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Painting by James R. Eads

All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

–George Orwell, “Why I Write,” 1946


Neither relationships, nor feeling, nor any of the human context in which the psyche finds itself should be mistaken for the soul-making opus. When we make this mistake, we focus upon the instruments and means and not upon the end. Improving relationships and making connections with feeling is not at all what is meant by psychological creativity. The soul may still lie sterile if it is limited to the human circle, which can never replace the Gods. Yet this human circle is necessary for psychological creativity: there seems to be a necessity for a close and personal world — family, tutelary figures, a friendly society, a beloved, personal enemies. The world and its humanity is the vale of our soul-making. — James Hillman


“I’ve been straining for decades to push psychology over into art, to recognize psychology as an art form rather than a science or a medicine or an education, because the soul is inherently imaginative.” ~James Hillman

Artistic creativity is an attempt to see into yourself as you live. That deep self that is trying to be born out of a human being often comes through art-making. Hillman points to needed ingredients in the world that give you a basis to start the process. Relationships are paramount. He points out that even personal enemies can be considered relationships. But you have to build a creative practice on that foundation. You take off from there to wrestle with archetypal forces. It’s not for the faint of heart, this work, and you need some roots, some stability to be able to withstand the buffeting such a life entails. There exists a long list of creative people who expired before their fortieth birthday.

Art is psychological, in that it deals with the inner life, the life of the soul. Stories tell of the travail of love and death, of the attempt to be human, with all of its pitfalls and tragedies. Art depicts relationships among forms and colors that speak to us and move us beyond the quotidian. The artist works out ways to contact a deeper self, a more consequential voice. It’s not easy to come to the altered state that can allow such energies to flow. That’s why you will need to be rooted in a stable life.

You need to be able to travel between worlds like a shaman. You need to be a shapeshifter. And you will rely on stable parameters and protective people. You are more vulnerable than usual because of your sensitivity to subtle forces.

If you are one of these people, you know you’re different. For one thing, it will be pointed out to you. You may be accused of being “too sensitive,” as if that were possible. Family and society may join forces to declare your wrongness and put you on the path to trying to be what you’re not and can never be.

You can become divided against yourself at an early age this way. Healing such a rift takes a willingness to notice how you attack yourself with your parents’ voice. In our culture, it’s not rare to be diverted from your real self and to maintain a false self from the beginning to the end of your life.

You have to learn to be your own advocate, to cherish who you really are and to nurture it.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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