Monday, November 29, 2010

A Creative Life - The Seed

by Lawrence Staples,
author of The Creative Soul: Art and the Quest for wholeness and Guilt with a Twist: The Promethean Way


Active imagination is a technique developed by C.G. Jung to help amplify, interpret, and integrate the contents of our dreams. 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. Usually, these figures express a viewpoint quite the opposite of one’s normal conscious view. Sometimes it is a male or female, 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 a 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.

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 them and make them available to the ego and consciousness without necessarily having to act them out.

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 Mel Mathews when he was 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 - Book 1 of The Chronicles of a Wandering Soul series, which was then followed by several other novels, including Menopause Man and SamSara.

The power of the active imagination is seen in the fact that it unearthed in Mel 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. He had the following dream:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Guilt Cure

(Masaccio Fresco image from the 
Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria 
del Carmine,  Firenze, Italia
provided via Wikimedia Commons  
[Public domain].)
Assuaging the Wounds of Guilt
article by Lawrence H. Staples

Suffering: The Price Guilt Exacts

(Masaccio Fresco image from the Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine,  Firenze, Italia, provided via Wikimedia Commons [Public domain].)

Guilt can cause prolonged suffering. We suffer regardless of whether the guilt serves essential human needs or not, whether it has outlived its usefulness or not, whether it is deserved or not, whether it is meaningful or not, and whether it was incurred intentionally or not. Nor does it matter whether we have a religious background or not, and if we have a religious background, it does not matter which religion. Even if our parents were atheists or agnostics, we are subject to guilt. They often had dogmatic and rigid beliefs of their own. With the possible exception of sociopaths, all of us suffer from guilt, to some degree. The point is that all guilt, regardless of its origin or meaning, brings pain that we need to treat and relieve.

Fortunately, the psyche has a self-regulatory function that helps soften the pain of guilt it inflicts. It appears to function somewhat like the sympathetic and parasympathetic operation of the physical body’s autonomic nervous system that protects us with its opposite tendencies. In the physical body’s system, one part may dilate the pupil and the other contract it. One part may inhibit the heartbeat while the other stimulates it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Creativity Analyzed: Psychology of the Artist on the Huffington Post

READ THE ARTICLE: Creativity Analyzed: Psychology of the Artist, Lawrence Staples Interviewed by Pythia Peay of the Huffington Post . . .

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Opposites, the Creative Instinct, and Our Unique Identity

an article by Lawrence H. Staples

the problem of the opposites

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.

To complicate, but also clarify, the problem of the opposites, I would like to share with you a quote from Jung that contains what for me is his most profound insight on the subject of guilt and its relationship to human existence. Jung said, “The one-after-another is a bearable prelude to the deepest knowledge of the side-by-side, for this is an incomparably more difficult problem. Again, the view that good and evil are spiritual forces outside us, and that man is caught in the conflict between them, is more bearable by far than the insight that the opposites are the ineradicable and indispensable precondition of all psychic life, so much so that life itself is guilt.”(1) It is important here to note that “side-by-side” for Jung does not mean a merger, mutual absorption, or synthesis of opposites.

The idea that life itself is guilt is based upon conceptions of how human consciousness works. As noted earlier, consciousness itself depends on the existence of polar opposites. Guilt, therefore, which attempts to keep us from our “evil other,” is closely related to the formation of the opposites in our psychic anatomy.

the creative instinct

Fortunately, there is a powerful tool that can help us resolve the problem of the opposites. This tool is creative work. Creative production in art, as in life, depends upon bringing two opposites, the masculine and the feminine, into close enough proximity to produce a “child”(i.e., a book, a symphony, a painting, etc.) without losing the identity of the opposites that created the “child.” When we begin to do creative work, we connect to the deepest forces that govern all creation. It connects us to God, to the self within, to put it in Jungian terms. Reflected in our language is the Judaeo/Christian idea and belief that God and the creator and sustainer of all existence are one. The words God and Creator are in fact interchangeable in English as well as in other Western languages, such as French and German. The ultimate product of this process of psychological, inner creation is a stronger ego that increasingly approximates a reflected image of the Archetypal Self, which is whole and contains all of the opposites.