We all have hidden or shadow aspects of our minds, and actors and other artists may have a greater appreciation for the unconscious, and more actively make use of those depths.
An NPR interview reported that actress Lili Taylor (photo) “is particularly influenced by the work of Carl Jung. A founding father of modern psychology, Jung developed the theory of the collective unconscious, and proposed the existence of archetypal patterns that help shape personality.
“Taylor says she sometimes finds it helpful to think in terms of Jungian archetypes when she begins working on a part: ‘It’s another way of helping getting in there, because I have a whole wealth of literature to turn to if I have come up with the trickster, the villain or the great mother or the nag or whatever.’”
“I learned that an artist is someone who makes art to save her life.” Marlene Azoulai
Creative expression can transform our painful reactions to traumatic situations, providing renewed strength of our identity and a way to give voice to difficult feelings.
Art that we create – or even made by others – can remodel our inner realities.
Charlize Theron as a teen saw her mother shoot her father in self defense.
She said in a 2004 interview that her work has helped her deal with it: “I think acting has healed me. I get to let it out. I get to say it and feel it in my work and I think that’s why I don’t go through my life walking with this thing, and suffering.”
In a later newspaper interview she added more perspectives: “People want to think that I am this tortured soul, that my work is drawn only from this one well.
“And though I would never sit here and say that it didn’t mark me, or mould me into the person that I am, my life has had many painful journeys and heartbreaks since my father died, many of which I draw on for my work.”
Jodie Foster once commented about Russell Crowe, “He’s a very light, funny guy. He has a little leprechaun side to him.” But, she added, “He has that glacier intensity. He is truly intense.”
Intensity is one of the reasons we enjoy the performances of acclaimed actors, and it is a key personality quality of many gifted and talented, creative people.
In her post Tips for Working With Emotional Intensity (she notes it is her contribution to SENG’s Blog Tour celebrating their National Parenting Gifted Children week), Christine Fonseca provides a summary:
“Intensity comes in the form of cognitive intensity – those aspects of thinking and processing information that all gifted individuals use to problem solve. It relates to the attributes of focus, sustained attention, creative problem solving, and advanced reasoning skills. Most people think of cognitive intensity as intellect, or ‘being smart’ – all good things.”
One of the theoretical four stages of creativity (along with preparation, illumination, and verification), incubation is defined as “a process of unconscious recombination of thought elements that were stimulated through conscious work at one point in time, resulting in novel ideas at some later point in time.” (Wikipedia)
The photo is John Dabiri, a Professor of Aeronautics and Bioengineering at Caltech, who was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship last year for his work that “draws on a wide range of fields—including theoretical fluid dynamics, evolutionary biology, and biomechanics—to unravel the secrets of one of the earliest means of animal locomotion,” according to a profile on the MacArthur site.
The bio notes “Dabiri’s research has profound implications not only for understanding the evolution and biophysics of locomotion in jellyfish and other aquatic animals, but also for a host of distantly related questions and applications in fluid dynamics, from blood flow in the human heart to the design of wind power generators.”
“I want to be the most famous writer alive and the greatest writer ever.” T. Coraghessan Boyle
In her chapter “The Personalities of Creative Writers” of the book The Psychology of Creative Writing (by creativity researchers Scott Barry Kaufman and James C. Kaufman), Jane Piirto includes a section on Ambition and Envy.
She notes “Ambition and its doppelganger, envy, are not unknown among writers. For example, the writer T. Coraghessan Boyle said he wanted to be ‘the most famous writer alive and the greatest writer ever.’
“Other writers who, like Boyle, have studied at the famous Iowa Writers’ Work- shop have also asserted this ambition,” she adds.
Writer Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”) relates the story of a friend of hers, “an Italian filmmaker of great artistic sensibility” who, following years of struggling to get his films made, sent “an anguished letter to his hero, the brilliant (and perhaps half-insane) German filmmaker Werner Herzog.
“My friend complained about how difficult it is these days to be an independent filmmaker, how hard it is to find government arts grants, how the audiences have all been ruined by Hollywood and how the world has lost its taste…etc, etc.”
[Photo apparently of Herzog working on his documentary Grizzly Man (2005), which he wrote and directed.]
Director Steven Spielberg has said that as a teenager he put on a business suit and, carrying a briefcase, got past the guard at Universal Studios, and set up his own office.
“It was my father’s briefcase,” Spielberg said. “There was nothing in it but a sandwich and two candy bars.
“So every day that summer I went in my suit and hung out with directors and writers and editors and dubbers. I found an office that wasn’t being used, and became a squatter.
“I went to a camera store, bought some plastic name titles and put my name in the building directory: Steven Spielberg, Room 23C.”
In an earlier post – The Creative Personality: Both Extroverted and Introverted – I quoted Dr. Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center: “Introverts are wired differently from extraverts and they have different needs.
“Extraverts get their energy from interaction with people and the external world. Introverts get their energy from within themselves; too much interaction drains their energy and they need to retreat from the world to recharge their batteries.”
But creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi also says that creative people “seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.”