Psychoanalysis and Art, Link Beyond the Unconscious

When we talk about psychoanalysis and art, we are referring to two apparently different disciplines, but basically related ones. Thus, in this article we tell you why psychoanalysis has always kept a special appreciation of artistic expression…

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Psychoanalysis has been strongly related to art since the beginning of its time. Therefore, we can speak of psychoanalysis and art as two closely related disciplines.

Sigmund Freud was the creator of psychoanalysis, a philosophy, therapeutic practice and research that focuses on the study and intervention of human beings, especially in relation to unconscious aspects. However, Freud in his studies mentioned art on several occasions and even saw it as a mobilizer of anguish.

Certainly, the link between the unconscious and art has been widely recognized. Through this article we will go beyond it. We will talk about the relationship between these two disciplines. We suggest you join us on this tour.

“The function of art in society is to build, we rebuild when we are in danger of collapse.”

-Sigmund Freud-

Psychoanalysis and art, the times of Freud

Freud had a very close relationship with art. In fact, I spent hours in museums analyzing the works. Then, he enjoyed and was attracted to many of the expressions that were considered art and even collected pieces of sculpture. In addition, in some of his letters he confessed the admiration he had for some authors such as, for example, Cervantes.

From his admiration for literary and mythological works were born some of his analyzes that he would later collect in his books. For example: The Oedipus complex, The poet and fantasy, Dostoevsky and parricide, and a childhood memory of Leonardo Davinci, among others.

Freud has left us an important legacy, this is evidence of the link between psychoanalysis and art. Let’s see their contributions:

  • Questioning of artistic, mythological and cultural origin.
  • Analysis of the relationship of the creator and his work.
  • The effect of the work of art on the viewer.
  • The intention of the artist.
  • Sublimation concept.

Freud immersed himself so much in the art that he conditioned a good part of his thought. He defined the artist as one who finds his way back to reality. And, like someone who has the amazing ability to shape a material until it becomes a faithful copy of the representation of his fantasy.

Then, he saw the artist as a person with the ability to transform his instincts into realities through art. In addition to converting those impulses into something that was aesthetic, that is, socially acceptable.

On the other hand, Freud suggested that the artist and the analyst were closely related, since both work on the same object, only that each one with a different method; the psychoanalyst through analysis and the artist through his work.

From anguish to creativity

In his immersion in art studies, Freud came to shape the concept of sublimation. It is a defense mechanism that would allow changing the sexual goal for a higher one and with greater social value. That is, art would be a way to follow our impulses through a vehicle that society accepts. Hence, future authors of psychoanalysis have continued to emphasize that kind of transformation of our impulses and unconscious mechanisms.

In fact, various psychoanalysts began to establish that art is a kind of vehicle, since it facilitates mobilization. In this case of anguish. So, it is a way to transform suffering.

Later it was established that art is a way of organizing the vacuum. The vacuum would be the impulses we have and art a way of containing them. Then, we would transform the anguish, impulses and other unconscious mechanisms in art.

In this way, we convert what we carry inside into something that is more digestible, both for ourselves and for others. Thus, we mobilize what we feel, we transform it into art.

Psychoanalytic therapy and art

From psychoanalysis, it is proposed that when a person has a mental disorder, art can be of help. This happens because the person establishes the first links with what he has inside, beginning to understand better what happens to him.

On the other hand, psychoanalysis has seen creative manifestation as a form of relief, as an effective alcohol to clean wounds. An incalculable therapeutic complement goes by the absence of restrictions.

Even today, there are several psychoanalysts who use art as a therapeutic tool during their consultations. For example, Bayro Corrochano, who in an article for the magazine CES psicologia, tells the story of a child who during his analysis used clay to create. Thus, little by little, he established links with reality through analysis and his own works.

Psychoanalysts in art

Various psychoanalysts have approached art. Let’s see some of them:

  • Otto Rank. He proposed that art is a way of overcoming anguish.
  • Donald Winnicott. I saw art as a means to give or find a meaning to what we do.
  • Melanie Klein. He suggested art as a reorganizer of the structure of the mind.
  • Wilfred Bion. He indicated that art could be a way of containing anguish.
  • Jaques Lacan. He suggested that art is a way to organize and calm the emptiness we feel: we speak of a form of communication that would connect directly with the unconscious.

Psychoanalysis and art are two disciplines that are intimately related. Both have to do with the human being, and can draw the deepest aspects of this. Thus, thanks to this link, we have continued to explore this path as an alternative to help people from psychology.

A blank canvas to understand and integrate suffering in personal history.

“There is a way back from fantasy to reality, and it is art”.