Tag Archives: Freud and creativity

Understanding Creativity: What Drives us to Create?

The processes that drive creativity have been so mysterious to us throughout human history—why we create art and inherently crave fantasy—that terms like “divine inspiration” have frequently been used to describe what underlies the inception of great creative works.

In times past, of course, divine forces were used to explain just about anything which was brought about by unseen machinations—natural disasters, diseases, etc. Now that we have a much deeper understanding of the scientific processes that weave through the fabric of the universe, we better understand many such once mysterious phenomena.

Science is, of course, still struggling to fully understand the human mind and human behaviour, but psychoanalysis has yielded some potential clues as to why we create.

Sigmund Freud, while he could not completely explain the processes behind art using his psychoanalytic method, came to a host of conclusions on the topic that bear consideration.

Validating the relationship between potentially tormented minds and art, Freud believed that the creative process is an alternative to neuroses. He felt that it was likely a sort of defence mechanism against the negative effects of neuroses, a way to translate that energy into something socially acceptable, which could entertain and please others. Of course, not all art is socially acceptable—and some would argue that none of the best art is so—but generally most artists do find a validation for their talent in the appreciation of at least a few like-minded peers. The defence mechanisms used in this process are thought to be condensation and displacement, terms also frequently used to describe (similarly unconscious) dream processes.

Based on Freud’s theory of personality, the well of inspiration for art is rooted in the libido, the energy of the id, which is sublimated into a more complex interpretation of, and manifestation of, the culture around the individual, so as to help that individual’s ego feel more adjusted and acceptable to the world. It, in essence, “corrects” troubling impulses, transforms them into palatable creations.