The Psychological Reasons For Prince’s Exceptional Creativity, Drug Addiction And Untimely Death: Part 2

The Psychological Reasons For Prince’s Exceptional Creativity, Drug Addiction And Untimely Death: Part 2

by Dr Emma Gray - 6th May, 2016

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In article one, we briefly explored the factors likely present in Prince’s psychological make up which laid the foundations for his potential creativity. In this second article, we explore the factors which transformed his psychological potential into success.

It is widely known that Prince suffered from a difficult early childhood, involving his parent’s divorce, isolation at school, running away from home, and navigating multiple family homes. Whilst it cannot be concluded that he was subject to abuse in a traditional sense, it would be apt to conclude that the psychological conditions in which he grew up were nonetheless ‘felt’ by Prince as harrowing. He would himself write, “Don’t abuse children. Or else they will turn out like me”.

Before being able to settle down as a teenager in the supportive environment of a motherly neighbour (Bernadette Anderson), who he would later describe as like a second mother, Prince had been required to survive intense feelings of emotional deprivation and poverty. A poignant memory he would recall involved standing outside the windows of a McDonald’s in order to simply smell the food. A known coping strategy for children to survive distressing environments is to develop patterns of control, both real and imaginary.

Within the sphere of combining his immense ability of escaping into his own imaginative world and similar abilities to naturally excel at music, we can predict that Prince was able to create exceptional control mechanisms as an artist to survive (and continue to live with) his intense feelings of vulnerability. Notably, inside his world of music, Prince would describe feeling free. It begins to make sense then that outside his world of music, he would seemingly never allow anyone or anything in, lest he should feel vulnerable to abuse again. And so we might predict a learned pattern of coping in adulthood based on control (a consequence of mistrust), mimicking the likely strategy for survival used by Prince as a young boy.

It is often considered that exceptional pain is necessary for exceptional artistry. Indeed, Prince would state that he would do anything to never go back to the pain of his childhood. However, had Prince not developed his world-class work ethic, as great as anyone known in the musical world, it remains unlikely that we would have the legacy of what we might now regard as ‘musical genius’. In Prince’s case, we might conclude that those who have the greatest talent and greatest work ethic, like a simple mathematic formula, will then exert the most significant motive force in this nature versus nurture question.

In the third and final article, we conclude our psychological exploration into Prince by considering the Achilles’ heel, fuelling Prince’s addictive behaviours and likely causing his untimely death.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


Read more about my approach to counselling here...


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