Why Creative People Once Feared Psychoanalysis

Vancouver Olympic Flame 2010

Some highly creative people once believed that psychoanalysis would extinguish their creative flame and impair achievement. (Photo: public domain)

In his psychiatric practice, Carl Jung dealt with many creative individuals. Jung noted how often his patients’ psychological difficulties arose from the creative process itself. The ground-breaking physicist Wolfgang Pauli was one of these troubled creators. Jung analysed Pauli’s dream imagery after the scientist’s unconventional and tumultuous life brought him to the brink of mental breakdown. Pauli had become obsessed with where the insights for his greatest discovery had come from. He felt that he had drawn upon something beyond physics. Swiss-German author, Hermann Hesse was another of Jung’s notably creative patients. Already a famous writer when treated by Jung, Hesse – like Pauli – went on to win a Nobel Prize. Hesse suffered from recurring bouts of depression that tended to strike when his writing had reached an impasse.

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The Wound and the Bow Revisited

Edmund Wilson

Edmund Wilson, author of The Wound and the Bow, argued that suffering was the mother of creativity. But what if suffering and creativity are actually siblings? (Image: public domain.)

Some argue that creativity and genius spring from a profound sensitivity to subtle differences. Such sensitivity, such fine perception, makes possible deep and powerful art. However, it also leaves its possessor wide open to pain and damage from life’s rough and tumble course. The less sensitive miss the subtle insults, the small slights by omission, and the finer points of innuendo. The more sensitive and perceptive do not.

One is, therefore, tempted to speculate that creativity does not, as is so often assumed, come from being wounded or mad or riddled with polarities, ambivalences, and conflicts, but that these difficulties are simply another product of being sensitive. Collateral damage, as the military types would say. Inner torment is not the parent of creativity; it is its sibling.

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Fantasy Writers and the Sense of Enchantment

Scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Writers are often trying to recapture a favourite mood. Work after work is produced as they hone in on the cherished feeling tone, which can be quite specific and durable. (Image: public domain.)

There are many reasons why people write. Each writer has a reason of their own, and no two are exactly alike. Much of my writing is fantasy. Here is why.

Like so many people, when I was small I possessed a powerful ability to enter a state of enchantment. The feeling prospered until, at twelve, a broken heart drove enchantment from my life completely. How deeply we feel things at that age! Luckily, not all was lost. There were books in the world. My love of reading soon rekindled the magical feeling. It disappeared again during the trials and tribulations of late adolescence. This time I was more aware and made strenuous efforts to retain it. Those efforts were of no avail. The loss of enchantment made life seem grim and not terribly worthwhile. Thinking that enchantment was a thing for children, I entered adulthood in a sadly disillusioned state.

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