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Psychodynamic approach

The psychodynamic approach is based on Freud's theory that creativity arises from the tension between conscious reality and unconscious drives and that the creative product is a way to express unconscious wishes in a publicly accepted manner. Freud contended that all human motivation is aimed at maximizing the gratification of instinctual needs (especially sexual and aggressive needs) and defined sublimation as a diversion of energy from the pursuit of the unattainable or forbidden pleasures into socially approved endeavours. He believed that the progress of civilization might be largely attributed to the unconscious sublimation of energy generated by instinctual drives into creative work. Freud (1900, 1908) was primarily concerned with the motivation of creativity, which he generalized in the concept of wish-fulfilment, and the psychological processes underlying the formation of symbolic forms. He introduced the notion of primary and secondary processes and described particular mechanisms of generating original content from the common material in dreams and creative works.

Freud studied creative process in both ordinary and eminent people. He offered psychoanalytic case studies of such eminent creators such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Dostoevsky (Freud 1910, 1928).

Commentators noted a correspondence between Freud's concept of the creative process and the ancient concept of inspiration. The difference lies in the shift of the origin of creative ideas from external (supernatural) forces in the traditional concept of genius to internal (unconscious) forces in psychoanalysis. Freud, similar to Galton, accounted for genius in terms of biological energies residing within the individual, rather than external forces, thus following the logics of Humanism. However, unlike Galton who "focussed on the effects of genetic determinants of intellectual powers; Freud concentrated on the effects of instinctual needs on emotional experience and imagination" (Ochse 1990: 8). Moreover, "Whereas Galton had suggested that certain individuals are endowed with intellectual capacities and natural urges that lead them to gain reputation and reach the top of their fields, Freud suggested that all people are endowed with natural emotional urges that may find creative expression" (ibid.: 16).

Freud's theory has been much criticized for its speculative nature, dogmatism, and reductionism. Brown (1989), having applied to Freudian theory criteria of the scientific method proposed by Lakatos (1976), assessed it as a 'degenerated program.' Freud himself acknowledged in his Autobiographic Study (1925) that "[Psychoanalysis] ... can do nothing towards elucidating the nature of the artistic gift, nor can it explain the means by which the artist works - artistic technique." However, despite its limitations, Freud's teaching had a great influence on understanding of human nature in the 20th century and, what is also noteworthy, it became a modelling principle for large part of the 20th art, including literature, painting and cinema. His works on creativity had significant influences on later theoretical approaches to the subject of creativity.

Freud's theory has been further developed by his followers. Thus, Ernst Kris (1952) introduced the concept of preconscious and considered the use of the primary process in creativity as a 'regression in the service of the ego.' Kris's idea of the preconscious as a source of creativity was supported by Lawrence Kubie (1958). Another important idea was the one of dissociation. Phyllis Greenacre (1953) suggested that the ego of the future artist is capable of dissociating itself from the real objects and thus developing a 'love affair with the world.' Philip Weissman (1963) suggested that the future artist as an infant, had the ability to hallucinate the mother's breast independently of oral needs or, in other words, that the creative person is able to dissociate his early personal life from what will be creative work.

Karl Gustav Jung (1912/1976) supplemented the Freudian concept of personal unconscious by the notion of collective unconscious, which serves as a depository of the archetypes - primordial experiences common to the human race and repeatedly recurring over the course of generations; patterns or prototypes for images and ideas that usually surpass people's understanding. He distinguishes between two modes of creativity: the psychological relied on personal unconscious and motivated by personal complexes, and the visionary relied on collective unconscious and operating with archetypes. The second type is usually harder to understand but its effects and value are much deeper because the artist thus transcends the limitations of his personal history and personal problems and his creative work acquires a universal significance. Jung's approach had a distinct link with religion and mysticism and added a transpersonal dimension to psychoanalytic studies. Jung was criticized for the reduction of creative work to ancient or even perennial prototypes, which resulted in the underestimation of the uniqueness and novelty in creative works. His significance, however, consisted in the shift in the understanding of motivation for creativity from Freudian biological-based instinctual drives to spiritual and religious needs. The Jungian approach had a tremendous impact on other psychologists and lead to the formation of Humanist school.

Psychodynamic approach. Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research / Compiled and edited by Eugene Gorny., 2007.
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