Saturday, June 20, 2009

On Creativity and Healing

by Lawrence H. Staples

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 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 lost aspects of themselves.

Creative work mirrors us in a way we were often not mirrored by our parents. It 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 forms and guises help restore the wounded self.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Creative Work & Mirroring: Reclaiming the Shattered and Ragtag Pieces

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

If we can by various means obtain sufficient mirroring, we can become more comfortable with the guidance that our feelings and interests can provide. We can overcome or, at least, ameliorate our fear of intimacy. And we can further the process of self-building by engaging our creative work at increasingly deeper levels. To complete the building of our self, however, we must also sin and bear guilt. What is needed to complete the building always lies in the forbidden territory, outside the fence in the shadow. Truly creative work takes us to this forbidden zone in our thoughts and feelings, if not in our behavior. Prometheus entered the forbidden territory to steal the fire humanity needed. Hercules stole the apples of the Hesperides. Rosa Parks broke the laws of her community. We must go to the pile of rejected stones and bring them back if we are to create our selves. This bringing together of all our stones into a single, unified structure is the end of a process of at-one-ment. As indicated previously, the underlying meaning of atonement, when broken down, is “at-one-ment”, a yearned-for feeling that fuels development. The idea of gathering together all of the scattered pieces we need to put our selves together is captured in the following poem written by a patient who had fallen apart at midlife.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beauty Least Expected

by Lawrence H. Staples

Only in retrospect can we experience “sins” and flaws as something of real value. It is like finding something beautiful among the detritus of the psychic attic. It is like finding a Picasso and thinking initially that it was just a piece of old canvas. It is hard to dispute that there actually is a way of looking at flaws and sins that could make us grateful for them. Seeing that our flaws and sins are valuable is actually a fortunate insight and a numinous moment. It is an insight that comes from a prismatic view that reveals the full spectrum of our being in all of its varied colorations, both light and dark.

We cannot become whole until we perceive the value in the unacceptable opposites sufficiently to take them in our sinful embrace. Creativity helps us accomplish this embrace, as it demands some kind of intercourse of the archetypally masculine and feminine opposites. The opposites are always aspects of a single, deeper unity.

In this life we are never free of the conflict of opposites and the inner tension generated by attraction and repulsion. The conflict of opposites is the biggest problem we confront. We can diminish the natural conflict between the opposites, but we cannot eliminate it. In fact, to be entirely liberated from this conflict is to be dead; it is the dynamic tension between the opposites that generates consciousness and the inner electrical energy that we call life. This tension brings life and its difficulties at the same time. The tension that brings us life, which we want, also brings us stress, which we do not want. As in most things human, to repeat Freud’s oft-used phrase, we wish to have our cake and eat it, too. We wish to surrender our life’s difficulties without surrendering our life. And as if it were not enough to know that we must suffer if we are to live, we eventually learn that increased consciousness also brings increased tension. The more aware we become of previously unconscious opposites, the more tension we must bear.

The safest place is a point between the opposites. There lies a sanctuary, a temporary place of refuge. Creative production helps us find that place because the process of creating leads us to the place where creativity dwells. Drugs and alcohol, money, power and other external stimulants are poor substitutes for finding that place. The advantage of creative production is that we need not go elsewhere. We do not need to leave the house to find a church or a sacred place or a drink or a fix. Our safe haven lies between our ears and within our hearts, in our own creativity.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Guilt: Revised


by Joey Madia

It’s always easy to like a book with which you instantly agree. We embrace the familiar, the similar, the types of things made of the same prima materia with which we’ve built our beliefs. But so much the better when an idea, a thesis, a text that we at first reject wins us over through a mix of solid research, real-life examples, and strong writing. Such is the case with my experience of Guilt with a Twist.

In the Overview, Dr. Staples states: “We have to sin and incur guilt, if we are to grow and reach our full potential” (xv). Being a “lapsed” Catholic who had often experienced guilt as a weapon and thought the concept of “Original Sin” or having to confess your sins to an intermediary was nothing but power-clenching propaganda on the part of the Church, I found myself inching toward dismissing the book entirely, a feeling that persisted as I continued through the first section.

The idea here is that there is “Good Guilt,” as demonstrated by such historical luminaries as Socrates, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, and Galileo (and the mythical Prometheus). In other words, we do things that break the rules of the times or are considered “sins” to perpetrate a greater good, to achieve a higher purpose.

After reading about Parks, I made some notes in the margin, as follows:

“She did not sin, nor was she wracked with guilt. Society was wrong.”

“Sin is too subjective to standardize guilt and shame as he’s done so far.”
Oddly enough, on the day I started Guilt with a Twist I read an interview with artist/art dealer Tony Shafrazi who, to protest the Vietnam War, spray-painted “Kill Lies All” across Picasso’s Guernica mural (itself a protest piece). He had no guilt about it because his objectives were clear, just like Rosa’s must have been.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

News Release: The Creative Soul: Art and the Quest for Wholeness

 
Just Published by Fisher King Press

The Creative Soul:
Art and the Quest for Wholeness

by Lawrence H. Staples

Who we most deeply are is mirrored in our artistic work. Our need for mirroring simultaneously attracts us to and repels us from our creative callings and relationships. It is one of life’s great dilemmas.

Artist’s block and lover’s block flow from the same pool. Often, we fear deeply the very thing needed to create original art, to experience intimate relationships and to live authentic lives: we are frightened by the impulse to be fully revealed to ourselves, and to others, as this most often entails exposing the unacceptable shadowy aspects of our humanity and risking rejection.

Mirrors in all their manifold guises permit us to safely see and experience ourselves in reflection and become better acquainted with the rejected, ostracized aspects of our personalities. Creative work is one of the few places where we can truly express and witness lost aspects of our authentic selves.

Within us a treasure beckons. This is what we spend our lives pursuing. What slows and distracts us is not the object we long for, but where we search. To find this precious gem, we must eventually return to our own creative spirits.

Topics explored in THE CREATIVE SOUL include:
  • OPPOSITES AND CREATIVITY
  • THE CREATIVE INSTINCT
  • OUR UNIQUE IDENTITY
  • SOME ELEMENTS OF CREATIVITY
  • SOME PREREQUISITES OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS
  • LA PETITE MORT
  • GIVING VOICE TO THE MANY LIVES WITHIN
  • DREAMS AND ACTIVE IMAGINATION AS TRIGGERS TO CREATIVITY
  • CREATIVITY AS AN INNER PARENT
  • CREATIVITY WITHIN BOUNDS
  • THE CREATIVE GAP
  • THE POWER OF SMALL
  • CREATIVITY AND INDEPENDENCE
  • ART AND THE QUEST FOR WHOLENESS
  • THERAPY AS ART
  • FEAR OF SELF-REVELATION BLOCKS CREATIVITY
  • INTIMACY AND CREATIVITY
  • THE IMPORTANCE OF MIRRORING
  • CREATIVITY, GUILT, AND SELF-DEVELOPMENT
  • CREATIVITY AND LONELINESS
  • LIFE AND THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES
Available from your local bookstore, from a host of online booksellers, and directly from Fisher King Press: The Creative Soul: Art and the Quest for Wholeness by Lawrence H. Staples / ISBN 13: 978-0-9810344-4-7 / Publication Date: Feb-2009 / To order your copy call +1-831-238-7799.

Love, Intimacy, Creativity

Hot off the Press

The Creative Soul: Art and the Quest for Wholeness
by Lawrence H. Staples

Who we most deeply are is mirrored in our artistic work. Our need for mirroring simultaneously attracts us to and repels us from our creative callings and relationships. It is one of life’s great dilemmas.

Artist’s block and lover’s block flow from the same pool. Often, we fear deeply the very thing needed to create original art, to experience intimate relationships and to live authentic lives: we are frightened by the impulse to be fully revealed to ourselves, and to others, as this most often entails exposing the unacceptable shadowy aspects of our humanity and risking rejection.

Mirrors in all their manifold guises permit us to safely see and experience ourselves in reflection and become better acquainted with the rejected, ostracized aspects of our personalities. Creative work is one of the few places where we can truly express and witness lost aspects of our authentic selves.

Within us a treasure beckons. This is what we spend our lives pursuing. What slows and distracts us is not the object we long for, but where we search. To find this precious gem, we must eventually return to our own creative spirits.

Available from your local bookstore, from a host of online booksellers, and directly from Fisher King Press: The Creative Soul: Art and the Quest for Wholeness by Lawrence H. Staples / ISBN 13: 978-0-9810344-4-7 / Publication Date: Feb 14, 2009 / Order your copy by calling +1-831-238-7799.

Feelings as Guide to Self

by Lawrence H. Staples

Our own feelings, not the feelings of others, are our best and fastest guide to the self. These feelings lie inside us because they are ours, not someone else’s. Feelings are also the guide to our art and our relationships. The quality of our art and of our relationships depends on the quality of our intimacy. In turn, the quality of our intimacy (i.e., our capacity to reveal our selves fully) depends on feelings. We cannot reveal our selves without first finding and knowing our selves. Ultimately, it is feelings that lead us increasingly to self-knowledge. But, as we have seen that is difficult. We must bear much tension to sort out and differentiate our feelings from our emotions, and from the feelings of others. Bearing that tension may eventually lead us to our own feelings and our own compass. Until we find our star we may be led by stars that take us a longer way around to our self. If we do find our own feelings, we will undoubtedly pass through many “right,” “ideal,” and “suitable” people, art forms, and other things before we reach “The One” that we are really looking for, our self.

For the masculine-dominated mind, it is the fear of feelings that separates him from his art, his relationships, and, ultimately, his self. Thinking is not the problem; the masculine mind has this in spades. That is why women often say of a thinking man “he is just in his head.” It is a head-trip that leads a man in his search for a woman to establish ideal criteria. We see this all the time in personal ads. Such thinking also leads us to establish criteria for our selves to determine what is an acceptable outlet for our creative drives. If we listen to our feelings, we are attracted more often to someone that does not meet these criteria. We may be attracted more instinctively by their smell rather than their interest in museums, if our ego standards don’t interfere. We often feel about our relationships the same way we feel about our art. We want to run away and at the same time we are almost hopelessly drawn to them.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Importance of Mirroring

by Lawrence H. Staples

It takes prolonged mirroring of the forbidden feelings by an accepting and tolerant therapist, minister, or friend to undo what our parents and God hath wrought. Mirroring is an indirect experience that permits us to safely see and experience our selves.

It is our need for mirroring that simultaneously attracts us to and repels us from therapy, creative work, and relationships. We are drawn to creative work for the same reason that Frida Kahlo was—it is one of the few places that we can truly see and express our selves. But the fear of being seen also sets up a fearful resistance. Our deep need to be truly seen draws us to anything that will reflect our selves back to us, whether it is art, therapy, or relationships. But our deep need to avoid the pain of rejection causes us to resist those things that will reflect our true selves. It is one of the great dilemmas of life. Fortunately, there is within us a psychic entity that keeps growing into greater fullness as we become increasingly conscious. It is our self, a reflected image of God, the archetypal Self. That is actually what we spend our lives looking for. What slows and distracts us in our search is not the object of the search, but the direction we turn in order to find it. The self is found inside us. That is the precious treasure we seek. And, if we are to find it, we eventually must look where it is. The creative act of self-development results in the development of our unique identity, who we most deeply are. It is our particular manifestation of our self. As I have pointed out, we all, every one of us, have a unique identity. We just are not conscious of our unique identity until we have done a lot of inner work.

The work we do looking on the outside is not a waste. Rather, it is an off-Broadway performance of the real drama to come, merely a warm-up or a tune-up for the main event. There is nothing wrong with off-Broadway; it is merely a detour that may help us get where we are going. The longer we spend looking outside, however, the longer it takes to get where we wish and need to go.