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • United States
  • World War II
  • Writing

Personal name as subject

  • Jim Morrison