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Lachmann, F.M., Lachmann, A. (1996). Ibsen: Criticism, Creativity, and Self-State Transformations. Ann. Psychoanal., 24:187-204.
(1996). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 24:187-204
Ibsen: Criticism, Creativity, and Self-State Transformations
Frank M. Lachmann, Ph.D. and Annette Lachmann, M.A.
A measure of a person's creativity is the ability to transcend the slings and arrows of outrageous critics. To be able to form a work of art out of the rubble left by such an attack is, of course, not the only way in which creative abilities can show themselves, but it is one way (for other ways, see, for example, Freud, 1910; Greenacre, 1957; Maher, 1993). We chose this view of creativity, the capacity to turn a humiliating rebuff into a triumph, for two reasons. First, it has been proposed as a developmental ideal in that it signals one of the transformations of archaic narcissism (Kohut, 1966). Second, it is of particular relevance in providing a glimpse into the creative process of Henrik Ibsen. Specifically, we refer to Ibsen's response to the criticism and rejection of his play Ghosts by writingAn Enemy of the People. In focusing on this view of creativity, we necessarily ignore other factors that contribute to artistic creativity.
To explore how Ibsen transcended his reaction to the devastating reception accorded to Ghosts, we trace the themes addressed in this play and their subsequent transformation in An Enemy of the People. In Ghosts, Ibsen depicted central themes that had been haunting him since childhood, ghosts from the past in their “purest, boldest” form (Meyer, 1986p. 7). Having so boldly exposed himself, he was in a particularly vulnerable position when attacked by his critics and ignored by his readers. In An Enemy of the People, Ibsen depicted his outrage at his critics and formerly loyal public, redressing the narcissistic injury he had sustained. He triumphed over his detractors through a complex self-restorative solution. He argued for an extreme, defiant, uncompromising stance through which the artist can defy social pressure and withstand ridicule and isolation.
Our thesis is that one function of the creative process is to transform one's depleted self-state in response to a narcissistic injury. We propose that Ibsen's
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