Home » Blogs » Movies and Mental Health » Love Lost and Creativity at the Movies (Part I)

Love Lost and Creativity at the Movies (Part I)

FemaleCertain films point to the creativity that can follow in the aftermath of an impeded, unrequited or lost love, or simply a love that just doesn’t work out.

Sometimes a juncture is reached in a relationship in which it can go no further, whether through death, divorce, rejection, betrayal, circumstance or choice. There are various ways we can react to such loss and grief. We can be in denial, numb out, avoid our pain through addiction of any sort (including busy-ness), become stuck in the past, or try to find another “love object” ASAP, among other things.

We can sublimate, or something new can emerge (more about these further on).

At the end of a relationship, some of us find ourselves at a kind of emotional cul-de-sac since we can no longer put our energy or attention towards the loved one, “the Other.” If we don’t avoid our pain (in one of the ways mentioned above), we are “forced” to turn inwards; “forced” because the pain and shock can be so deep that we cannot rally the energy necessary to activate our usual defenses and coping strategies.

No longer having the Other in our lives, we have the opportunity to find new depths within ourselves. Often this takes the form of a “dark night of the soul,” where we lose our bearings, and everything we’ve ever known to be true is in question. Sometimes we have something to work out, something we need to learn about ourselves; for instance, why we may have set ourselves up for a betrayal. In any case, part of this process is to let ourselves grieve and mourn our loss.

As author Marion Woodman wrote, “Real suffering burns clean; neurotic suffering creates more and more soot.” She’s referring to the difference between learning and growing from our suffering as opposed to staying emotionally stuck, perhaps even recreating painful situations.


Another way of describing “real suffering” would be “creative” suffering. Creativity is defined as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.”

Love, itself, can generate creative energy, sometimes turned entirely onto our beloved. But what about when we no longer have the “creative outlet” of the Other? We then have an opening to wake up to something inside of ourselves which no longer requires the presence of the loved one.

Films can be instructional in terms of offering us novel “ways out” of our difficult circumstances. And more than just presenting ideas, the images we see on the screen seem to enter and weave themselves into our psyches in other ways besides just intellectual understanding. Sometimes certain scenes impact us, such that new ways of being get internalized at a deeper level, and our usual patterns of seeing, behaving and even feeling change.

The films that will be mentioned in Part II interest me because they offer a growth-enhancing alternative; they all present creativity as a natural outgrowth of processing emotional pain. Felt and processed grief may bring forth something deeper from us; we can allow the experience of loss to transform us into a deeper, more creative version of ourselves.

I am not referring to expressing pain through art, although of course that happens. Nor am I referring to sublimation, at least the way that I understand it. Sublimation, as defined by the dictionary is, “to divert the energy of (a sexual or other biological impulse) from its immediate goal to one of a more acceptable social, moral, or aesthetic nature or use.” In the case of loss, we would be using the energy of grief (or the energy in trying to avoid it) to pour into some creative endeavor, consciously or unconsciously.

We might look at this movement towards creativity shown in the films I’ll mention as sublimation; however, to sublimate makes it sound like something “second best” versus finding, accessing and expressing parts that are new to you, or that have been inaccessible for a long while.

Carl Jung saw creativity as vital in attaining wholeness, a necessary part of self-actualization. What all these movies illustrate is what appears to be an organic process where some kind of creativity springs to life without conscious decision, willpower, self-discipline or forcing. These new aspects seem like a natural outgrowth emerging from the characters’ grieving processes.

It takes creativity to find ways out of our stuckness, maybe through an art form, maybe not. Mostly we see this illustrated in these films symbolically through an art, craft or endeavor; however, creativity can be more subtle, coming out in new ways of being, or a new awareness. It may even be the quality of “how” we do what we’re already doing, and not so much the “what.”

To be continued and movies presented in Part II

Creative Commons License photo credit: ohchristopher.

Love Lost and Creativity at the Movies (Part I)

Marla Estes, MA

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Estes, M. (2011). Love Lost and Creativity at the Movies (Part I). Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Aug 2011
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.