The GAM/DP Theory of Personality and Creativity
by: William A. Therivel, PhD
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-GAM/DP Synopsis
-GAM Introduction
-DP Introduction
-GAM/DP Summary
-Mozart and not Salieri
-Personality Families
-Berlin's Hedgehogs & Foxes
-James Joyce - Fox
-Newton's Personality Styles
-Gifted and Talented
-GAM's Marginal Men
-GAM's Heidegger
-GAM's Nietzsche
-GAM's Nathaniel Hawthorne
-German Ethnopsychology
-Japanese Ethnopsychology
-French Ethnopsychology
-Spanish Ethnopsychology
-Chinese Ethnopsychology
-Argentine Ethnopsychology
-Byzantium's Creativity
-Venice's Creativity
-Chaucer's Griselda
-Western Medicine's Origins
-Individual Growth by Thinking GxAxMxDP
William A. Therivel
William Therivel
found at Amazon
-High Creativity Unmasked
-Studying Power
-Studying National Characters
-Studying National Creativity
Biography of Author

All major creators can be significantly grouped in 14 challenged personality families in
Therivel's GAM/DP Theory of Personality and Creativity.

The Fourteen GAM-Challenged Personality Families

The above is the title of chapter 3 of volume 1 of William A. Therivel's The GAM/DP Theory of Personality and Creativity (G stands for genetic endowment, A for assistances of youth, M for misfortunes of youth, DP for division of power, UP for unity of power). For an introduction to the GAM part of the theory click "Introduction to GAM"; for an introduction to the DP part click on "Introduction to DP".
In this website, the reader is also offered a shortcut: The GAM/DP Synopsis and an expanded version, The GAM/DP Summary of volumes 1 through 4.

Hereafter are excerpts of this chapter:

     "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," said Tolstoy at the very beginning of his novel Anna Karenina. This observation applies specifically to the challenged personality shaped by major misfortunes of youth, because all misfortunes hurt; all bring unhappiness.
     Yet, something more can be said about the challenged personalities without denying their strong diversity. That something concerns a certain, limited for sure, similarity among those affected by the same kind of misfortune. Within this optic, in this chapter, the GAM theory is applied to the study of the specific impact on personality of each of 14 major creativogenic misfortunes when backed by sufficient assistances. Not included, therefore, are misfortunes, like slavery and child abuse, which by their very nature exclude, or greatly reduce, the assistances.
     The main source of my data is a lifelong interest in the lives of eminent people, their youth in particular, as described and discussed in biographies. By now, I have studied more than three hundred eminent people, often reading several works on each of them, for instance more than 20 biographies on Napoleon, (one of them by Louis Madelin in 14 volumes), and not counting the biographies of several of his key men, e.g. Talleyrand, Caulaincourt; more than ten biographies on Hitler; about half a dozen each on Mozart, Goethe, Picasso, Tolstoy, and Thomas Mann.
     I have always focused my attention on the origins of these eminent people, being thankful to the many good biographies which devote a chapter (or several) to their subject's youth, with emphasis on any major misfortune of youth, and on all assistances from parents, relatives, friends, schools, cultural and socioeconomic status, and the general environment. Good biographers often explain the personality and works of their subjects in terms of the misfortunes, assistances, cultural influences and historical events of youth and adulthood. Gradually, I noticed that several of the explanations given were similar when dealing with similar misfortunes and assistances of youth. I expanded these explanations with my own observations. The results of this work are summarized in Table 1 devoted to 15 personality families-one dedicated and 14 challenged. Later, this table was used to develop the 15 personality dimensions, which I tested empirically (Therivel 1988, 1990) as discussed in the next chapter.
     The eminent creators of Table 1 are first to be considered as exemplars chosen because of the clarity of their misfortunes, assistances, philosophy of life, and nature of their works. They can help in understanding others similarly challenged. Also, the short presentations of the misfortunes and assistance of each exemplar may provide evidence for GAM if the readers, based on their own knowledge, find that Table 1 makes sense to them. For instance, most of us are aware of the different impact of love versus abuse on a child, or of two loving parents versus two who betray and hate each other. It should not come as a surprise that the pains of suffered illegitimacy (especially in the past when illegitimate birth brought major injustices and insults) has a major negative impact on the vision that a person has of parenthood, of God, of society. This impact and derived personality will clearly be different from that of an orphan, or a blind youth, to whom many give friendly and generous help: a kind of help that was rarely given to the illegitimate.
     In other words, it is hoped that GAM will be found intuitive as soon as the reader becomes attuned to Figure 1 and Table 1, and pardons the author for the strange names he chose. I hope, by a second reading, those names should not only sound familiar but also make sense. For instance, the real alchemists wanted to transform lead or other material into gold; the GAM alchemists, as discussed shortly, transform many of their life experiences into artistic gold.
     However, one must not forget that everybody is affected by a multiplicity of influences: some have little impact or are balanced by others, some instead leave deep scars. For instance, Mozart suffered bitterly from the oppression by his master, the prince-archbishop of Salzburg, and from other aristocrats. Indeed, Mozart's two greatest operas, Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro (and possibly too the finale of The Abduction from the Seraglio), were blistering reforming (GAM-challenged family #6) critiques of their abuses.
Some people are so affected by major misfortunes (or assistances) of adulthood that their later personalities (and related scripts) have no clear relation to the misfortune(s) of their youth. In such cases, even if they remain challenged personalities, table 1 does not apply to them.

The GAM Dedicated and 14 Challenged Personality Families: Causes and Results.

The Dedicated
Causes Results

Good parental assistance,
No major misfortune
Enlightened conservative; sociable, realistic, mature, many old and new friends; strong family and community ties; in academia, science, and the arts, they work within the system

The Challenged
(14 families)
Causes Results

Early parental death or much parental coupled with love and good assistance from the remaining parent or relatives; good assistance from school and stable socio-economic status. Fond of moral concepts that are logical and prescriptive; absence, have penchant for vast, non- relativistic, theoretical thinking; fond of higher intellectual pursuits such as religion, philosophy, mathematics, science and law.

Causes same as universalists, but are involved from an early age in an aristocratic, upper class, military, professional or business environment. Show vision and great enterprise; give priority to the institution they are part of or have created. (Many of the greatest statesmen, founders of great enterprises and/or great families).

Physical infirmity, coupled with much parental love and assistances Seek escape from this world by putting emphasis on intellectual or spiritual matters; search for answers, especially from religion or philosophy or mathematics, science, or engineering. Many mystics are seekers.

Paternal professional/character failure;coupled with quality assistances Self-confident, courageous, protean; perpetually shaping and creating; often moving to new grounds in their love for variety and pantheistic synthesis

Rootlessness or uprootedness (e.g., forced conversion or assimilation of parents to religion or ethnic ways of majority;major changes of abode; major religious or cultural differences between parents); good assistance Detached; critical thinkers; relativistic; often hold cosmopolitan and pragmatic attitudes.

Mild paternal domination (e.g., a successful father wants to guide and help too much, makes heavy use of the power of the purse to achieve his aims) Loathe any kind of personal or social tyranny; want to stop abuse; malpractice, and corruptive power; want to make the world better by removing defect and by demolishing oppressive superstructures

Parental aloofness Loners who often compensate by escaping into their own world of imaginary excitement; avoid emotional involvement; patient, sharp observers of people and of the ambiguities of loyalties; often hold a negative view of the world.

Incompatibilites between father and mother (e.g., arguments, fights, lies, infidelities) Disillusioned with the possibility of a meaningful dialogue; critical of society; often cynical and disconcertingly remote; sharp observers of the contrast between appearances and reality

Lack of love (e.g., lack of love from remaining parent after one died, divorced or was pushed aside) Skeptics with a tendency to pessimism and satire; sharp eye for hypocrisy (Many great poets are miners)

Strong maternal domination Mostly indolent, forgetful, procrastinating; moody, with strong fluctuations of temper; sometimes bitingly satirical; mixture of passive and aggressive; resists demands of others.

Strong paternal domination often Compounded by physical infirmity Complex, tortured, introverted, outwardly cool, self-controlled; concerned to appear in the best light, while inwardly harboring feelings of Insecurity and repressed rebellion; often detached, reticent, seemingly unemotional; small remnant of the reformer's zeal.

Painful or humiliating physical Infirmities Keen eye for anything that is sick in people and society; may have some religious or mystical interests (like seekers), but permeated with pessimism

Early parental death or parental separation with subsequent downfall of family fortunes and status in which society is seen as the main culprit of their suffering and humiliations Understand and identify with the oppressed, the partisan, and the clown; humor is the preferred weapon of attack and defense; vitriolic social criticism

Conditions that say that the child is not as "legitimate" as other siblings or peers and that the child is stained, inferior realists Feel bitterly uprooted; without illusions; little respect for parenthood, marriage, family, and society; ambitious

1. Alchemists
     In line with table 1, I will hereafter discuss Mozart, Goethe and Picasso (and a few others) as GAM alchemists.

     Alchemist personalities are shaped by the misfortune of paternal or maternal failure (character or professional): a challenge met successfully thanks to good assistance from the mother, the father, or other relatives and friends, moderate to good SES, and a valid genetic endowment.
     As discussed, the father of Mozart (and then his family) suffered from his inability to be promoted to the rank of Kappellmeister. The difficult character of Goethe's father made him into a grumpy recluse, a situation that left his wife and son free to live their own lives. With the fathers of Picasso, Einstein, and Walt Disney it was plain professional or business failure. In the case of father Marx (he was the son of a rabbi and was married to the daughter of a rabbi, and his brother was a rabbi), his failure of character (in the eyes of many) was his conversion to Protestantism solely in order to be able to continue his profession of counselor-at-law to the High Court of Appeals in Trier.
     Marx and Einstein are not fully alchemists because of the added misfortune of uprootedness or rootlessness. Marx was baptized at the age of seven, following the conversion of his father. His mother converted later, only after the death of her father. None of these conversions had anything to do with religion. The parents of Einstein were lax Jews who sent "Albert and his sister, Maja, two and half years his junior, to the nearby Catholic elementary school, where the two children learned the traditions and tenets of the Catholic faith" (Hoffmann, 1972, p.16).
     The failure of the father of Jung is special because his shortcomings became evident in the way he exercised his ministry for the Lutheran Reformed Church. Jung wrote: "For my father in particular I felt compassion-less, curiously enough, for my mother. She always seemed to me the stronger of the two. Nevertheless I always felt on her side when my father gave vent to his moody irritability . . . What he said [about grace] sounded stale and hollow, like a tale told by someone who knows it only by hearsay and cannot quite believe it himself" (1977, pp. 40, 59).
     Going one step forward in the study of the misfortune, the following on the nine-year-old Mozart is indicative of his "professional" relationship with his father:

The score was no sooner put upon his desk, than he began to play the symphony in a most masterly manner, as well as the time and style which corresponded with the intention of the composer . . . His voice in the tone of it was thin and infantine, but nothing could exceed the masterly way in which he sung. His father, who took the underpart of the duet, was once or twice out . . . on which occasions the son looked back with some anger pointing out to him his mistakes (related by Daines Barrington, who in June 1765, was sent to test Mozart's powers, and reported by Shaffer, 1979, p. 10).

Goethe, remembering his youth (at the age of 10 to 13) wrote:

[My father] siding as he did with the Prussians, was now to find himself besieged in his own chambers by the French: it was, according to his way of thinking, the greatest misfortune that could happen to him. Had it, however, been possible for him to have taken the matter more easily, he might have saved himself and us many sad hours; since he spoke French well . . . For it was the king's lieutenant [Count Thoranc] who was quartered on us [for two and one-half years] . . . My father's ill humour increased; he could not resign himself to the unavoidable. How he tormented himself, my mother, the interpreter, the councillor and all his friends, only to rid him of the count! . . . In this, his activity, which he had used chiefly to devote to us, was crippled" (Goethe, 1811-22/1969, p. 83-87).

     Goethe's mother, instead, began to learn French, and her son followed her immediately taking a passionate liking for French literature and theater, something that further embittered the "daily more of a hypochondriac self-tormentor" (p. 85). On the side of the assistances, the paternal library, with its many books in French and English, was a trove for the young Goethe who became an aficionado of Shakespeare to the point of organizing, in Frankfurt, at the age of 22, the first Shakespeare festival in Continental Europe.

On Picasso's father, Penrose wrote:

Don José had grown morose and rarely left the house except to attend Mass. When not at work he stood at the window watching the rain. One evening, when the weather was less depressing, he set a task for his son [aged 13] and went for a stroll. . . . On his return, the pigeons were completed, and so lifelike were their legs that Don José, in a burst of emotion, abruptly gave Pablo his own palette, brushes and colours, saying that his son's talent was now mature, in fact already greater than his own, and that he himself would never paint again. (1981, p. 20)

     And, in the words of Howard Gardner (1993): "Picasso found it necessary to denigrate his father and even to render an unflattering portrait of him. While it is uncertain whether Picasso's father actually stopped painting when his son surpassed him, it is a matter of record that Pablo dropped his father's surname, Ruiz, and elected to become known to the world by his mother's name of Picasso" (p. 144-45).
     In a very compact way, each of these biographical sketches speaks of the growth of the son at the expense of the paternal failure. The father was not in a position to guide or criticize effectively. Correspondingly, the son, free of this guidance and control, could try, experiment, and contrast his first successes with the paternal failure or paralysis. The son's errors were soon pardoned, even admired for their daring, and in the end the whole family was behind the lively youth who seemed able to transform into gold everything he touched. Later on, these alchemists became experts in converting into artistic gold even their "failed relations." Goethe, for instance, failed painfully in his courtship of Lotte Buff, but triumphed over the situation by writing an extraordinarily moving and beautiful novel (The Sorrows of Young Werther) about that failure. But while in the novel, Werther, his alter ego, committed suicide, so high and irreplaceable was his love for Lotte, Goethe, the artist, moved on, "cleared of failure" by his superb act of creation.

     Alchemists are superbly manifold in their creativity-true Proteuses. They can create marvels on the spur of the moment and enjoy doing it, especially when making fun at the expense of others and of themselves.
     Mozart was one of the greatest musical geniuses of all times, one of the world's three or four leading operatic composers, the superb creator of masses, cantatas, oratorios, orchestral works, and chamber and keyboard music. He was also a poet with a wonderful sense of humor as shown, for instance, in the poem he wrote for the marriage of his sister (see Mozart, 1972, p.225).
     Goethe's output and its diversity is phenomenal: poems, novels, political and psychological plays. He was also a critic, journalist, painter, theater manager, statesman, educationalist, natural philosopher -- his writings on science alone fill 14 volumes.
     Picasso's creativity, too, is unique for its intensity, volume, and diversity of style and techniques: painting, drawing, engraving, and collage, sculpture and constructions, pottery and other mediums. He also wrote poetry and two plays.
     More than the other challenged personalities, the alchemists are like those red Japanese dolls, the Darumas, which will not be kept down: release the pressure, and immediately they stand up again. The alchemists learned, in their youth, to always try again to make something valuable, with a clear knowledge of the difference between doing things well or failing (as per the permanent example they had at home). But, and we should not forget it, they could dare and experiment in a protected environment: somebody was there should the hero come back wounded or bruised.
     Alchemists tend frequently to move to new grounds in search of variety or pantheistic syntheses. In the case of Mozart, we notice this not only in his Don Giovanni (the Don is sent to Hell by the Commendatore without any reference to religion or God) but also in his The Abduction from the Seraglio, where he and his librettist gave the highest praise to Islam (and not Christianity) by showing the wonderful generosity of Pasha Selim to his prisoner Belmonte, the son of the Spanish commandant of Oran who, in Selim's words, was "the cause of my exile. His relentless greed deprived me of my beloved, whom I valued more than life itself, robbed me of my honor, my wealth, of everything; [still] I hold your father in too much contempt to follow in his footsteps. Take Costanza. Sail back to your homeland. Tell your father that you were in my power and that I have set you free in order to prove that it is a far greater pleasure to repay injustice with kindness than evil with evil." Then, for double measure, the final chorus of the opera repeats many times: "Long live Selim. Blessed be his noble virtues" (Bretzner, 1782/1956, pp. 156, 169, 178-79).

2. The GAM professional columns
     Another way to understand Mozart, and by contrast Salieri, consists in comparing Mozart's personality and musical interests with those of other exemplar-challenged composers on one side and others with similar personalities but different professional interests on the other, all classified in "families" according to the GAM Theory of Personality as summarized in table 1.
     A first attempt at this is presented in table 2, which shows four professional columns (musical composers, religious personalities, painters and sculptors, poets and novelists) and four GAM rows (universalists, alchemists, radiologists, trappers) out of the 14 challenged families of table 1. Basically with table 2 it should be possible to detect corresponding personality differences, family by family, down each column. In turn, one should detect personality similarities across each row even if, at times, veiled by professional or medium differences.

Four GAM Rows and Four Professional Columns

Professions (or field of interest)
Composers Religious
Painters & Sculptors Poets &
#1 Universalist Bach Buddha
C.S. Lewis
#4 Alchemist Beethoven
Jung Walt Disney
V. Hugo
#12 Radiologist Bartok
Francis Bacon
T.S. Eliot
Garcia Lorca
#14 Trapper Wagner Erasmus of Rotterdam
Sor Juana de la Cruz
Leonardo da Vinci

a) Universalists
     Among the GAM universalists we encounter some of the greatest names in the fields of religion, philosophy, law, science, literature, music and visual arts. Universalists were affected by the misfortune of early parental death and, well assisted, developed a thirst for high all-encompassing solutions, with a strong feeling for the religious, as if the missing parent would be with God, partake in some way of the divinity, and protect, guide, or inspire son or daughter. The works of the universalists are like medieval cathedrals in their dimensions, full of harmony, and with high luminous windows. Universalists are often very religious, even if in their own distilled way, as were Bach, Dante, Newton, and Tolstoy.
     Here, I will deal with Bach only and not delve into the well known universal aspects of Buddha's and Muhammad's philosophical and religious teachings, Dante's Divine Comedy, Tolstoy's War and Peace, or Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Still some "causal dates" might be useful. These dates are reported in table 3.

Causal Dates

Age at Loss Person Lost Age at Loss Person Lost
Composer Painters & Sculptors
Bach 9 mother Canova 4 father
" 10 father Claude 12 father &
Beethoven 17 mother David 9 father
Bruckner 13 father Michelangelo 6 mother
Couperin 11 father Raphael 8 mother
Händel 12 father " 11 father
Sibelius 10 father
Telemann 4 father
Religious Personalities Poets & Novelists
John Bosco 2 father Camus 1 father
Buddha 0 mother Dante early mother
Calvin 6 mother " <18 father
Confucius early father &
Emerson 9 father
Kagawa 4 father &
Frost 11 father
Ignatius of Loyola 9 mother C.S. Lewis 10 mother
" 14 father Mauriac 2 father
Melanchton 11 father Neruda <1 mother
Mencius 3 father Racine 1 mother
Muhammad <0 father " 3 father
" 6 mother Silone 14 father &
Swedenborg 8 mother Solzhenitsyn <0 father
Francis Xavier 9 father Tolstoy 2 mother
" 9 father
Tolkien 4 father
" 12 mother
Unamuno 6 father
Wordsworth 8 mother
" 13 father

     Few of these eminent persons in table 3 are strict universalists, especially the many who suffered additional major misfortunes of youth, which for Dante, Michelangelo and Beethoven, for instance, were father character and professional failure. To try to compensate, one could use a system of fractions (e.g., two-thirds universalist, one-third alchemist) but the drawbacks would be too many. Also, there are many persons whom one cannot classify at all because of an overly complex blend of environmental and genetic factors of youth or adulthood. In addition, major subsequent difficulties of adulthood (e.g., health, marriage, profession), or too much power and success will bring major deviations, so much so that for some, table 2 will reflect only a number of years and not the whole life span. For instance, toward the end of his life, the alchemist in Mozart began to disappear under the impact of poor health and professional difficulties from the neglect by the aristocracy which he had dared to criticize. To this one may possibly add the impact of a lower respect and love from his wife which, in her, may have been proportional to her husband's success (Elias, 1993).

Johann Sebastian Bach
     Bach's mother died when he was nine and his father one year after. Subsequently he was assisted by his fourteen-years-older brother Johann-Christoph, organist at the principal church of Ohrdruf, and by his wife, Dorothea. These are conditions that tend to give birth to a universalist personality who often looks at God and religion as the source of profoundly felt moral concepts that are logical and prescriptive. These individuals look at God as the signifier of individual and social life, as the signifier of history, as the redeemer of all pains and injustices. Indeed, "Bach was a deeply and sincerely religious man. . . . His music was the expression of his religious faith" (Seaver, 1969, p. 262). "The S.D.G. (Soli Deo Gloria, 'to God alone praise') and the J.J. (Jesu juva, 'Help me, Jesus!') with which he garnishes his scores, are for him no formulas, but the Credo that runs through all his work. Music is an act of worship with Bach. His artistic activity and his personality are both based on his piety. If he is to be understood from any standpoint at all, it is from this" (Schweitzer, 1966, I, pp. 166-167). Similarly, "Bach led a fundamentally private existence devoted to cultivating and perfecting his talents for music, an activity he considered a divine calling" (Marshall, 2000, p. 47). Specifically, universalist is the praise that Spitta (1951) gave to Bach's B minor mass, in that it "showed Protestantism no longer as the antagonist and foe of Catholicism, but as an inevitable outcome and development from it, grown from the same soil. The B minor mass plainly reveals how immeasurably deeper and broader Bach's church feeling was than that of his age" (1951, III, p. 44). Also, Bach's genetic "componential intelligence" must have been phenomenal. For King Frederick the Great he improvised on the spot a fugue first in four parts, then in five parts, and finally in eight parts. "One could probably liken the task of improvising a six-part fugue to the playing of sixty simultaneous blindfold games of chess, and winning them all. To improvise an eight-part fugue is really beyond human capability" (Hofstadter, 1980, p. 7).

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