Talent-vs-Personality Disorders

Talent -vs- Personality Disorders

The world was rocked by the death of Michael Jackson. He is likely to be remembered, not only for his creativity as one of the world’s most talented people in music, but also for his bizarre behaviors, appearance and abuse allegations. It seems at odds that someone so talented might also have been fairly disordered in his personality.

Michael appears to meet the criteria for Schizotypal Personality Disorder. There have been many other articles written about the possibility of Michael exhibiting traits of this disorder (just Google sites on this topic).

The Institute’s mission is to provide public pathology education. Schizotypal Personality Disorder is a permanent personality disorder which is being highlighted this week to help educate the public.

Traits of the disorder include:

* Acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity for, close relationships
* Odd beliefs or magical thinking that influences behavior and is inconsistent with cultural norms
* Unusual perceptual experiences
* Odd thinking and speech
* Suspiciousness or paranoid ideas
* Inappropriate or constricted emotions
* Behavior or appearance that is odd, eccentric, or peculiar
* Lack of close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives
* Excessive social anxiety that does not diminish with familiarity and tends to be associated with paranoid fears rather than negative judgements about self

Through the years we watched as a mega-talented, child prodigy slowly turned into a reclusive and eccentric man-child. Exemplifying the oddities of the schizotypal personality, he continued to alter his appearance past the point of normal cosmetic surgery – often implying the stranger it got, the better. He used other behaviors as ways of accentuating his eccentricity and uniqueness. He was often seen wearing a germ mask, claimed that Bubbles his chimpanzee was his closest companion, and created his property into Neverland – based on Peter Pan’s “never wanting to grow up.” There, he remained highly reclusive drawing mostly children to Neverland. The stories about sleeping in an anti-aging chamber along with his growing odd appearance, dress and behavior, sadly attracted the moniker “Wacko Jacko” for Michael.

His two sexual child abuse cases, while dismissed, did expose some of his bizarre thinking. As he stated in an interview, “It’s the most loving thing to share your bed with a child.” The inability to see the inappropriateness of some of his comments, especially while under investigation, established much of his thinking as disordered. In the public’s eye, his comments demonstrated that he was out of touch with reality to our cultural norms and laws.

Celebrities often give their children bizarre names. And certainly non-celebrities name their children after themselves or give them a family name. However, Michael’s children’s names reflect a glaring narcissism. His first child was given the name Prince Michael I, his second child, a daughter, named Paris Michael, and his third child, Prince Michael II.

Another example of Michael’s bizarre behavior was the dangling of an infant Prince Michael II over a hotel balcony. Today, this child is referred to as, “Blanket.” While celebrities try to shield their children from the negative effects of the media and possible kidnapping, Michael’s was most extreme. Given his schizotypal approach to life, his children, who were rarely seen in public, wore elaborate masks or had towels hanging from their heads. While other huge celebrities have faced the same threat (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Elvis, John F. Kennedy), none responded by dressing their children in bizarre ways with masks and towels, or prohibited any known information about them.

Michael stands as probably THEE most talented person to change the racial divide in music — changing MTV and pressing excellence in music far beyond what anyone had done. But talent does not mean that it is not co-mingled and intertwined around a rather severe disorder. That is not abnormal in pathology. People’s pathology is often dismissed when it is compared to their achievements. As The Institute has discussed before, various disorders with pathology SEEK careers in which they receive a lot of status, attention, money, or exposure. Many forms of pathology are laced with excitement seeking, risk taking, and high achieving traits that help the pathological over the bar and up the career ladder. We shouldn’t assume the pathological person to be working only at the grocery store or the car wash. While there are blue-collar patholgicals, many (and those most undetected) are successful — some attaining extreme success. Certain disorders migrate to various fields such as medicine, the legal and criminal justice system, banking, psychology, theology, and even the entertainment field.

While it is tempting to take our eyes off of who the pathological is underneath the talent, it is just as important for us to remember that talent and disorder aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s as if the Creator gives greatly on one side, and takes greatly from the other side. There are talented excesses and devastating deficits. Michael’s talent exemplifies what it means to be a prodigy. His personal life and deteriorating behavior also shines a light on how pathology is not a respecter of persons — any talented person can be harboring the life-altering effects of pathology.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw him moon walk, or the goose bumps I had when he sang “Thriller.” I’ll also never forget the first time I saw his face so altered from surgery and thinking that this was the result of a bigger problem. I won’t forget the mortification I felt when he was fighting sexual abuse allegations. In any case, we will all remember something “BIGGER” than life about Michael.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).