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Baum, E.A. (1978). Creative Responses to Early Trauma. Ann. Psychoanal., 6:257-271.

(1978). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 6:257-271

Creative Responses to Early Trauma

Eric A. Baum, M.D.


This paper will illustrate how, in the case of two nursery-school pupils, Tom, age six, and Jill, age five, narcissistic repair of previous parental abandonment served as a catalyst to creativity. Coincidentally, in both cases early exposure to multiple settings heightened the children's ability to deal creatively with narcissistic problems. It is curious that few studies have been done on the idiosyncratic nature of creativity. Often a gratifying narcissistic encounter engaged in for years with a prized parent similarly results in the inventiveness of a child. Through studying these transactional patterns in the oedipal years of two creative children, it is clear that creativity may, on occasion, be rooted in an attempt to master a narcissistic conflict. In attempting repair for abandonment by the primary object, Mother, or in attempting to perpetuate a gratifying narcissistic encounter, the child recruits reality elements. The child invests these external items with special meaning without obliterating the original referent of the item. Such idiosyncratic organizations of ego executive function serve as ego executants.

Children who have been subject to high demand situations, whether effected by parents or resulting from early exposure multiple environments, are more likely to develop a reactive precocity. Tom and Jill, both wounded by earlier parental abandonment, had also been subject to multiple settings. These factors, coupled with high intelligence, predisposed these youngsters to precocity. Early exposure to more than one mothering figure, more than one language, more than one locale constituted for them a cognitive imperative. Such experience enhanced their ability to observe the external world more closely, while maintaining ready access to primary-process material.

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