Creativity and Inner Conflict

August 29, 2012 - 10:03 am 24 Comments

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.

Lawrence Staples has a Ph.D. in psychology; his special areas of interest are the problems of midlife, guilt, and creativity. Dr. Staples is a diplomate of the C.G. Jung Institute, Zürich, Switzerland, holds AB and MBA degrees from Harvard, and is the author of the popular Guilt with a Twist and The Creative Soul: Art and the Quest for Wholeness.

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