“The unconscious is our best collaborator.”
Director Mike Nichols, referring to making movies, also said “Time is so short – because it is so expensive – that we tend to neglect the place from which the best ideas come, namely that part of ourselves that dreams.” [AARP Magazine Jan/Feb 2004]
Over the years since it was developed by Freud, psychoanalysis has been fodder for many jokes and dismissive ideas about the value of therapy and even psychology in general.
But many writers and other artists choose the experience of analysis and other forms of psychotherapy as a way to both become healthier and to better access their creative selves.
[Photo from Facebook site for HBO series In Treatment.]
Woody Allen engaged in analysis for decades and once commented, “People used to say ‘You’re using psychoanalysis as a crutch.’ And I would say, ‘Yes. You’re hitting it exactly on the nose. I’m using it as a crutch.'”
He also said that psychiatrists helped him through difficult times and isolation: “It got me through periods of my life when I was very unhappy and was insecure. Just the act of having someone to speak to, someone interested in my problems in some way was helpful to me.” [CNN/Reuters, Nov 8, 2002]
Lucy Daniels, PhD credits her more than 20 years in psychoanalysis with saving her life and ultimately dissolving her writer’s block. “My writer’s block was caused by unconscious conflict very similar to the conflict that caused my anorexia,” she said.
From article: A Couch for Authors in Need of One, by Phoebe Hoban, NY Times.
She went on to establish the Lucy Daniels Foundation to provide psychoanalysis “to help creative individuals live without limitations and inhibitions that constrict and stereotype their personal lives and creative work.”
Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz thinks “Nothing in the human psyche is more destructive than unrealized, unconscious creative impulses.”
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy – Revealing and resolving conflicts
In her Psychology Today article The Idea That Wouldn’t Die, Molly Knight Raskin discusses how therapy can help access those unconscious creative impulses and other material.
She notes that “modern psychoanalysis, also called psychodynamic psychotherapy, often bears little resemblance to the treatment put forward by its founding father, Sigmund Freud.
“But psychoanalysis is a profound exploration of human subjectivity — our inner world with all its memories and desires and impulses — and its relation to the external, objective world. And it is much more than a treatment. It’s also a set of theories about the nature of human experience, its depth and complexity.”
She quotes Nobel-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel: “Analysis is the most elaborate and nuanced view of the mind that we have.”
Raskin cites the example of Gary Shteyngart (photo), author of three best-selling novels, who characterized his life a decade ago as “major dysfunction.”
One form of that ‘dysfunction’ was his paralyzing fear of sharing his work with publishers.
Raskin writes that Shteyngart, in his 20s, “embarked on a course of psychoanalysis. Although he was often depressed, there were no specific symptoms he sought to address.
She quotes Shteyngart: “I felt that my entire personality needed to be entirely re-examined and, when necessary, changed. Other forms of therapy do not explore and rewire the personality to the same extent.”
[Photo from Wikipedia page on him.]
His new novel is Super Sad True Love Story for which he created a very funny video trailer, including actor James Franco, one of his students at Columbia University, where Shteyngart teaches creative writing.]