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Home » How Toxic Stress Can Drive Creativity: Laith Azzam (Full Transcript)

How Toxic Stress Can Drive Creativity: Laith Azzam (Full Transcript)

Laith is a 19-year-old Palestinian third-year medical student and a shining example of a change agent.

Below is the full text of his TEDx Talk titled “How Toxic Stress Can Drive Creativity” at TEDxOcala conference. This event occurred on November 3, 2018.



What is the first thing you think about when you hear the word “Palestine”?

Do you think about: Religion? Adversity? Politics? You might be thinking about Pakistan! Or maybe nothing at all.

The first thing that pops into my mind is hope.

Being a Palestinian, living in the West Bank, means that I am living through and experiencing one of the most controversial conflicts in modern history.

Living in such cases would yield what I would refer to as “toxic stress”, which is a term that describes the general human responses when faced with threats, challenges, and their consequences.

Here you would have one of two choices: You can either let this toxic stress destroy your soul and crush your hopes, or you can transform it into a form of energy that drives you to be creative and catalyze positive change.

It is said that agony is justified as soon as it becomes the raw material of beauty. When I first read this quote, I instantly thought about those respectable artists and inventors we hear about having lives filled with torment and affliction which happen to drive and generate the unparalleled creativity we know them for, people like J. K. Rowling or Nikola Tesla.

It also reminded me of an ancient Greek concept known as the tortured artist, which, in a nutshell, proposes that toxic stress inspires creativity and accomplishment.

When I interpreted this quote from the perspective of an ambitious Palestinian youth, I found it to be heavily related to the Palestinian life as well.

Now, for the past eight years, I have been very active when it comes to after-school activities, participating in the biggest innovation forum in Palestine, taking a part and winning a national entrepreneurship program, and my latest achievement being organizing the first ever TEDx event at my college last April.

During my involvement in these, alongside many other initiatives, I was exposed to a very diverse segment of other inspiring Palestinians.

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