The material for this week’s discussion was Stephen Levine’s work, “Poiesis,” a work on creativity as therapy. The chapter plays out a dialogue between the developmental psychology of Melanie Klein and D.W. Winnicott, particularly in regard to their theories of creativity in connection to the self. For Klein, loss is a prerequisite for knowing the self, and by extension, for creativity. In contrast, Winnicott suggests that self-knowledge precedes loss in the process of self-formation, which then allows creativity to occur. For both theorists, mourning is crucial. However, where they locate mourning in the developmental stage differs and contributes to their theories on the origins of creativity. Levine draws on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experiences to construct a framework for creativity in conversation with Klein and Winnicott’s theories. Levine expands on Blake’s sentiment, “Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets,” adding, “we might amend his wish that all the Lord’s people were poets” (Levine, 94).
The theme of our group discussion centered on how creativity helps us form a sense of self. An example offered by Elyse and Tiffany that demonstrated an extreme case of trauma is the following article:
Georgi, a Russian refugee who came to Sweden with his family when he was five years old, could talk at length about the…www.newyorker.com
This example pushed us into a conversation regarding what is to be done when there is no option for engagement, even with tools such as creative therapy.
Angie brought in an example of play therapy as we reflected on Levine’s theories of creative therapy. We discussed how therapeutic mirror through play allows space for a child to experience emotions in a non-judgmental setting so that they are enabled to work out those emotions and, eventually, develop a stronger sense of self.
We concluded our time with a few challenging questions posited by Ruth: “Have you ever been in some degree of a catatonic state as a result of trauma resulting in a loss of a sense of self? What is it that allowed you to move beyond that state? Did creativity allow for the recovery of a sense of self or did a sense of self return, allowing you to create again?”