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Benau, K.S. (2009). Contrasts, Symbol Formation and Creative Transformation in Art and Life. Psychoanal. Rev., 96(1):83-112.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Review, 96(1):83-112

Contrasts, Symbol Formation and Creative Transformation in Art and Life

Kenneth S. Benau, Ph.D.


Over 25 years ago I was introduced to the work of Otto Rank (1932) and found particularly compelling his view of the neurotic individual as an artiste manqué, or failed artist. In this regard, psychopathology can be understood to represent an incomplete or interrupted creative process, and psychotherapy as a collaboration between patient and therapist with the aim of liberating the patient's innate, creative potential (cf. Keeney & Sprenkle, 1982, for a similar viewpoint from a family systems perspective). At the time I first read Rank, and later at the start of my graduate training in clinical psychology, this notion of the neurotic as constrained artist afforded me a vague, unarticulated hope that perhaps I too could experience such a liberation, and in turn someday help my patients transform their particular neurosis into creative self-affirmation. Thus began my long-standing fascination with the creative process and its relationship to suffering and growth.

Fast forward 25 years, when I first learned of the work of Diana Fosha and the theory and practice of Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy or AEDP (Fosha, 2000a, 2000b, 2001a, 2001b, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005). In Fosha's work and person I found a kindred spirit, someone committed to finding the most compassionate and effective ways of locating and liberating the potential for healing that lies within the suffering of her patients while at the same time offering a coherent theoretical and conceptual rationale for her technical contributions.

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