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.