The adaptive healing potential of art, spirituality, and ecstasy–right-brained phenomena all–for individuals and the human species were not explored in the article “The Bounce-Back Effect” [September 1]. For a more complex perspective on brain dominance, emotional health, and “appropriate” emotional responses, try Ned Herrmann’s Creative Brain, Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person, Jeffrey Freed’s Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World, or Barry Johnson’s Polarity Management. These authors posit that variety and integration–wholeness–within individuals and throughout society, define healthy adaptation.

In this view, “tortured artist” martyrs like Rilke (who eschewed therapy, fearing it would ruin his art), recluse Emily Dickinson, suicidal van Gogh, were expressing an overabundance of the empathy that their culture denied en masse and projected onto them. A nasty job, but someone has to do it. They were less sick individuals as symptoms of an unbalanced society that benefited in both constructive and less constructive ways from these representatives’ outsider role in it. In Prozac Nation, Gen X-er Elizabeth Wurtzel questions the values of a society where so many individuals must turn to drugs (legal and otherwise) in order to function without debilitating pain. If we don’t want our kids to grow up to be van Goghs, maybe in determining the “appropriateness” of emotional responses we should examine whether we are pulling our own weight on the right side of our brains, using our emotions to inform, refine, and deepen our characters and our ethical behavior in the world and encouraging others to do so for the benefit of all, instead of taking the easy way out and reinforcing the flight to “rational” behavior at the expense of all.

Julie Benesh