Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Intimacy, Fear, Creativity

by Lawrence H. Staples

The resistance a patient experiences in painting on this canvas that lies between him and the analyst, or in attempting otherwise to paint or write while in analysis, is similar to what artists experience when they encounter a block. They have touched and activated some thought or feeling that scared them. They will remain blocked until the unconscious thought or feeling is made conscious and dealt with. What scared them often turns out to be a fear that is appropriate to and belongs to childhood, but that continues unconsciously. What scares artists and causes them to block is often the fear of revealing in their art a secret about themselves. It is a fear of self-revelation, a fear of revealing something that was dangerously unacceptable to their parents. They are not conscious of what is frightening them because the fearful thing might seem silly or frivolous. Dealing with this issue is the job of analysis. Analysis tries to depotentiate these fears, allowing the individual to see them for what they are, often just a spook.

I have worked with a number of creative people who entered analysis because they were blocked. Something had frightened them or hurt them or made them feel so vulnerable that they could no longer risk going outside the fence, where the opposites they needed for their creative work were. Their need for safety was keeping them in the safe zone. Thus, they were separated from the stones they needed to finish the work they had started. Usually, with sufficient encouragement and mirroring, their comfort level with the opposites returned and they were able to go back outside, where lay the stones needed to complete their job.

A letter from a former patient, a multi-talented artist who had finished his work with me, helped make me more conscious of and understand more fully the etiology of the resistance to and the blocking of our creative work, whether in analysis or in other art forms. This former patient shared with me the profound insight that what blocks us in our art is essentially what blocks us in our relationships.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Our Unique Identity

by Lawrence H. Staples
Ultimately, the creative act of self-development results in the formation of our unique identity. It is the most particular manifestation of our self. We all have a unique identity, not just Picasso or Einstein or Beethoven or Frank Lloyd Wright. We are not conscious of our unique identity until we have done a lot of work on our selves. People who study art, music, literature, or architecture can identify the painter’s, composer’s, author’s, or architect’s work without seeing a signature. They know that the painting was by Caravaggio or Manet, or that a piece of music was written by Stravinsky or Wagner, or a book by Hemingway, or that a building was designed by Louis Kahn or Frank Lloyd Wright. The creative product of the artist is his signature, and we recognize it because we have studied his work.

Each of us also has a unique signature. But, we must pay attention to our selves and do our own work in depth, if we are to recognize our own signature. We must do this for the same reason we must study artists to know their works. Thus, an important part of the work of discovering our selves is creative production and in-depth analysis. With time and effort we can come to know and recognize our own special signatures. Our physical identity is more readily visible and accessible than our psychic identity. There is always something unique in our physical identity; for example, the parents and siblings of identical twins can usually tell them apart. We have mirrors and can see our physical selves.

It is far more difficult to “see” our psychic selves. There are no psychic mirrors readily available to us, unless we had exceptional parents who could fully, without harsh judgment, reflect our selves back to us. We may still be able to see our psychic selves if we find a therapist who will do for us what our parents could not.

Creative work can also help us see our selves. Creative work is a mirror that can reflect our selves back to us if we pay enough attention.

In his book, The Restoration of the Self, Heinz Kohut wrote at length about psychically wounded people and the therapeutic methods he used to help them. He found none more effective, or so essential, as creative work. He found, importantly, that it made no difference whether the creative work was deemed good or artistic by any standards. The simple process of doing creative work helped restore the self. It is as if nature plants within us a built-in remedy for our worst affliction, the affliction of being separated from large parts of ourselves. We experience this separation as a kind of inner civil war that divides us internally. It produces the pain and suffering inherent in any civil war, whether in our internal world or outside. It seems that the human urge to do creative work, to heal and restore our wholeness, is a compensatory impulse and blessing that arises from the psychic civil war that wounded us. In my own work as a psychoanalyst, I have witnessed the truth of Kohut’s findings. I have watched patients grow in wholeness as they began to work creatively in a variety of media that helped them recover and restore cut off parts of themselves.

Creative work actually serves as a kind of inner parent that compensates for the flawed parenting we may have had as children. Creative work mirrors us in a way we were often not mirrored by our parents. Creative work mirrors us for the simple reason that we can see projected in it, if we look and interpret carefully, our own psychological and spiritual selves. Mirrors in all their manifold guises help restore the wounded self.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Therapy as Art

by Lawrence H. Staples

Therapists often work with creative people who are painting or sculpting or potting or writing. Therapists often envy the creative gifts of the people with whom they work. It is as if they are like the Rabbi of Krakow, who traveled around endlessly looking for the very treasure that was lying right under his church. Some therapists are sitting on a treasure and do not know it; they have not been able to give their own work the name they give to the creative work their patients do. They have been unable to say “Rumplestiltskin,” to name and become conscious of the creative treasure they themselves have.

Therapy is a kind of art in which we help broken and shattered patients do for themselves what Frida did. We help them put back together a life that has been broken and has fallen, apart. We provide a mirror that helps them see themselves and enables them to bring back the lost pieces, and then to paint them onto the canvas of their life. In this case I do not mean, necessarily, literally “painting” with a brush, although it often involves that, but painting as a metaphor for the psychological reconstruction of self. Such “painting” produces a portrait that includes what they knew themselves consciously to be as well as that of which they were unconscious. The canvas starts blank, and then begins to fill up with colors and hues of their lives that get stronger and stronger and that evolve and change as the mirroring continues. The portrait a patient “paints” of himself early in therapy is very different from and much less complete than the portraits he later paints, just as Frida’s self-portraits evolved and became fuller and richer as more and more of herself emerged onto her life’s canvas.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hang on to your Belief Systems

Hang on to your Belief Systems. They are about to be Challenged! —By Grady Harp

Now and then along comes a book that opens our eyes to viewing the world from a completely new perspective, and after reading such a book, the way we react to events in our lives is altered—for the better. Such is the experience that happens to the reader fortunate enough to encounter GUILT WITH A TWIST: THE PROMETHEAN WAY by Dr. Lawrence H. Staples, a Jungian psychoanalyst who just happens to write very well indeed!

In Dr. Staples’ words: "We have to sin and incur guilt if we are to grow and reach our full potential." He goes on to explain that the message of this book "is inspired and informed by the myth of Prometheus. Myth tells us Prometheus stole fire from the gods and made it available for use by humans. He suffered for his sin. Zeus had him chained to a rock where an eagle pecked and tore daily at his liver. But human society would have suffered if he had not committed it. Thus, the life of Prometheus portrays a mythological model for guilt that is different from the conventional view. The Promethean model of guilt suggests the importance of sinning and incurring guilt in order to obtain needed—but forbidden things."

Staples explains how our conventional view of guilt keeps us 'good', providing a safe fence behind which we can function without the fear of doing bad things. But he quickly dismantles that belief by citing examples from not only mythical but also historical figures whose 'sins' resulted in changes that benefited society as a whole. His theory is that if we cannot sin and suffer guilt, we cannot fully develop our potential as human beings. Often, by taking the risk of sinning against conventional norms and incurring guilt we can become unique givers to the whole of society and potentially be the catalyst of great change, as in the case of Prometheus.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Creative Gap

by Lawrence H. Staples

The energy that observes the boundaries, and the energy that attempts to break through them, are equally limited. We never reach perfection, but we get closer by the creative transformation that occurs in the tiny gap between acquisition and expression, between expression and editing, and between editing back again to acquisition. Creation occurs not in perfection, but in the gap between perfection and imperfection. Perfection is the enemy of creation. If reached, it would stop creation, because creation would become irrelevant. Creation actually depends on an inability to reach perfection. Maybe God does not want a perfect world, or a definite plan or purpose, because he knows that would put an end to his creating. This would be in agreement with the belief of evolutionists that there is not an intelligent design because all the mistakes found in nature argue against it. Maybe God just likes to create and does not want to stop doing something he likes. Perhaps, God imposes limits upon himself so that he, as the Creator, will not work himself out of a job. It is a strange paradox. If I may be bold enough to speculate and withstand its blasphemy, perhaps God is not perfect. Perhaps, God is an evolutionary creative process just as life and nature appear to be. Creation seems to be a permanent condition. Perhaps, that is what Aristotle meant, when he said that the only thing permanent is change.

In writing, the Creator appears by deduction to lie in the gap between the last word and the next word. In music, the Creator lies in the gap between the last note and the next note. In art, the Creator lies between the last brush stroke and the next. We do not see the Creator but we know he is there, implied in the words and images that are produced, unless we think we are it. In that case, we are in danger. It is in this gap, where creation occurs, that we find the Creator, if we are lucky. It is in this gap where the duality of existence comes close enough together to constellate the Creator who sparks our creative production. In this gap is the present moment when all creation occurs. If we are away from the present moment, we are separated from the precise time when the gift of creation is given to us.

Sometimes we have physical conditions that provide us with a direct experience of this creative process. When this happens, the creative process is no longer a theory. We know it directly. This can be seen in a condition known as atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heart rhythm experienced by many. When a person is in atrial fibrillation, he will usually experience a return to normal heart rhythm. Doctors use the word conversion to describe this phenomenon, which often mysteriously happens of its own accord. When it does not happen medication or shock bring about the conversion. Often, but not always, that works.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Anatomy of a Novel: Active Imagination

by Lawrence H. Staples
Active Imagination: What it is:

Active imagination is a technique developed by Jung to help amplify, interpret, and integrate the contents of dreams and creative works of art. When approached by way of writing, active imagination is like writing a play. One takes, for example, a figure that has appeared in one's dreams or creative writings. Usually, these figures express a viewpoint quite the opposite of one's normal conscious view. Sometimes it is a male, shadow figure. At other times, it may be a feminine, anima, or maternal figure. One starts to converse with the figure in writing. One challenges the dream figure and lets him/her challenge the dreamer. The dreamer asks the figure why he appeared in the dream. He asks the figure what it wants from him. Then, the ego, like a playwright, puts himself as best he can into the figure's shoes and tries to express it and defend its viewpoint. There ensues an iterative dialogue between the writer and the opposite figure in his dream or piece of writing. With practice one can become accomplished at expressing both viewpoints, just as a playwright does. One gets better at this the more one does it, just as the playwright does. The technique of active imagination tends to detach the qualities and traits that are first seen in a dream or in a story as belonging to external persons, and coming to see them as belonging to one's self. Active imagination, then, helps the writer become conscious of his opposite qualities by forcing him to give voice to figures, like shadow figures, that carry qualities opposite those of his ego. These qualities personify the rejected opposites that are present in the unconscious. This technique helps recover these rejected opposites and make them available to the ego and consciousness without necessarily having to act them out.

Example of Active Imagination:

Following is an impressive and rich example of the power of this technique to affect and even shape our lives. It's an active imagination done by a man in his late thirties. He was an extremely successful salesman who was, nevertheless, unhappy with his work and life. Despite his high income, work had lost its meaning for him. He had entered Jungian analysis in order to help him out of his suffocating existence and find a new and different way. He had a powerful dream that he took to his analyst. His analyst suggested he do active imagination with one of the figures in the dream. His is a beautiful example of active imagination that led to much more than a dialogue. It became the seed of a creative life that grew and flourished into a wholly new career. Out of his active imagination came a novel, LeRoi, which was then followed by two other novels, SamSara and Menopause Man. All have been published as the Malcolm Clay Trilogy and he is living today as a successful writer. He has written still more books that are waiting in the wings to be published. His name is Mel Mathews. The power of the active imagination is seen in the fact that it unearthed in him some deep hidden spring of creativity that suddenly gushed forth. Apparently, he had been living a life of suspended animation that lay there until some psychic prince awoke it.

The Dream:

Mel's book, LeRoi, was literally born from a dream and the active imagination he did with the dream. He had the following dream: A woman was sitting in a diner, in a booth smoking. " Excuse me, I wonder if you could put your cigarette out?" I asked. She ignored me. A few minutes later she lit up again. I stood up, walked around to her booth, grabbed her pack of smokes and the ashtray and walked out the front door. I dumped the ashtray and stepped on her lit smoke; then, I dropped her pack and stomped them as well. I walked back inside, slammed the empty ashtray down on the coffee counter and sat down. A petite pony-tailed brunette walked up with the iced tea pitcher to refill my glass. "Can I have some more ice please?" " Sure", she answered, " I'm sure (Flo) the boss-lady will be out in a minute", the brunette said, as she turned around with my ice. "What does she want?" " You'll have to ask her yourself."

Mel discussed the dream with his analyst who suggested a dialogue with the boss-lady.

Dialogue with the Boss-Lady:

Here is his active imagination with Flo, the name of the boss-lady. This brief dialogue is to his novel what an acorn is to an oak tree. This brief dialogue apparently contained all the genetic codes necessary to make a novel just as an acorn has the genetic codes that lead to an oak tree.

Flo: Howdy

Mel: Hi

Flo: Purdy hot day, huh?

Mel: I can stand the heat. It's the stray cigarette smoke that sets me off.

Flo: So that gives you the right to run off one of my regulars.

Mel: I asked her to put it out.

Flo: Did you ask her or did you beat around the bush with some rude indirect comment?

Mel: Lady, I don't know who you are or what's on your mind, but I really don't need any more crap today.

Flo: Well kid right now you're in my diner and you're runnin' off my patrons.

Mel: Oh great.

Flo: I've dealt with your kind for years so let's just cut to the quick.

Mel: Look, lady, I'm sorry if I offended anybody here, but I've got some problems. My MG is broken down across the street.

Flo: So what?

Mel: Things just aren't falling into place today.

Flo: Would you like some chocolate milk little boy, or how about your ass wiped? In this café, the world doesn't revolve around you. . .

The Creative Seed

While the creative process is different for each individual, one can sometimes discern similarities. The seed that unleashed Mel's creative process was a dream and a few sentences associated with the dream. His process bears some resemblance to the process by which Isak Dineson created her work.

Isak Dineson, a Danish novelist, had quite a reputation as a storyteller, and following dinner her guests usually asked her to tell a story. She complied, but stipulated that her guests must supply her with the opening sentence. Using this sentence as her starting point, she would then spin tales that were hours long.

She had a way of forming and telling stories that is, perhaps, a microcosmic example of the macrocosmic processes of all creation. I could see that, like a verdant and luxurious garden, all creation must first be seeded before it can produce a crop. In Dineson's case, the opening sentence given by the guest was the impregnating seed that she took into her imagination to create the story, like an acorn taken into the earth creates a tree. She began with a word (her acorn) that unfolded from itself a string of words connected to each other by some associative bond that produced a coherent creation. It is as if the opening sentence contained all the genetic codes that knew from the beginning where they were going and how they would get there. The mother is not conscious of the code; it operates invisibly and unconsciously once the seed is fertilized. The mystery is that such a simple, tiny seed can produce such a large and complicated product. It is as if the story develops in accordance with its own processes once the seed is planted in fertile soil. The tale was the crop that grew out of the seed. A mundane analogy to this process is the unwinding of a spool of yarn. The key is to find the tiny end, and then with that small piece in our hand we pull and find that attached to it is a long string that yields the totality of the yarn. We often refer to tales and stories as yarns.

Psychologists are familiar with these processes that are triggered by a single word, suggestion, or thought and that can appear in the verbal outpourings of their patients. They notice that words that belong together are part of an unconscious chain or string that is formed by a process that they called "association". Jung's work on his Association Experiments demonstrates the power of a word to stimulate the unconscious to produce other words that are meaningfully connected by association. Freud pioneered the use of "free association" to bring to consciousness a patient's unconscious complexes. In "free association" all the words that belong together in that string are revealed just as all the yarn is revealed when the spool is spun and then unrolled.

A book like Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury is written in the style of free association, where words with an associative connection appear as if they were spilled upon the page. Some people read it and see it as meaningless or, at best, as loosely connected gibberish. Others experience it as great literature. The Nobel Prize Committee apparently agreed with the latter. James Joyce's Ulysses and many other books have had similar mixed receptions. Some point to Jackson Pollock's process of painting as equivalent to Faulkner's writing, but in the case of Pollock it is drops of paint rather than words that are spilled. The works of both artists contain thousands of fragments (words or specks of paint) that have an associative coherence. In a sense, a novel is a big yarn, a long string that contains the bits and pieces that through association are attached to and belong with each other. If we think about it, we may suspect that there is some kind of "unconscious knowingness" behind this creative process. We can also suspect there is some kind of word (or note, or color or form) magnet in our psyche that draws to itself and coheres words, notes and colors that previously existed in isolation but, eventually, belong together.

About the Author:
Lawrence Staples is a 76 year-old psychoanalyst, still actively practicing in Washington, DC. After receiving AB and MBA degrees from Harvard, Lawrence spent the next 22 years with a Fortune 500 company, where he became an officer and a corporate vice president. When he was 50, he made a midlife career change and entered the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, Switzerland, where he spent nine years in training to become a psychoanalyst. Lawrence has a Ph.D. in psychology and a Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the Zurich Institute.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obama, McClellan, and Guilt the Promethean Way

This article by Lawrence H. Staples was
recently published in the Chicago Sun Times

In the conventional view, guilt is important because it helps us remain "good." It helps protect society's boundaries. While the conventional view of guilt is part of the truth, it is not the whole truth. The meaning of guilt is far more complicated.

While guilt does play an important role in the maintenance of society's stability, it also creates an enormous problem. It can deter us from being "bad" when that is exactly what is needed. Increasingly, during my years of work as a psychoanalyst, it became clear to me that if individuals could not sin, and then suffer the subsequent guilt, they could not fully develop themselves and their gifts. If individuals could not develop fully, neither could society, as society is a sum of the individuals that comprise it. I began to wonder what human development would look like, if all of us could actually live innocently behind the barbed wire fence of guilt that convention erects to separate us from forbidden territory, and its forbidden fruit. I was curious as to what kind of fruit might come from trees that grow only on conventionally sanctioned ground. Would we have had a Socrates, or a Galileo, or a Solzhenitsyn or a Rushdie?

My suspicions about the exclusive value of a life of innocence led me to an idea I call "Good Guilt". The idea was born from the commonplace observation that there are times in our lives when the experience of guilt actually was a signal of having done something good, even essential to nurture us. While the guilt probably did not feel like "Good Guilt" at the time of transgression, the "sin" that caused the guilt is sometimes viewed in retrospect as having brought something valuable to our lives. Examples might include divorces, separations from partners and friends, giving up family-approved or family-dictated careers, or even marriages that are opposed by one's family on the grounds of race, religion, gender, or social status. It might also include the expression of qualities previously rejected as unacceptable, like anger and selfishness. Later in life we may look at guilt thus incurred in a different light.

There are many examples of "Good Guilt." Two recent examples are Barack Obama and Scott McClellan. No doubt they suffered guilt as a result of their decisions to sever relations with beloved church in the case of Barack Obama, and beloved leader and current political regime in the case of Scott McClellan. It is "Good Guilt" because what they did needed to be done for the country, their own interests, and their souls. In these cases, guilt, which is inevitable, should nevertheless be incurred and borne.

In the struggle between the conflicting human tendencies to be both "good" and "bad," there is a problem, if we try to be exclusively good. We may, by staying inside the fence, avoid being castigated by society. We may also avoid castigating ourselves with self-punishing guilt. In the process, however, we also avoid large parts of our self. In so doing, we may please parents and society, but sin against our self.

Reflections on the well-known myth of Prometheus reinforced my unconventional line of thought concerning guilt. This myth tells us Prometheus stole fire from the gods and made it available for use by humans. He suffered for his sin. Zeus had him chained to a rock where an eagle pecked and tore daily at his liver. But human society would have suffered if he had not committed it. Thus, the life of Prometheus portrays a mythological model for guilt that is different from the conventional view. The Promethean model of guilt suggests the importance of sinning and incurring guilt in order to obtain needed—but forbidden things. This is the conclusion I reach in my recently published book, Guilt with a Twist: The Promethean Way, except that I state the case a bit stronger. I assert that we must sin and incur guilt, if we are to grow and reach our full potential.

"Life inevitably confronts us with the Promethean dilemma: Do we live our lives without fire and the heat and light it provides, or do we sin and incur guilt to achieve the important developments we need? The contribution virtue can make to society must be acknowledged. There indeed are sins that are destructive; there also are sins that benefit."

I have also concluded that we miss the point, if we think guilt has only a moral function. Guilt is in many ways morally neutral. We can feel guilty if we work too hard or too little. We can feel guilty if we are too assertive or not assertive enough. A woman feels guilty if she has a career and she feels guilty if she doesn't have one. We might feel guilty, if we refuse to steal, while we watch our children die of starvation. We can feel guilty at either of the opposite poles. An important purpose of guilt, in my view, is to compensate, to help keep one side of the opposites from hijacking the psyche and driving the other side out. Here, guilt's purpose is not the maintenance of morals; it is the maintenance of the opposites and psychic wholeness. It follows, then, that guilt is an important instrument in the psyche's system of self-regulation. Just as our physical body has a mechanism of homeostasis, where, for example, we sweat automatically to cool ourselves when we get overheated, so our psyche has a similar mechanism.

"Despite its contribution to psychic stability, guilt disturbs our emotional and mental tranquility. Like Prometheus, we suffer the pain of guilt, even if it was incurred for something beneficial. Promethean Guilt contains the seeds of its own atonement. What is "sinfully" and "guiltily" acquired is given back to the community as an expiation."

An important lesson we need to learn is simply this: If we are feeling guilty, we should not be too quick to conclude or interpret that those feelings of guilt necessarily mean that we are doing something "bad". We may actually be doing something "good" for our own growth as well as society's. The guilt feelings always need to be acknowledged and always, and I emphasize always, need to be examined and evaluated on their merits and in accordance with one's conscience. But it is important to note that the meaning of guilt is probably far more complicated than we have ever been taught.

About the Author:
Lawrence Staples is a 76 year-old psychoanalyst, still actively practicing in Washington, DC. After receiving AB and MBA degrees from Harvard, Lawrence spent the next 22 years with a Fortune 500 company, where he became an officer and a corporate vice president. When he was 50, he made a midlife career change and entered the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, Switzerland, where he spent nine years in training to become a psychoanalyst. Lawrence has a Ph.D. in psychology and a Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the Zurich Institute. 

Friday, May 9, 2008

Some Prerequisites of the Creative Process

by Lawrence H. Staples
author of The Creative Soul 
and Guilt with a Twist

There are a number of prerequisites for the creative process to begin. One is a gap, a void or empty space, which myth tells us preceded the creation of the world. The womb is an empty space. So is a blank page or canvas. Another is an impregnating seed. The impregnating seed can be provided by intention or conscious will. This seed can be an opening sentence, as in Dinesen’s case, or it may be a single word or a color or brush mark suggested by imagination or by a dream, or fantasy. At the moment of conception, the artist’s unconscious is the womb, the creative matrix, into which the impregnating seed has fallen.

Receptivity to the seed is a feminine principle found in all writers and artists. The principle by no means demands a specific sexual orientation; but without question it involves a psychological orientation. Erich Neumann, the great second-generation Jungian analyst and writer, explains this in his book, Art and the Creative Unconscious. He noted that “In the creative man, this feminine principle [of receptivity], which in the.. adult man becomes discernible as an anima, is usually associated with the image of the maternal.” The importance of the mother archetype to the creative man leads to an enormous tension with the world of the fathers. In the artist, this tension can only be relieved by creative production. In his work, he must “slay the father, dethrone the conventional world of the traditional Canon” and find a new synthesis. It requires an integration of his shadow and ego. In opposition to the demands of patriarchal dogma, the creative man honors his wholeness by bearing the tension of the opposites until “a third can be born which transcends… the opposites and so combines parts of both positions into an unknown, new creation. The result takes the form of a new symbol, which contains the opposites and yet is neither.”

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Creativity, Guilt, & Psychological Development

by Lawrence H. Staples
author of Guilt with a Twist

There is a creative urge within us that is even deeper than the urge to create a baby or a book or a symphony. It is the urge to create and build our personality until we become who we most deeply are, who we are supposed to be. It is the urge toward wholeness.

Completing the building of our personality requires us to integrate into our conscious personality contents that for half a lifetime may have been anathema to us. It means embracing contents that are the opposite of what is conventionally acceptable to society, our parents, and ourselves.


Jung recognized that the problem of the opposites is one of the most formidable obstacles to psychic integration. Even when we are able to integrate opposites there remains substantial tension between them. If the integration is so complete that the opposites literally merge, consciousness, as we know it, disappears. Consciousness of life depends upon the tension of opposites. So the problem is to bring them close together without a total merger in which one or the other of the opposites would lose its identity. This is indeed a challenging task.