Welcome to the online journal of the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education. Other/Wise is a journal that offers a selected sampling of papers based on presentations made at IFPE’s most recent conference. Reflecting IFPE’s commitment to originality, creativity and diversity of thought and format, contributions can and have included scholarly papers, clinical papers, personal and autobiographical narratives, poetry, artwork, films and music.
The dark side of the mind and relation with its’ others sides Clinical evidences of the failure of repression
by Cristina Nunes 4 November 2012
Abstract With this paper, the author intends to share and discuss some points of view about her clinical experience and reflections related with the failure of repression and the acceptance of the moral authority of parental models, especially from those of the same gender. In the author’s experience, clinical evidences suggest that, when the patient couldn’t recognize, while a child, his father or her mother as a moral authority model, the repression mechanism could fail sooner. Therefore, the patients should be obliged to manage some other way to support and live their life in a sustainable way. Frequently they feel (and verbalize it) like they were their own father or mother; they really think they grew up by themselves. The failure of the external reality would be felt in different ways, as different as the character of each individual; some of them go on disorganized, others become fanatic of the order while others do it differently due to their ability to think their feelings or express them in a different language, like the artistic one. Those who express their dark side of the mind by artistic language seem to maintain their sexual drive active, besides this apparent earlier oedipal disinvestment, probably commanded by primary repression, but not so much by sublimation. Thus, the individual could close up on itself, in a kind of narcissistic shell, where the language of artistic expression would seem to be the main way to transform and translate their unconscious contents. Usually these individuals don’t follow norms, but, aside from the creation of their work, they massively invest their affect in something they believe could represent their sense of life and that could be another person or a project, like a football club, for instance, which seems to take the place of the parent of the same gender. During the psychoanalytic process, as it evolves, the patients increase their capacity in reflective thinking, decreasing their needs of acting out. At the same time, they develop the language of artistic expression and increase satisfaction with themselves, becoming more confident and less dependent on the outside eye (which served as a mirror) to know who they are. Finally, some short clinical vignettes will be exposed from patients involved with different expression of art, like music, dance, cinema, literature, photography and science.
The dark side of the mind and relation with its’ others sides
Clinical evidences of the failure of repression
First of all, I’d like to thank the organization and especially the members of this panel and all of you for the honor of being here with you to discuss some questions related to creativity and the artistic world, which I had in my clinical activity and that seemed to be interesting to share and reflect with colleagues. My interest in this area started early, especially with the work I´ve done with children, by which I´ve come to discover and develop my ability to express myself through drawing and other creative forms of expression that were virtually nil before. Moreover, a significant portion of my clinical experience has been developed with artists or persons related to that area, or others who cannot be referred to as artists, but, none the less, have a desire, and sometimes, the need to find a way to relieve their anxiety by creative expression such as music, dance, writing or painting. I became curious with the repetition of same patterns in “life story” and “life style” of those patients and it led me to pay special attention not just to those patterns but also to all the simple things related to them. I’ll try to reflect about it, starting from my clinical experience, linking it with the thoughts of some theorists and empirical results of researches in the topic of failure of repression mechanism, associated to the non-recognition of the parent of the same gender as moral/ethical authority model, eventually experienced by the child as a traumatic event that could be expressed in different ways, from pathology to creativity, of course in the context of relation between psychoanalysis and art. But, let’s get to the point, in order to have time to discuss and hear some of your own experiences. The interface between psychoanalysis and art is a source rich in fascination, and one that has been explored, over time, by psychoanalysts, artists and academics from a wide range of disciplines. So, there are lots of papers and opinions about this theme. I’ll just make reference to those which are related with the reflections I’ve been thinking about. I´ve been reflected about clinical evidences of failure of the repression mechanism, when the patient couldn’t recognize, while a child, his father or her mother as a moral authority model, and some apparent consequences of that failure, namely, the ability to express her/himself through creative process. Freud, through the concept of sublimation, tried to interpret the subject enrollment on culture, in different aspects, including the artistic one. Throughout his works, the concept evolved from a negative perspective where the demands of civility imposed an excessive repression of sexual drive and several obstacles to the satisfaction of pleasure, implying the desexualization of the drive and the emergence of psychic disorders, to a positive one, after the new “pulsional” dualism of the 20’s – Eros e Thanatos – allowing a new conceptualization where the sublimation doesn’t oblige anymore to the desexualization of the drive. On the contrary, together with eroticism (Eros), they promote life/civility, in opposite to the movement towards death(Thanatos). Eroticization and sublimation would aim to dominate and intricate the death drive in life drive; in other words make life possible for the subject by overcoming the quiet work of death drive.
Donald Winnicott’s writings on the parallels between creativity and play, and on the role of the transitional object and transitional space also provided some understanding of the artistic process. In his works one can see the transition from the non-self of the infantile body to another object situated in an intermediary space, thus, indicating autoeroticism as the origin of the creative process. On the other hand, there are Melanie Klein´s thinkings; the “empty space” is where the maternal body, originally, exists, generating the object that would be concerned in any way of sublimation. The motivation for this creation emerges as an attempt to repair the mother’s body, shaken by the child’s aggressive attacks. For Klein, this impulse is the basis of creative activities, rooted in guilt and the desire to restore and rebuild the lost happiness, objects and harmony of his inner world. The fantasies and remedial activities – such as art – could be read as ways to face the anguish caused by the confrontation with the whole. (penso que queiras dizer confront com o todo) Although Lacan found the Kleinian theory not sufficiently developed regarding the creative process, he recognizes on it, the merit of having set the topology in which the phenomena of creation is unfold. Lacan remains faithful to the Freudian formulation about the structural absence of the object of satisfaction, standing in the heart of psychic economy the object always lost: das Ding. In a specular level, images fascinate and deceive, not letting us see that, although fine, they are hollow. All forms of sublimation – religion, art and science- aim to fulfill this “void” and are situated within the psychic economy and follow the formula: “Elevate any object to the dignity of the Thing”. According to Lacan, however, using the fascination and attraction promoted by the image, art is highlighted as the only form of sublimation devoted to building significant chains not devoted to the law of deceit. The art, as psychoanalysis, is not guided by the field of ideals, but by and for the real: witch doesn’t deceive. Art does not intend to falsify the real or the reality. By affirming itself as representation, art sustains the necessary gap for language to operate as speech. This hollow indented into the inner structure is the point that ensures the openness so that you can embrace the difference and uniqueness.
Also for Kohut, art could be understood as a Self-Object, a process by which the individual’s own Self prolongs images on objects or activities – more in functions than in people. The Self-Objects are needed for life and they exist since childhood, when, if the object is not available, it may cause, according to Kohut, a kind of trauma. A Self-Object allows the artist or the creative person to create something that speaks directly to the audience (mirroring), returning several interpretations and enabling the integration of these psychological attributes in the Ego, resolving internal conflicts and reducing anxiety. It is the successful integration of our psychological experiences that allows the development of unique skills and talents to a consistent life project. Difference and uniqueness, spoken by all interested in creativity, is a process worth exploring. We’ll go on reflecting about it. After the thinking of classical psychoanalysts, we’ll peer others authors and empirical findings of recent authors, including some clinical evidences from my clinical practice, related with the topics. In my experience, clinical evidences suggest that, when the patient couldn’t recognize, while a child, his father or her mother as a moral authority model, the repression mechanism could fail sooner. Therefore, the patients should be obliged to manage some other way to support and live their life in a sustainable way. In fact, all artists, with more or less success, that I’ve been following in psychoanalytic process share a common fact: while they were children, they didn’t respect their mother or father (parent of the same gender) as a model that they could admire and follow as identity reference. One of the implications of their subjective experience, seems to be that repression, as well as other defense mechanisms, in some measure facilitators of integration, isn’t chosen. In fact, the purpose of repression is to reduce the anxiety and conflict by reducing the awareness of the “dangerous” content. However there are individual differences in the use of repression. If there is too little repression, the individual can be overwhelmed by inappropriate images and affects and if there is too much repression, a major constriction of thinking can occur. One of the costs of utilizing repression and not having access to affective content is a reduction in creativity. David P. Levine suggests that when the uncertain or absent parents fail ed to provide consistent responses that guide the child toward an effective orientation in the world, the child can attempt to solve it, for example, by forming an internal substitute capable of doing what the parent cannot. By my own clinical experience, I would add that when this possibility is not accessible, by lack of credibility of others models available, like the other parent, the child must create that self-ideal by herself/himself, what makes she/he feel very lonely and forlorn. Frequently these patients feel (and verbalize it) like they were their own father or mother; they really think they grew up by themselves, what could derive in an egoic fragility as well as a narcissistic overinvestment.
As we will see, in study cases, most part of them, aside from the creation, massively invest their affect or expectations in something they believe could represent their sense of life, like a football club, a heavy metal band, compulsive sexual activity or a boy or girl friend, which seems to take the place of the parent of the same gender, and identified references. Kohut (1997) emphasizes the idea that a good psychological integration of a life experience is one that allows development of unique skills and talents that materialize in consistent life projects. When this integration couldn’t happen, a failure of the external reality would be felt in different ways, as different as the character of each individual; some of them go on disorganized, others become fanatic of the order (as mr D) while others do it differently due to their ability to think their feelings or express them in a different language, like the artistic one. We can consider that this phenomenon has its origin in an experience felt as traumatic, whatever form it takes, based on feeling forlorn and lonely, feeling that cannot be thought. It’s not just the event itself and its severity that determines if something is traumatic or not, it is also the individual’s inner perceived experience of that event (Elal & Slade, 2005). We can define trauma as an excessive instinctual influx, overlapping the ability of the psyche to turn it on and elaborate it. Thus, the trauma would be situated beyond the ability of psychic representation. The traumatic event is one that does not represent, yet let that inevitably indelible mark in the memory. He remembered how ashamed he was, when his mother demanded him to get his father out of the taproom: “I remember me, a little boy of 5 or 6, walking along the walls, between the shadows designed by the high lamps, desiring not to be seen”. His father beat him frequently and violently since he was a little boy. In adolescence he began to protest and to be aggressive too, especially with his father, and identified himself with heavy metal. When I met him, he felt unable of writing and also he couldn’t avoid being aggressive with his girlfriend, and he started to feel very disappointed with himself. Frequently, he felt angry and he felt like he could not trust his girlfriend, especially when he realized that some time passed since the last time they had sex. Frequently these patients feel (and verbalize it) like they were their own father or mother; they really think they grew up by themselves, what could derive in an egoic fragility as well as a narcissistic overinvestment. He feels much better and able to be satisfied with his life and feels and acts like an adult that can choose his way, and he is no longer feeling as an adolescent, like in the beginning. It seems that the ability to be creative may ameliorate the negative effects of traumatic exposure, with the drive to create also a motivation to self-heal. This resonates with evidence that artists and individuals are capable of improving their health through the creative process (Bloom, 1997; Culbertson, 1995; Lerner, 2004; Miotto, 2005; Weine, 1996), perhaps by the influence of psychological resilience, a characteristic that, in turn, relies on a capacity for self-regulation. This suggests that an individual can self-regulate during exposure to a traumatic event, or when recalling that event, or even when experimenting any kind of sufferance state, whatever has been its origin.
When that ability to be creative cannot be developed or manifest in an enough way, by any reason, we can suppose that the sufferance or the mechanisms to avoid it might appear in a pathological mode. An example of some sort of creativity, but not enough to overcome life difficulties associated with a weak ego, is the case of a failed writer. Mrs ww was 29 when she began her psychotherapy. Her father was a very secretive man that talked and expressed himself in few words and feelings. Her mother was a controlling and manipulative parent and, according to mrs ww, uninteresting as a woman and with a very poor social life, like her entire family. Mrs ww worst memory of her childhood happened when her mother became angry with her, for no significant reason, and tossed to the floor all the dishes that she had in her hands. The patient felt as an aggression to herself. She always lived life in an insecure and anxious way, scared of everything and everyone. She could not bear to have people in her house, even her husband, with whom she sometimes didn’t stand to be in the same bed. She didn’t appreciate the visit of friends and family, and felt serious difficulties in interpersonal relationships. Her major complaint was that she didn’t know who she was or what she wanted to do, except one thing: Restore old books, as her grandfather use to do. However, she couldn’t stand being criticized by her father about it. She was finishing an Arts PhD and was teaching one discipline at the university, a few hours per week. She hid from me, her need to write, for months. She discovered this need when one night she started to write and did not stop until she completed seven novels, which forced her to work at night, and to sleep during the day. Although she sent to several publishers her projects, no one was interested in her novels, perhaps because it hadn’t enough quality. She was very demanding with people around her but was not able to commit herself in relationship. When she abandoned therapy, excusing herself with the bought of a new house, she was collaborating with a colleague in a design advertising project, with who she was having difficulties to work with, because of her incapacity to accept differences. Although she found her ability to create trough writing and restoration, her ego weakness was so enormous that would be quite impossible to find enough compensation by any creative process, whatever it was. It seems that she hadn’t psychic skin. Creative people may be more divided than most of us, but, although they may periodically suffer from neurotic symptoms, they have a special power of organizing and integrating opposites within themselves without recourse to repression.
This well-known concept refers to the suspension of the control of unconscious and preconscious elements that are then organized into a creative solution. The area of ego defense mechanisms seems to be highly applicable to the study of creativity. G. Domino and others (2002), developed an investigation that explores whether creative individuals show any differences in their use of ego defense styles. They found significant differences between creative groups, with 4 defense styles (projection, passive–aggressive behavior, repression, and altruism) judged to be used more often by the low- creative group, and 9 (schizoid fantasy, acting out, dissociation, displacement, reaction formation, intellectualization, humor, suppression, and sublimation) judged to be used more often by the high creative sample. Given these caveats, the portrait that emerges of the high-creative in contrast to the low-creative person is that of an individual who shows a much richer psychodynamic life (more ego defenses evident), who uses not only more mature defenses but more immature and neurotic defenses as well. In this context it is interesting to highlight that Vaillant (1993) noted that “defenses are the building blocks of interesting behavior” (p. 43) like mental illness and like creativity, if not excessively used, I would add again. The creative person could be distinguished from the individual with a thought disorder in that the creative individual was in charge of this regressive process and could logically evaluate the loose, primitive associations and images. It would appear that the most important contributory factor here is ego freedom and superego restraints and the capacity to give rein to underlying fantasies, thus working through a controlled manner of free association and primary-process techniques. The solution found by creative artists is the exact dynamic opposite of the neurotic solution. Neurosis is an attempt to restore inner order and equilibrium at the cost of preventing the free expression of dangerous wishes, splitting, and the “active maintaining apart of identification systems with opposite valences” (Kernberg, 1966). Another clinical example that makes us think about this concept is the case of a Photographer and Psychologist. A 29 year-old psychologist, in whose history there is also an absent hard working father, but, this time, in an admired and idealized form, though unknown to him. The day he discovered the father’s favorite football club (benfica) he became a fervent supporter of the club, buying the newspaper and seeing the pictures from 4-5 years, a passion that continues today . He thinks of himself as very sentimental. He remembers crying the first time his father took him to benfica’s stadium, and still cries when talking of that subject or when attending the stadium. Here again this passion and investment, seems to have come to occupy the place that the father left vacant in his absence, replacing the model child identification by another elevated to the biggest club game of men. He has some difficulty in stemming the expression of affections associated with family relationships, as well as the therapeutic relationship. He shows a narcissistic disorder with enormous difficulty of dealing with failure, as well as difficulties in understanding and accepting difference and the others point of view. He feels the difference as failure, which points to a considerable egoic weakness, from which he seems to defend by affect isolation and intellectualization.
He loves photography and feels like in another world when he wanders the city capturing moments with his camera. Exhibited in a solo exhibition in his homeland, having had very favorable critiques. Through the picture, he expresses his inner world, achieving an unspeakable pleasure, perhaps for facilitate the non thinking. He started his sex life at age 22, having many fears and insecurities before that. After that he started to feel an almost compulsive need for sexual activity that his girlfriends had trouble keeping up. When he terminated relationships he kept sexual contacts with ex-girlfriends, only stopping when starting a new relationship. Always busy and fast, very intelligent and creative, with little ability to feel full and happy, and not so much able to use reflexive thinking. He makes us thinking about primary- process thinking, and a good example of it, is the kind of thinking that occurs in dreams, because they are illogical, not oriented to rules of time and space, and frequently include affect laden content and images. Dreaming has been compared to creativity ever since Freud (1907, p. 9)coined the expression “dream creation,” but there are important differences. Contrary to creativity,dreaming occurs during a physiological state when motor activity is minimal; although regression be a prerequisite for dreaming, it ceases without regression, unlike creativity and, finally, dream uses inactive stationary defenses, such as repression, which is a suppressant of action and in dreaming, thought processes are devoted to distortion, concealment, and defense of infantile gratifications. In a recent review, Holt (1998) concluded that “people, especially males, who produced material that is judged creative tend to have readier access to and better control over primary process modes of thought, and are less threatened by driven-laden and unrealistic ideation than are people who are less able to be creative”. The storing of affective content would be especially important for artistic creativity, where one is often dealing with affect and the transformation of affect content into universal symbols. There is evidence that creative individuals are more sensitive and opened to experience than noncreative people (MCrae & Costa, 1987; Richards, 1990). However, it could arouse states of dissociation, which are considered normative in young children and gradually diminish in late adolescence (Ijzendoorn & Schuengel, 1996). Creatives might continue to engage in these dissociative experiences long after adolescence has passed. Dissociative states have also been tied to psychological defense mechanisms, especially when considered in the context of a negative-environment developmental model (Grabe, Spitzer, & Freyberger, 1999; Ijzendoorn & Schuengel, 1996), where factors such as severity of trauma, and avoidant or disorganized patterns of early childhood attachment may reinforce a child’s use of dissociation (Ogawa, Sroufe, Weinfield, Carlson, & Egeland, 1997). Here dissociative states are a way to manage overwhelmingly painful affect, and a means to protect psyche and soma (Winnicott, 1971). Most part of creative people talks about this kind of dissociative states as well as the feeling of being an eternal teenager, during a significant part of their lives. That is the case of a Producer andmusician of a successful band From the life history of this successful music producer and interpreter, I highlight the experiences of an absent father, who worked hard throughout his childhood, and a mother, physically present, but paying more attention to customers (in their shop) than to the children who were there, playing or doing homework.
At the beginning of the process, at age 34, having just broken-up from a 17 years relationship with a female compatriot (on the few Portuguese with whom he related himself lovingly) and with whom he had grown up, he felt depressed, unwilling to leave home and he cried a lot. He had a hard time thinking about himself. The end of the relationship had been provoked by the appearance of a Spanish woman, from the communication world, with whom he had fallen in love, but he was not able to complete the grieving process: the first woman was seen as someone who he could not separate himself from (live without) nor stop thinking about. He only stopped thinking that when a 3rd woman appeared, the U.S. woman, which moved the Spanish up to the place of the 1st (who could not be separated), although this relationship, with the American lasted about 2 years, he occasionally spent time with the Spanish. Only after more than two years of analysis, he allowed himself to share that during all these relationships he always maintained extra-relationships with women he sought or found through websites and chat (not prostitutes or escorts): “I have 2 tickets to a concert, anyone wanna come with me?? A year later, he confessed, with much resistance and some shame, that the partying that he had spoken before, included, when outside Portugal (which happened quite often) orgies, swing and other derivations, interspersed with passionate encounters with the Spanish woman and periods dating the American one. He said of himself: “I am a very sexual person.” It seems that he couldn’t think or link, letting himself go for dissociative states. He showed strong impulsivity, seeming to live in a permanent hypomanic state, always in sexual involvements with foreign women. He was also a stubborn person who could always get whatever he wanted, either with sponsors, women, his band, international expansion or other purpose, whatever it was, he would never give up. Since his childhood he has an almost irrational passion for the largest Portuguese football club – Benfica – who he was always watching. The father couldn’t care less about football and this irritated him so much! He aspires to become president of the club, which I think might be feasible, due to his personality. This passion and investment, seems to have come to occupy the place that the father left vacant in his absence, replacing the model child identification by another elevated to the biggest club game of men in Portugal. He felt himself grow during analysis and can finally look up as a responsible adult while at first thought, considered himself to be an eternal teenager. After nearly five years of analysis, he moved to Brasil where he lives with a Brazilian woman with whom he felt in love and with whom he feels very happy. At least she seems to speak the same language! Next case, the one of a Spanish film director, illustrates creativity capacity and some pathological states of dissociation. University professor and filmmaker with 34 years at the beginning of the process. Very insecure person, hard to maintain or even start romantic relationships.
He complained of suffering with anxiety, inability to avoid obsessive rituals, feeling unable to produce work and dissatisfied with life. Showed great anxious suffering, reaching depressivity when he became conscious of his solitude, in general, at the end of the day, when he used to feel symptoms of dissociative states. When he could produce his work in a satisfactory way, his suffering would ease, but he always conserved many doubts. In his life story a violent and manipulative mother who came to tear their clothes to victimize and an “off” father barely able to express affection, come to picture. He leaves home very early, 14-15 years, apparently looking for identificatory references, and circulating in London, Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels before settling in Lisbon. Seems to feel his past like a traumatic ghost, with his parents and uncles, showing along the therapeutic process, making awareness of his feelings of inferiority and doubting his value, despite the positive feedback that was always getting in the activities and projects that he developed. One of his projects, awarded at a festival in Asia to which he was invited, was a documentary / movie starring by his own parents, where they spoke of their own life and son, where he allowed himself to develop some thoughts about his inner world and his infant relationships in a more freely fashion, and resume the movement of mourning the parents, suspended many years ago, probably when he left Spain. Performing artists may have had previous traumatic experiences, or negative developmental environments and troubled early attachment relationships. These are all commonly related to pathological levels of dissociation. Yet it does not necessarily follow that, in the course of their creative work, they will rise to pathological levels of dissociation (as measured by the taxon subscale of the Dissociative Experience Scale–II, Waller, Putnam, & Carlson, 1996). Indeed, individuals in nonclinical populations seldom score consistently in the taxometric range (Carlson et al., 1993), supporting the hypothesis that this would also hold true for nonclinical samples of performing artists. An interesting study developed by Thomson et al, attempted to explore the interacting factors of dissociation, trauma experiences, fantasy proneness, and affective variability in generators (those that generate new work) and interpreters (those that interpret the work).There were no significant differences between generators and interpreters on endorsement of traumatic events, with natural disasters and childhood sexual and/or physical abuse endorsed more frequently than the alternative choices. This finding supported the claim that artists do experience traumatic events (Albert, 1996; Simonton, 2000). However, results did not suggest that these experiences were disproportionately significant when compared to the other factors measured.The results indicates that interpreters employed more dissociative processing than fantasy proneness. Anger was negatively correlated with trauma experiences. The findings suggested that affect states were not strongly correlated to traumatic events, with anger being even less pronounced than other affective states. Sadness and loss seems to evoke elevated multidimensional dissociative states. Although further study is needed here, perhaps training and working in the performing arts enhances the ability to strategically regulate dissociative states, as seen in others aspects of self regulation.
In conclusion, the literature review and my own experience, demonstrate the validity of the psychoanalytic concept, which alerts us to the interference of repression in the development of the processes involved in creativity. We can see that repression is not a defense mechanism used by creative people. Also, it seems that, in part, the lack of use of that mechanism is related to the no recognition of the parent of the same gender as a moral authority model and the consequent need of patients to manage some other way to support and live their life in a sustainable way. In all clinical vignettes, repression was never utilized, even when other pathological defenses were present, like dissociation, acting out, humor, and sublimation. It appears that, when parents fail to provide consistent responses that guide the child toward an effective orientation in the world, the child can attempt to solve it, for example, by forming an internal substitute capable of doing what the parent could not. Thus, they frequently feel like they were the father or mother of themselves, like we have seen in this exposition; they really think they grew up by themselves, and could close up on themselves, in a kind of narcissistic shell, where the language of artistic expression would seem to be one of the ways to transform and translate their unconscious contents. Eissler, Bellak and others have stressed the highly narcissistic qualities and the poor object relationships one invariably observes in creative people. On the basis of my own material, I tend to concur with both Eissler and Bellak. The creative people I have studied, namely those ones I shared here with you, are in fact highly narcissistic individuals with a limited ability to empathize with others. These ideas are consistent with the results of Domino and others where projection, passive–aggressive behavior, repression, and altruism were not very frequent in creative participants. They do show substantially less repression than low-creative individuals, suggesting that high-creative people tend more to confronting painful feelings. We have seen, that, in general, artists, with more or less success – and even some people with borderline or obsessive perturbation, while they were children, didn’t respect their mother or father (parent of the same gender) as a model that they could admire and follow as identity reference. All this can be felt as an excessive instinctual influx, overlapping the ability of psyche of turning it on and elaborate it and situate beyond the ability of psychic representation. The traumatic event is not represented, yet it lets an inevitably and indelible mark in memory, while cannot be thinking. Probably because of that, we can think of a need to express them more than communicate to others their internal contents. In the point of view of several authors and in my own, too much emphasis is being placed on the need to communicate. The creative individual has a primary need to express himself; in many instances, his need to communicate appears to be of secondary significance. Eissler, too, in his Leonardo Da Vinci paper, says that “Although the factor of communication is stressed in conjunction with creativity in general and Leonardo’s drawings specifically, I am inclined to see in it only a secondary motive, comparable to the secondary quest in neurotic illness.”
Usually these individuals don’t follow norms, but, aside from the creation of their work, they massively invest their affect in something they believe that could represent their sense of life and that could be another person or a project, like a football club, for instance, which seems to take the place of the parent of same gender, and that could be permanent or always in replacement. In fact, in my experience, as I could share with you, the patients, particularly the most creative or the most successful in the arts, seem to have invested in internal or “transitional” models while replacing the parent of the same sex, in multivariate “parental “identification of objects overvalued culturally, from the greatest Portuguese football club, to boyfriends or pure and simple sex, apparently by excessive stimulation of the traumatic nature that could not be represented. The creative process begins with the primary process of the fantasy and the inspiration. It becomes a formed unity through the secondary process in which the fantasy is elaborated and aesthetically organized. However, in general, all these contents, more or less unconscious, which circulate freely, that we can imagine in a dark side of a large aquarium in moving fish, algae, water plants and other living beings and shells, are not targeted to obsessive tidiness or organization, like an aquatic wardrobe, but can be processed: in a more creatively or more pathological way. If pathology is characterized by redundancy and repetition, by the tendency to freeze the situation and to be change resistant, creativity, in other hand, is characterized by never-ending attempts to renew and reorganize its forms, and by the constant searching of new solutions to old problems. Pathology is a regressive solution, an attempt to restore inner equilibrium and to adjust to reality by regressing to the infantile patterns of adaptation that have proved successful in the past, while creativity is a progressive solution, an attempt to create new and daring patterns of adaptation which have never before been tried out. This does not mean that creativity means mental health, nor that a creative artist may not be neurotic, borderline, or even psychotic, but rather that neurosis and creativity represent two antipodal attempts to solve the same underlying problems. And, as in any attempt to solve an inner mental problem, the creative solution may also require a compromise, that is, a suboptimal solution at the cost of using defenses, producing symptoms, etc. The creative solution, contrary to the neurotic solution, seems to be a step in the direction of mental health. When the artists create new forms, they always strive to find new means that will keep them from being forced to deny, repress, distort, or compartmentalize, and that will enable them to be free to express, feel, and communicate without endangering their inner unity and integrity. Perhaps this is why creative people refuse to abandon their ideals, getting stuck in the ego ideal, often resulting in an eternal adolescence phase, without passing to adulthood, as we have seen in multiple clinical vignettes, surpassing those adolescent states with the psychotherapy process.
Creatives might continue to engage in these dissociative experiences long after adolescence has passed. This suggests something quite different from a pathological trauma-related dissociation (van der Hart, Nijenhuis, Steele, & Brown, 2004), which is more likely to be marked by a rigid, inflexible, defensive adherence to multidimensional dissociative states. I think we can conclude that creativity does not represent a true sublimation, although it may also be expressed by this mechanism. The term “sublimation “should be reserved for acts, or their outcomes, in which displacements of energy lead to socially acceptable goals, which may not be the case for artists, who create to express, to free themselves, but not necessary to communicate, although it is clear the need for narcissistic approval. If we think that operational measure of sublimation, in Domino study, could not include this aspect of socially acceptable goals, those results can be consider consistent with this point of view. There are many creative writers and poets—such as Shakespeare, Proust, Hemingway, Goethe, and Milton—and artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Van Gogh, to mention only a few, where we have vivid proof of the proximity of their unconscious to the surface, as well as of their capacity to dip into its depths, to discharge it as need be, without being overwhelmed by it. Artistic expression, alternatively, may be expressed through a kind of creative link, not associated with reflective thinking, but an immediate attempt to resolve the psychic tension, or the psychic conflict, which could be considered the level immediately below to reflective thinking, associative, a kind of unthinking bond that connects different unconscious materials in a final artistic product without becoming to be thought. Reflexive thinking would awake danger of contacting original trauma and its pain. Another interesting aspect is that, those who express their dark side of the mind by artistic language seem to maintain their sexual drive active, as other drives, besides this apparent earlier oedipal disinvestment, caused by the failure of interdicted model, probably commanded by primary repression, not repression itself, and also not so much by sublimation, in a way that, not using repression, the pulses remain free, as an aquarium in which roam freely all the drives and impulses which, at times, can be organized into creative sets that will release the pressure by discharging more or less artistic productions. During the psychoanalytic process, as it evolves, the patients increase their capacity of reflective thinking, decreasing their needs of acting out. They are more able to control and integrate the primary process, and, at the same time, they develop the language of artistic expression and increase satisfaction with themselves, becoming more confident and less dependent on the exterior eye (which serves as a mirror) to know who they are. A creative work is wrought out of contributions from diverse dynamic sources, sometimes even antagonistic drives. The artist must be born with structure specifically useful for his art discipline, even though its operation is influenced by many psychic forces. In my opinion, there seems to be a creative predisposition, like a disease has a genetic predisposition. When the body or/and the mind are exposed to unfavorable conditions, this pre-disposition acts in counterpoint and in compensation of the traumatic trends that will prevent repression, in a way proportionally effective to the intensity and quality of the drive. Freud said that people with artistic predisposition reveal “(…) a mixture, in varying proportions, of efficiency, perversion and neurosis “(Freud, 1905: 225) and Cattapan (2004) describes the artists as beings with a psychic organization that does not restricts to any category: neither neurotic nor perverse, much less how “Mental efficiency” exclusively. “The artist is partially effective in giving account of ‘dangerous disposition’, he is not safe from neurosis nor from perversion “(Cattapan, 2004).
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