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 analyzed 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.

Continue reading “Why Creative People Once Feared Psychoanalysis”

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.

Continue reading “The Wound and the Bow Revisited”