According to clinical psychologist John D. Gartner, Ph.D., all great leaders are a little nuts. Their extraordinary passion and drive can inspire their followers to great achievements (or to run over a cliff).
Gartner says hypomania is a mild form of mania, often found in the relatives of manic depressives. "Hypomanics are brimming with infectious energy, irrational confidence, and really big ideas. ...Hypomanics live on the edge, between normal and abnormal."
In The Hypomanic Edge, Garner explains that the United States is an environment that attracts hypomanics. We have a higher percentage of them than other countries because we are a nation of immigrants who were willing to take the risk to move to an unknown country and make better lives for themselves and their families.
Hypomanics are an important group in our society who spark an unusual level of creativity and productivity. American culture is unique in the world because ours is the only culture that encourages and accepts failure as necessary to achieve success.
Gartner shows that hypomanics have been key players in America from the start by profiling prominent Americans in history, and highlighting their hypomanic traits, including Christopher Columbus, John Winthrop, Roger Williams, William Penn, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Carnegie, the Selznicks and the Mayers, and Craig Venter.
He points out that the aggressive nature of hypomanic leaders is evolutionary. Leaders of chimpanzee groups stir them up to war against other chimpanzee groups, exterminating them and replacing them. This wasn't so different from what Columbus did in America. He suggest that humans have found more constructive ways to channel this hypomanic energy. For example, Craig Venter accelerated mapping the human genome.
The passion of hypomanics may have to be tempered by more even-tempered and rational individuals. An example this that is not in the book is exuberant Walt Disney (Pinocchio) being reined in by his sensible brother, Roy Disney (Jiminy Cricket).
In the conclusion for the book, John Gartner expresses his concern about the movement in our federal government to restrain immigration, which renews our supply of hypomanics. He is also concerned that parents might use genetic engineering to eliminate genes for hypomanic traits.
For psychological insight into American culture and why you should be hopeful when your kids are driving you crazy, read The Hypomanic Edge.
Buy it on Amazon: The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America.
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