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Eigen, M. (1983). A Note on the Structure of Freud's Theory of Creativity. Psychoanal. Rev., 70:41-45.

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(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(1):41-45

A Note on the Structure of Freud's Theory of Creativity

Michael Eigen, Ph.D.

The title of this paper is already oversimplified. It is debatable whether Freud's thought contains a unified theory of creativity in any proper sense. The fertile climate and texture of his thinking stimulates interpretative gestures at the interface of psychoanalysis as a creative phenomenon and creativity as an object psychoanalysis seeks to understand. In studying creativity psychoanalysis tries to understand processes which give rise to itself. Freud's celebration of the mystery of creativity is not free of his characteristic ambivalence. As Ricoeur (1976) points out, he tries to appropriate by psychoanalytic concepts what he claims is beyond them.

It was above all in Freud's descriptions of creativity that two views of psychic life met, passed, opposed, or dialectically engaged each other. There was no phenomenon Freud was more invested in. Creative work was the one activity Freud considered to have made his life worth living. One might expect whatever alternative views he entertained on the basic nature of psychic life to emerge there. It was in fact on the issue of creativity that a radical difference persisted between what might be called Freud's formal and informal theories. In his informal theory psychic life was seen as basically orderly; an intrinsic order pervaded psychic life from its earliest beginnings. In his formal theory order was imposed on a more basic disorder or chaos, an epistemological position that, we will see, reflected his view of social life.

On the Basic Order of Psychic Life

In his early work on hysteria Freud indicated that a basic coherence or fit existed between immediate experience and the symbolic language

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