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Niederland, W.G. (1967). Clinical Aspects of Creativity. Am. Imago, 24(1-2):6-34.

(1967). American Imago, 24(1-2):6-34

Clinical Aspects of Creativity

William G. Niederland, M.D.

Creativity and the sources of what has been called the “creative process” are so deeply rooted that analytic exploration—not unlike other investigative methods—has failed to shed sufficient light on the nature, origins and other essential elements pertaining to the psychology of this process. Despite assiduous efforts to unravel its essence, it is still an enigma. In his preface to Marie Bonaparte's book on the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe (4), Freud suggested that the analyst had to limit himself to studying “the factors which awaken genius and the sort of subject matter it is fated to choose.”

In the more than thirty years since Freud made this statement, we have come to know a little about the sources and content of artistic creativeness. Some of the prerequisites and conditions for the creative process have been analytically examined in considerable detail (Eissler, Greenacre, Kris, Muensterberger, Slochower, Sterba, etc.). Attention has also been given to certain characteristics or specific stages observable in the evolvement of those mental states in which artistic productivity is performed, stages which have been described as the “inspirational” and “elaborative” phases of creativity (Kris). With reference to such considerations, I have shown in my recent Schliemann study (29), that a two-pronged approach of this sort is somewhat limited in emphasis and scope, since it tends to focus on the more dramatic features of the process (e. g., “the creative flash,” “creative spell,” illumination) which fascinate the observer by the rather spectacular, sometimes exceptional occurrences in the whole picture. The more “silent” features of creativity, such as incubation, its latent or preliminary stages, preparatory processes and other relationships appear at times to be obscured by too much emphasis on the biphasic quality which has been attributed to the creative act.

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