Archives for January, 2011
Many talented and accomplished actors consider intuition an important part of developing their creativity and power as an artist. Director Jane Campion commented about Abbie Cornish, one of the lead actors in her movie “Bright Star”: “She has to be very true to her instincts, she doesn’t know how to betray them; it would be a little death to do so. “She is weirdly strong, gracious, intuitive and bold and fabulously stubborn at times.”
One of the enduring ideas about developing creativity is to that creative people such as writers need to "get out of their own way" so they can more freely express their inner experience. It is also potentially a core benefit of counseling or psychotherapy. But what does that really mean: getting out of our own way? Dennis Palumbo, a writer and a therapist specializing in creative issues, addresses the question: "If I, the writer, get out of my own way - that is, put my 'stuff' aside so I can write - what's left to write about? My stuff is the raw material of my writing.
"Creative work doesn't start without stillness." Painter Rebecca Alzofon thinks "sitting still and letting ideas pass through you" is a necessary part of the creative process. But it may take some fortitude and discipline to stop 'doing' all the time. "A lot of people panic at first," she says. "If they're not used to this, they find themselves just sitting and not doing anything, and they think they're wasting their time, and make themselves get up and do something while they're waiting for inspiration. "But you have to hold still, and be peaceful." She thinks some activity may still be alright: "You might be able to look through a book, or look at pictures, or just scratch on paper."
Psychotherapist David Richo notes, "Our scared and arrogant ego has an enormous capacity not to know itself." He goes on to quote Jung: "The shadow is the negative side of the personality, the sum of all those unpleasant qualities we like to hide, together with the insufficiently developed functions and the contents of the personal unconscious... [The shadow] also displays a number of good qualities such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc." [From his book: Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power & Creativity of Your Dark Side.] The movie Black Swan portrays some aspects of how the darker aspects of the shadow self can impact our mental health and creative expression. The photo shows ballerina Nina [Natalie Portman] and her mother [Barbara Hershey]. In his Psych Central article “Black Swan” and the Recovery of the Shadow Self, Joseph Burgo PhD points out that the "decor of Nina’s room is juvenile, in pastel shades, with a herd of stuffed animals on her bed; the mother treats her as if she were, in fact, a young child.
"Were it not for perfectionism, we would be in short supply of all those myriad human activities we deem extraordinary, excellent, outstanding or great in quality." Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D. continues: "Once upon a time perfectionism was perceived not as neurosis, but rather as a sign of commitment, caring, and devotion to one's work…" [From his article In Praise of Perfectionism.] Performing arts such as ballet involve high levels of that kind of devotion to precision and excellence. But one of the elements of the new movie "Black Swan" is how damaging perfectionism can be when pursued excessively, especially by someone with mental health challenges.
"Whatever it is, I have to really love it - that's what's important to me. "I wouldn't have done 'The Lion King' if I didn't believe it has something solid to say to people." Director Julie Taymor added, "When you approach it that way, you come at it with all your soul and intelligence." In our interview about her film "Titus" she noted she had directed the play off-Broadway previously, and commented, "I was very passionate about the power of the play, and thought it would make a brilliant screenplay."
One simplified definition of confabulation is, "An attempt to fill in memory gaps by fabricating information or details." (Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine.) It's probably something our minds do regularly. Painter Robert Genn notes it can be “the confusion of imagination with memory, and/or the confusion of true memories with false memories.” So what does this have to do with creativity? Genn thinks, “Perhaps it’s only with the addition of confabulation that art delivers its wizardry and magic."
Healthy criticism can help refine our creative talents and projects, enabling our pursuit of excellence. But when criticism is based on excessive perfectionism or an unrealistic self concept, it can be destructive and self-limiting, eroding our creative assurance and vitality. In one of his podcast series, creativity coach and psychologist Eric Maisel declares, “Criticism is a real crippler. I’m sure that you know that. "But you may not be aware just how powerful a negative force criticism can be, how much damage it can do to your self-confidence, or how seriously it can deflect you from your path."
Although it can be a very individual endeavor, and nurtured in solitude, creative expression can also depend on relationships and be enhanced through personal interactions. Anne Paris, a clinical psychologist who has helped many artists, emphasizes the importance of connections with others for the creative process. She says, “We all need relationships with others to be at our best. When we are surrounded with support, we are more productive, happy, and energetic. Positive relationships help to move us forward and help us to grow."